The Japan Institute of Architects

History of JIA

Origin of Architects

The world’s first architect is said to be Imhotep of Egypt, a priest and designer of the step pyramids of the Third Dynasty of Egypt. Imhotep lived about 4,600 years ago. Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect of the 1st century B.C., wrote a compendium of architectural theories known as The Ten Books of Architecture. According to The Ten Books, “an architect should understand literature, excel in drawing and painting, master geometry, be well versed in history of many peoples, always seek advice from philosophers, appreciate music, not be ignorant of medicine, know various legal theories, and have knowledge of astrology or celestial theories.” Alberti, an architect contemporary to the two well-known Renaissance architects, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, was a man of many skills and an author of another book on architecture. Here, an architect is said to be “a person equipped with the ability to plan intellectually and mentally using proven theoretical methods and processes, produce pieces of work, and brilliantly submit whatever material to the most solemn use of man, through organization of joints to transfer weight.” (Source: Hiroshi Aikawa, The Architect Alberti, Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shuppan)

Profession Equivalent to That of an Architect in Old-Time Japan

Many have believed that Japan did not identify the profession of the architect before modern times, and there was only the profession of mason/carpenter. However, there were people who were equivalent to the present-day architects who were knowledgeable in architectural techniques and who were able to plan and design structures. For example, Chogen (*3), who lived in the Kamakura Era (in the 13th century), was appointed Daikanjin (a grand master to oversee and raise funds for construction and renovation projects for a temple) of the Todaiji Temple when he was 61 years old. He rebuilt the temple’s Great Buddha Hall over a period of 15 years without any financial assistance from the state. He produced an extremely structural and powerful architectural style known as Daibutsu (Great Buddha) Style or Tenjiku (Indian) Style, which was different from both Japanese and Chinese styles. The original Great Buddha Hall was unfortunately lost to a fire; however, his architectural style can be seen today in the Great South Gate of the Todaiji Temple, and the Jodo (Paradise) Pavilion of the Jodoji Temple. Chogen was a monk but apparently fulfilled a role that was similar to that of an architect. A man of the 17th century (Edo Era) by name of Enshu Kobori (*4) was also an architect-like identity and was not a mason/carpenter. He renovated pavilions/halls, tearooms and gardens as well as castles, and established his own style that came to be known as “Enshu Gonomi (Enshu’s taste).” Examples of architect-like identities are aplenty throughout Japanese history.

Origin of JIA

RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) is said to be Europe’s first institute of architects. It was founded in 1837. AlA (The American Institute of Architects) followed suit in 1857. In Japan, the Architects Association (Zouka Gakkai) was founded thirty years later, and its membership was exclusive to incumbent architects who were working as architectural designers. Therefore, it is correct to say that the Architects Association (Zouka Gakkai) was the very first Japanese organization of architectural designers and the origin of the Japan Institute of Architects (JIA). Architecture as a profession in today’s sense was introduced and established after the nation opened its doors to foreign trades and imported new Western architectural styles in the beginning of the Meiji Era. The first generation of qualified architects were the graduates of the Imperial College of Engineering (currently, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Tokyo), including the renowned Kingo Tatsuno, who proceeded to design famous buildings such as the Head Office of the Bank of Japan, Tokyo Railway Station, and Akasaka Geihinkan (State Guest House). Later, the Architects Association (Zouka Gakkai) was renamed as the Architectural Institute of Japan. As it became increasingly academic in its pursuit, in 1914, Japan Kenchikushi Association, a splinter group from the institute, was formed as an organization of architects. After World War II, Japan Professional Architects Association was formed in 1947, and Japan Architects Association in 1956. Later, Japan Architects Association was merged with Japan Federation of Professional Architects Associations, and had a fresh start as the Japan Institute of Architects in 1987. Therefore, the Institute has only 20 years of history after its last reorganization, but it can be said that our history goes back 120 years to its origin as a national organization of architects.

The Organization of Architects that Contribute to the Society

A contemporary architect should not consider himself/herself as a mere agent of the client who ordered a building design. An architect must feel responsible for the street and the cityscape of which the structure will be a part, and pay due attention to the Earth’s environment. JIA is the successor of the architects from the dawn of modern architecture in Japan who endeavored to create beautiful and safe urban architecture, and the selfless dedication to society exemplified by Chogen, the oldest known architect of Japan and therefore the originator of the Japanese architectural tradition. JIA respects and cherishes its 120-year tradition, at the same time recognizing its role in a new era, and continues its activities to contribute to society and the public’s wellbeing and interests in today’s world.

In Preparation for UIA 2011 Tokyo

JIA is a party to the Japanese Section of the International Union of Architects (UIA) (*5). About 123 nations of the world and 1.3 million architects are members of UIA, and JIA is recognized as the organization to guarantee the accountability and ethics of architects who work internationally. JIA entered a professional skill agreement with AlA (The American Institute of Architects) in 1989, and actively exchange experience and information with Asian architects mainly of ARCASIA (Architects Regional Council ASIA). UIA Tokyo Convention will be held in 2011. About 10,000 people including many architects from all over the world are expected to participate in the convention. The event is an excellent opportunity to introduce Japanese architecture to the world, and promises to revitalize the Japanese urban architectural industry, the environmental conservation industry, and the tourism industry. More than anything, this event will greatly influence the young architects and would-be architects of the world. I would like to invite every young architect of Japan to join JIA and contribute to the formation of not only Japanese but also global architectural environment and betterment of society. I would also like to ask all the citizens of the nation to extend their generous support for the international activities for culture and society through architecture.

A Chronological List of President of JIA

  • 1st Kenzo Tange
  • 2nd Rei-ichiro Kitadai
  • 3rd Shoji Hayashi
  • 4th Azusa Kito
  • 5th Nobuo Hozumi
  • 6th Narifumi Murao
  • 7th Hiroshi Oune
  • 8th Yoshiaki Ogura
  • 9th Mitsuru Senda
  • 10th Yutaka lzue
  • 11th Taro Ashihara
  • 12th Masaharu Rokushika
  • 13th Naomi Sato
  • *1 Proposal: A process to select the most suitable organization and person(s) to entrust the design of a structure, by asking the candidates to submit a technical proposal outlining the design team organization, method of implementation, and basic approach to the project. The call for tender is sent out after the sourcing schedule has been prepared.
  • *2 QBS: A process to select the most suitable person(s) for the project by assessing the designers’ qualifications, experience, and main pieces of work in the past. In a QBS process, a candidate is not asked to produce a specific design proposal. The selection process takes place in the early stage of source planning of the project.
  • *3 Chogen (1121-1206): A Jodo Budhism monk who lived in the early part of the Kamakura Era. His name as a monk was Shun Jo Bo. He is believed to have visited China under the Song Dynasty on several occasions. He orchestrated the construction of the Great South Gate of the Todaiji Temple and the Jodo Pavilion of the Jodoji Temple using his Daibutsu (Great Buddha) Style (also known as the Indian Style.)
  • *4 Enshu Kobori (1579-1647): A master of the tea ceremony and garden/landscape design of the early part of the Edo Era who lived in the land of Omi (currently, Gifu Prefecture). His official title was tohtouminokami, the Lord of Tohtoumi. He served the successive regimes of Toyotomi and Tokugawa. His main pieces of work include Keichodairi, Ninomaru Garden of the Nijojo Castle, and Daitokuji Kohoan Bosen (a tea ceremony room in the Daitokuji Temple).
  • *5 UIA: UIA was founded in 1948 in Rosanne, Switzerland, as an umbrella organization to internationally link national organizations of architects and to network individual architects worldwide, regardless of their nationality, race, religion, or architectural philosophy of choice. At present, key professional organizations of architects of 123 nations and regions are members of UIA, which represents over 1.3 million architects of the world.