Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Yuji Yamazaki: Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Studied Interior design at the School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology, and studied Landscape Design at Columbia University in NYC. However became a registered architect in New York State and Architecture is the main practice for our firm. "There's more than one way to skin a cat."
Novedge: Tell us about your recent project, the five star resort in the Maldive everybody is talking and dreaming about.
Yuji Yamazaki: The Maldives has the lowest average ground level of any nation, which makes for some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. It also makes Maldivians extremely sensitive to the effects of rising sea levels. The burden of global CO2 reduction lies primarily with a few large economies, but achieving carbon neutrality on this small island should be an inspiration for sustainable development in larger countries. There may be no better place in the world to showcase the future of sustainable resorts than the luxurious tropical setting of Finolhu Villas by Club Med. The island resort will accommodate about 100 guests year round. Guests can relax and enjoy the equatorial sun, and they can also see how solar energy is collected to operate the island. The solar panels are visible to the guests throughout the island and are integrated into all aspects of the resort’s design as an architectural embellishment. The initial investment in the solar system (including the batteries and monitoring system) will be paid off in seven to eight years by eliminating the need to import diesel fuel. This should be a fantastic example for other countries with similar climates. An about two hundred person occupying a 13-acre island is similar to the population density of Miami. In theory, if Miami could delegate just 12% of their land or rooftops to solar panels, the largest city in the “Sunshine State” could be powered entirely by the sun. Although the solar system generates a surplus of electricity, all guest rooms are designed to minimize energy consumption. The typical guest villa is oriented with operable windows strategically placed, maximizing air ventilation with natural Maldivian wind. Wooden shade screens on two sides of each villa cut off direct sun before reaching the exterior walls and patio, keeping interior temperatures low. The majority of guests typically do not turn on air conditioning during their stay despite the hot and humid climate. It is impossible to recreate nature, but we tried our best. The island had beautiful beaches, littoral plantings, coconut groves and interior forests. We kept this basic structure, and also kept the native plant palette such as Sea Lettuce, Iron Wood, Coconut Palm, Beach Hibiscus and Screwpine. When you have a beautiful and unique site like this, you want to just preserve it. Hopefully our new landscape will seamlessly blend with what was there before. Ultimately that’s the main thing that people come to enjoy. Novedge: What kind of research and tools allowed you to achieve carbon neutrality on this small island?
Yuji Yamazaki: In order to achieve a fully solar-powered five-star island resort, we worked closely with engineers and contractors from the early phase. For us, it was not only installing the solar panels on the roofs, but also how the solar panels are integrated in a luxurious setting. We understood that emphasizing and balancing ecology and luxury was the key to the project. So determining how many solar panels are required, their capacity to supply the electricity, and how they appear to the visitors were crucial in design process from the beginning to the end.
Novedge: What else are you working on right now?
Yuji Yamazaki: We are working on two more islands in Maldives, and one resort in Thailand. They are all to have solar-powered systems but not finalized yet.
Novedge: Your Design Firm operates in in the fields of Poduct Design, Interior Design, Architecture and Landscape Design; what are the qualities that identify your style across the board?
Yuji Yamazaki: My first employer was Vignelli Associates where I was exposed to many great Designs. Simplicity, or omission of visual complexity is always the keyword we always go back to. For whatever we design, "I like Design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless" to quote Massimo Vignelli. I still validate their design process everyday.
Novedge: Where do you think Architecture is going in the next 30 years?
Yuji Yamazaki: There are more people to move from rural areas to cities. I think the main challenge not only for architects but also for city legislators and building officials is to deal with existing old infrastructures in order to accommodate growing population. In 30 years, we might see more massive housing projects by cities/developers in outer boroughs, we might see more retrofit projects to existing infrastructures to accommodate denser households, we might see more transport-related projects for mass transit, we might see more cultural/educational institutions for growing needs. Within the dense context of cities, Architecture should satisfy not only those obvious needs, but also it should add something more that didn't exist before. For coming years, I think Architecture would be about creating new typologies of spaces for healthier environment for denser population.
Novedge: Do you have favorite materials you like to work with?
Yuji Yamazaki: Budget permitting, the materials that last longer and age well. I'm sure that every Architect has that material in back pocket for every project.
Novedge: What does it take to be successful in your profession?
Yuji Yamazaki: Good team building.
We will leave you with a virtual tour of Yuji Yamazaki's award winning resort. More inspiring projects on YYA's website.
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