Explore sketching as a form of inquiry in this exhibition of selected drawings by Hiroaki (“Hiro”) Hata, an associate professor of urban design who has taught at the School of Architecture and Planning for nearly 40 years. The exhibition will feature more than 80 sketches of Italian Renaissance urbanism made by Hata during a series of formative visits to Italy in the 1980s.
Oct. 7, 2022, 6 - 8 PM, Hayes Hall Atrium Gallery
Full Exhibition Run:
Oct. 7 - Nov. 18, 2022
Featuring hand drawings of Italian cityscapes, from Florence and Venice to Rome and Siena, the exhibition explores sketching both as a means of communication and a form of inquiry into the urbanism of Italian cities dating back to the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods.
“During my visits to these cities, the streets, piazzas, buildings, and landscapes spoke profoundly to me. By making these sketches, I have hoped to document timeless precedents for teaching, research, and public service.”
Hata, who was born in post-WWII Japan and came to the U.S. in the mid-1960s to study architecture and urban design, says the experience was formative in his development as a teacher and practitioner. “Coming from the Japanese culture of lighter wood framing without structural walls, my travels to Italy exposed me to the heavy-bearing walls that define Italian streets and cities. This was my first experience of the architectural differences between the East and West.
- Hiroaki Hata
As a collection of these experiences, the sketchbook becomes a teaching tool in the core principles in urbanism. “It’s through such learning that we can use our own hard-earned experience to advance innovation in architecture, making cities more ecologically sustainable, economically vibrant, visually exciting, and socially just and equitable.”
Hata says architects’ sketchbooks have been a vital component of architectural education and practice for generations, and were a critical tool for architects in the Modernist movement, including Le Corbusier, Louis Khan and Jorn Utzon.
Citing the virtues of sketching, Hata says Le Corbusier may have said it best: “The camera is a tool for idlers, who use machine to do their seeing for them. To draw oneself, to trace the lines, handle the volumes, organize surface … all this means first to look, and then to observe and finally perhaps to discover … and then inspiration may come. Inventing, creating, one’s whole being is drawn to action, and it is the action which counts. Others stood indifferent – but you saw!” (Besset, p.11 – Jenks, p.17).
"During my visits to these cities, the streets, piazzas, buildings, and landscapes spoke profoundly to me. By making these sketches, I have hoped to document timeless precedents for teaching, research, and public service. The list below contains generalizable principles for students in architecture, urban planning, and environmental design. (Note: each principle, listed in random order, references leading proponents for these tenets).
Articulation of the public vs. private realms: The Nolli Map of Rome, created by Giambattista Nolli in 1748, is widely regard as one of the city’s most important historical documents. The historical map is still very much relevant today. Indeed, many conditions in central Rome remain essentially the same as when mapped out by Nolli in 1748. (The iconic map, generally forbidden in architecture studios during 1950s and 1960s has become a model of map-making since the 1980s, perhaps thanks to E. Bacon and C. Rowe).
Coordinated production of a building and its public space: Unlike today’s practice of city-building, architects in Renaissance not only designed a major building but also a piazza in front of it, even though it took 200 years to see the result. (Unfortunately, the production of the public space is the lost art today for architects).
Principle of the “second man”: City-building is necessarily a slow process. To achieve coherence in urban design, Hata refers to the Principle of the Second Man, by Edmund Bacon, which states that those who follow the foundational design intent of a place are responsible for achieving a harmonious whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Experiencing cities on foot and theories of perspectival design: Starting with Hermann Maertens in Germany in the 19th century, urban designers have used rules of real-life perspective to position environmental objects with respect to the viewer. The evolution of perspectival design through the 20th century has powerful implications to linking the human optical experience of the city to recognition of its optimal beauty and proportion of streets and building walls, hence (Gordon Cullen, Hermann Maertens and Camillo Sitte)
Vitality and vibrancy of pedestrian-centric street life (Jane Jacobs). Urban vitality comes alive in public spaces and/or streets where many people from all the walks of life gather for shopping, dining, or simply encountering one another. People perceive areas with high vitality as alive and safe. The more vital the public space, the more vibrant it becomes. Urban planner Jane Jacobs famously advocated for these principles in leading Greenwhich Village's successful opposition to proposed highways and urban renewal projects that would have destroyed the neighborhood's urban fabric.
Legibility and imageability: Thanks to Kevin Lynch (1918-1984), architecture and urban planning students learn about legibility of the city, meaning an observer can organize the city in a coherent pattern. Making a city more legible is important. The chaotic city, on the other hand, not only repels people but can worsen urban conditions, e.g., by producing more traffic accidents. Imageability refers to the city and its parts - e.g., its skyline - evoking a strong and memorable visual impressions with psychological benefits to the observer. Viewing a panorama of the skyline of Florence from the hill across the Arno is highly imageable (Lynch and R.W.B. Lewis: “you never get lost in Florence”).
Preservations and maintenance: Giving the delight of stepping into cities of Cinquecento Italy as though they were recently completed for the first time but with richer patina and un compromise authenticity (David Leatherbarrow, et al.)
Hiroaki "Hiro" Hata is an associate professor of urban design with joint appointments in the University at Buffalo's Department of Architecture and Department of Urban and Regional Planning. His research and creative work focuses on the design, history, theory and criticism of urban structures and community development. Hata is also a registered architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Institute of Urban Design. He has served as an urban design/master planning consultant and designer for a number of award-winning projects throughout the Buffalo Niagara region. He holds a post-professional degree in urban design from Harvard University and a Master of Architecture degree from Washington University.