Sketches in Italian Urbanism, 1985-1988: An Exhibition by Hiroaki Hata

Oct. 7 - Nov. 18, 2022, with opening reception

Florence Panorama, by Hiroaki Hata.

A panorama of Florence, Italy, sketch by Hiroaki Hata, 1988

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.

Sketches in Italian Urbanism

Opening Reception
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.

Drawing real places is important for those inspired to be architects, planners, and designers, even in today’s digitally-driven culture. Once you sketch with your own hand and mind, you have attained a life-long memory of what you saw.

- 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).

Hiro Hata.

Hiroaki "Hiro" Hata is a beloved teacher and acclaimed urban designer at the School of Architecture and Planning whose tenure at UB spans four decades. 

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.