Project Case

June 12, 2019

SUNY educational program brings students to Hida to study traditional techniques and technology

The State University of New York at Buffalo

An educational program based in Tokyo and Hida for learning about Fab and traditional techniques

The School of Architecture at State University of New York at Buffalo in the United States holds an annual study abroad program that allows their students to learn while immersing themselves in a foreign culture abroad. Students from both undergraduate and graduate programs gather and spend nine weeks traveling around Japan while conducting research on architecture and cities. They are awarded university credits towards their degree upon completion of the program.

FabCafe Tokyo and FabCafe Hida came together to plan and run a five-day “Hida Educational Program” that was the culmination of this study abroad program. The educational program was based in Hida-Furukawa, an area surrounded by mountains and forests, where the skills of traditional craftsmen still reign.

Project Outline

Forms of support offered

  • Program design and direction
    Planning and design of the main assignment
    Providing support for creating a new kumiki design
  • Designing and leading a 5-day on-site program in Hida-Furukawa
    Designing and leading a tour to learn about traditional woodworking techniques and the woodworking industry
    Designing and leading a hands-on woodcrafting experience by craftsmen in Hida
  • Developing tools using 3D modeling technology
    Developing tools for the production of joints
  • Office-sharing at FabCafe MTRL
    Providing co-working space at FabCafe MTRL as a research base for the duration of the program in Japan (9 weeks)

Project period

  • June to July, 2018

Students seek new value in work designs through fusing traditional Japanese craft and the latest technology

Daiki Kanaoka of FabCafe and Associate Professor Nick Bruscia, who is in charge of the program, planned what they would like students to learn at the 5-day Hida training camp together.

The assignment given to the students was to “design a new kumiki (wood block craft).” Combining kumiki made by traditional Japanese woodworking techniques with novel design processes that harness 3D modeling technology allowed students to explore new possibilities for traditional craftsmanship and discover new uses for the latest technology.

Supporting the development of tools using 3D modeling technology

Associate Professor Bruscia wanted students to create a jig using 3D modeling technology and sensors and to incorporate it into their new kumiki design as part of the program objectives.

Daiki Kanaoka of FabCafe invited architectural programmer and designer Junichiro Horikawa as a technical support member. Junichiro assisted the students in creating a jig using sensors. Through the use of sensors, they designed a tool that can process even complex three-dimensional angles based on the 3D modeling data of the kumiki.

Fieldwork to study the craftsmanship of Hida and learn more about Hida’s woodworking industry

The training camp program allowed students to learn traditional techniques from Hida’s craftsmen and experience Hida’s woodworking industry on-site. With the assistance of the craftsmen of Hida-Furukawa, students participants in demonstrations on how to make kumiki and workshops for students to learn the methods of using woodworking tools. In addition to visiting local woodworking companies, we also led tours to explore the buildings and streets of Hida-Furukawa.

“Learning architecture is not merely about looking at buildings, but knowing the culture of people living in the area as well as the context. I am glad that we could all feel at home staying at FabCafe Hida.” (Associate Professor Bruscia)

The new kumiki were presented to the craftsmen of Hida-Furukawa as the students’ final works

One week before their stay in Hida, the students were divided into 3 teams and they started working on their “new kumiki” design using 3D modeling. At FabCafe Hida, the designs were created using their own woodworking machine. The FabCafe Hida team provided support for the use of the woodworking machines.

On the last day, we invited the craftsmen who were involved in the program and organized a presentation of the final works. The craftsmen who are steeped in the tradition also participated in the presentation, and we had a fruitful discussion on the kumiki that were made using 3D modeling technology that were based on innovative ideas.


  • FabCafe Global Editorial Team

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Global.

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    This articles is edited by FabCafe Global.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

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