Fukuyama City (Hiroshima Prefecture), Japan
An acronym for Universal Innovative Design, UID is an unlikely title for a firm founded by a non-English speaker and located in Fukuyama, a regional city in the hinterlands of Hiroshima Prefecture. Yet there is a clean elegance to its moniker, just as with the architecture of studio founder Keisuke Maeda. “Lots of people name their firms after themselves,” he explains. “But it takes a whole team to bring forth inventive architecture.” Though still a youngster in professional terms, this emerging architect, who is 40, has enough experience to know what he’s talking about.
Maeda has a design staff of four architects, with an office inside MORI x Hako, a commercial building that the firm completed in 2009. Originally the space was earmarked for a small school, but when that arrangement fell through, the owner offered it to UID. Essentially one room spread out over a series of mini-levels, the studio reads as a manifesto of Maeda’s design ethos. His work, though contemporary, is rooted in historic Japanese architecture and its integration with the landscape.
“Out of old things, new ones are born,” Maeda explains. With that in mind, he fitted out his firm’s office with movable wooden partitions inspired by fusuma sliding doors, plain wooden furnishings intended to age over time like traditional tansu chests, and a window wall opening on to a planted inner courtyard reminiscent of a nakaniwa interior garden. “The Western idea of architecture is to shield the space with walls and floors, while Japanese architecture connects to nature,” he says.
Maeda’s design priorities did not emerge immediately. After graduation from architecture school, he joined a local construction company in Fukuyama. From his perch in the contractor’s job-site offices, he helped realize many buildings, including gyms, nursery schools, factories, and residential renovations. By interacting with the workmen, he mastered the nuts and bolts of basic construction.
After five years, he left to open his own business and to design a residence for a couple in their 50s. The completed project was awarded a prestigious Good Design Award by the Japanese government. It also caught the attention of the founder of Fukuyama’s Holocaust Education Center, who commissioned UID to design his organization’s 2,300-square-foot building.
While maintaining his hometown connection, Maeda has his sights set on bigger projects farther afield. In addition to participating in China’s International Bamboo Biennale, he is currently working on a large multigenerational home for a family in Osaka, located on a 6,600-square-foot site that once housed the client’s family’s sugar factory.
As his practice grows, Maeda’s completed works are adding another dimension to the firm name. The architect may have started with local commissions, but growing interest in his work—its connection to nature and the sensitivity to materials—indicates that the appeal of UID’s architecture is universal.
DESIGN STAFF: 5
PRINCIPALS: Keisuke Maeda
EDUCATION: Kokushikan University, B.Arch., 1998
WORK HISTORY: UID, 2003-present
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Cosmic, Osaka, Japan, 2014; Villa Tomonoura, Hiroshima, Japan, 2013; Peanuts, Hiroshima, 2012; +node, Hiroshima, 2012; Machi-Building, Hiroshima, 2011; Pit House, Okayama, 2011; Nest, Hiroshima, 2010; Atelier-Bisque Doll, Osaka, 2009; Holocaust Education Center, Hiroshima, 2007
CURRENT PROJECTS: Longquan International Biennale, Zhejiang, China, 2015; CASANEIRO, Nara, Japan, 2015; Fukuyama Hondori street project, Hiroshima, 2016