Research Report - Best Graduates Award 2018 of the Polytechnic University of Milan

ADF (NPO Aoyama Design Forum) sponsored the Premio Neolaureati 2018 (Best Graduate Awards) of the Polytechnic University of Milan (Politecnico di Milano) as one of the supporters, which has produced prominent architects and designers such as Aldo RossiGio PontiRenzo PianoGae Aulenti and others. ADF invited the Premio Neolaureati 2018 prize winners, Sofia Paoli and Simone Marchetti as the representative of their team, to Japan in 2019 for research studies and cultural exchanges. Their theme is “Last Landscape – a park cemetery in the Farini railway yard”. Sofia Paoli and Simone Marchetti contributed to this research report.


Last Landscape – a park cemetery in the Farini railway yard

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Prize Winner Team - Left to Right: Sofia Paoli, Simone Marchetti, and Beatrice Maria Rogantini Picco

During our stay in Japan, we had the opportunity - thanks to the Order of Architects of Milan and ADF - to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Naoshima, Teshima, Inujima and Nara.

This is our travelogue.

Sofia Paoli and Simone Marchetti

TOKYO - day 1


After a 13-hour long flight, we arrive at the Park Hotel in Shimbashi in the early after- noon, waiting for us at the metro stop there is arch. Francesco Ristori of ADF with his wife, who give us a bit of advice to start our exploration if the city. He will be our kind guide in Tokyo.

Fighting with the jetlag we leave the hotel and we head towards Ueno Park, some trees are still in bloom and the garden of peonies is very beautiful. We walk to Asakusa, the oldest part of the city, and after dinner we end up in a small and funny Jamaica-themed room, where a group of Japanese boys sings karaoke songs with Jamaican sounds but with Japanese lyrics.

TOKYO - day 2


In the morning we visit Hibiya Park, the gardens of the Imperial Palace and walk to Yasukuni Dori Avenue, where there are a number of shops selling beautiful old books from all over the world and ancient Japanese prints. In the afternoon we meet with Francesco Ristori in Ginza, a shopping district and luxury department stores. Walking around Ginza Francesco leads us to visit Tokyo station, Wako, Ginza Place and all the other iconic buildings in the area. For dinner Francesco takes us to Ginza 6 with his colleagues from Garde Tomomi Narita, Minami Kohmura and Makoto Otani, and we try our first excellent teppanyaki! Dining with them is very interesting, we have very fruitful conversations about Japanese culture and architecture in Japan.

TOKYO - day 3


We meet Francesco and the architect Wataru Ishikawa at the Armani flagship store in Ginza: the store project was followed by Garde as local architects. The store manager takes us to visit the building and tells us about the process of choosing materials, spe- cifically the 7 different types of stone used for the floors that distinguish the store. We have lunch at the Armani restaurant with the architects.

We move to Shibuia and walk into Yoyogi Park, where we visit the Mei-Ji shrine.

We meet again with Francesco who shows us around the Garde office where we know many of his colleagues, and then he takes us to visit Omotesando and specifically some of the shops he followed with Garde. We visited Kuma’s Pineapple shop, John Paw- son’s Jil Sander, MVRDV’s Gyre, Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada Building, SANAA’s Dior, Tadao Ando’s Omotesando Hills, OMA Coach and many others. In the evening we moved to Shinjuku where we had dinner and explored the Golden Gai, a very com- pact area made up of only tiny bars (for 3, maximum 4 people each). The atmosphere is surreal and very characteristic.

KYOTO - day 4

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Early in the morning we leave for Kyoto: more than three and a half hours of Shinkan- sen, the famous bullet train. With the bus we reach the area of Arashyama, on the west side of the historical center. The area is famous for the bamboo groove and the river. We have lunch in a small, very traditional restaurant on the river, and taste mysterious things with strange textures and tastes we’ve never tried. We visit Tenryu-ji and the bamboo groove. We sleep in a beautiful Ryokan and dive in our first Onsen!

KYOTO - day 5

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We visit as much Japanese gardens and temples as possible: Nanzen-in, Ginkaku-ji, the inevitable Zen garden of Rioanji, Saiho-ji’s moss garden and many others. What leaves us breathless, however, is the Tofuku-Ji Temple, whose gardens were designed by Mirei Shigemori in 1939.

KYOTO - day 6

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With the metro we reach the Shinto Shrine Fushimi Inari-taisha, we walk almost to the top and on the way back we stop in a beautiful cemetery at the base of the path.

In the evening we walk in the Geisha district, and we are lucky enough to spot one of them.

To be continued