YUJI YAMAZAKI | LUXURY AND SUSTAINABILITY: ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN FOR THE FUTURE
It could be said that more than any other art- form, architecture is an undeniable part of our lives. The buildings architects create are like living organisms, reflecting our expanding consciousness as human beings who inhabit the space and the cities we are a part of. Instinctually, when we enter a space that stimulates our inner and outer senses, we feel inspired. The attention to detail in the architecture and the architect’s intention affects how we move, supporting how we feel every day. In an era when we are becoming more aware of the effects of climate evolution, buildings also have a symbiotic relationship with our environment. Using cutting-edge, sustainable technologies, architects can ensure their creations are contributing positively to the Earth and to the lives of future generations.
Yuji Yamazaki is a contemporary architect who combines global design aesthetics with an ecological consciousness. He was born and raised in Tokyo and now lives in New York, the former culture being more restrained and the latter being louder and more eclectic. The contrast between the artist’s upbringing and current life in New York is a source of inspiration for him. He explains, “Personally, my friends and colleagues in New York inspire me. They are from all over the world and teach me new, exotic stuff every day. My network here is definitely a microcosm of the world. Professionally, Japanese craftsmanship inspires me. The attention to details and care is outstanding. I enjoy analyzing obscure Japanese objects and finding out the stories behind them. ‘Nothing exists without a purpose’ in traditional Japanese crafts. It is certainly influencing my career.”
To explain his definition of architecture, Yamazaki cites the argument between sculptor Richard Serra and architect Frank Gehry. Serra claimed, “What I build is art; what you build is plumbing.” Yamazaki responds, “Architecture may fall somewhere in between those two in some cases. I also think that the way people live could define architecture.”
Yamazaki expertly combines a sensitivity to context and his architectural vision in the Kudadoo Maldives Private Island Project, a new luxury resort. The Maldives is a paradisiacal tropical nation comprised of coral islands. Visitors love its beaches, blue waters, lagoons, and reefs as well as the bustling fish markets, shops, and historic sites. Residences at Kudadoo Maldives are separated from each other for privacy and perched atop a blue lagoon with panoramic views of the stunning surroundings. Features of the residences include infinity pools, Tasmanian oak floors, and handmade furniture, among other luxury amenities. The resort also includes ‘The Retreat,’ a beautiful two-story building with social, dining, and well-being offerings. The wooden building’s stepped roof and minimalist design combine the goals of wellness and relaxation with an ultra-modern aesthetic.
Yuji was inspired by the breathtaking views when designing the resort. He explains “When I first visited the island before the project started, I was impressed by the scenery. 360º razor-sharp horizon, whitest sand beaches, vivid flora, and a strong feeling of isolation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We wanted visitors to have the same impression by preserving those characteristics.”
Other features of the hotel include its solar power system, which is much quieter than the diesel generators that power most of the other islands. This choice allowed the architect and his team to “re-create a sense of serenity with no noise pollution, embracing the original reason why people visit the island” while also ensuring the hotel’s sustainability. Yamazaki explains that this model is cost-effective and ensures the resort will be increasingly sustainable as time passes. He says, “Kudadoo will reduce the use of diesel fuel and run itself with solar energy. Based on an average diesel liter yielding 2KWh, at USD$ 0.5 / KWh, the initial investment will be recovered in five years. And the electricity is free from there on. We foresee Kudadoo’s future to be more efficient as it gets older.”
Using the same principles of socially and environmentally conscious practices with cutting-edge design, Yuji is currently working on a resort in South Africa. He describes the project: “It is in 48,000 hectares of game reserve, and our mission is to continue to protect and conserve its biodiversity, uplift the neighboring communities, and create a sustainable model to carry the conservation status into Africa’s future. It is a fully solar-powered resort.”
Yamazaki explains that for regions in South Africa that are affected by new climate conditions and human activity, human intervention is actually necessary to preserve biodiversity and uplift the local community. He says, “By creating a resort and attracting tourists, it will generate revenues. 100% of its profit goes to conservation. It is a new example of creating a luxury resort that helps to conserve the whole purpose of being there. Very exciting.”
The architect wants his legacy to be a “sustainable design contribution to the world.” Considering the incredible work he has already done around our planet, clearly, he is forging his legacy with each project he takes on. He also inspires us to live our lives more consciously.
On joy, Yuji Yamazaki says, “Joy can be entirely self-serving, but it is a way to keep focused. The focus is the most important state of quality in our creative process.” Joy can be the single greatest fuel for us to not only manifest the lives we desire, but to have a positive impact on the world as a whole. Luxury is taking on new and exciting meanings every day and some of the greatest innovations in social and environmental good are being made in the name of luxury. By patronizing creators such as Yamazaki and supporting their vision for a sustainable and conscious future, we help manifest that future for ourselves and generations to come.