Kunihiko Matsui Architects

Designing extraordinary residential and commercial architecture since 1999


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The Crit - a path to learning

Posted by Kunihiko Matsui on July 19, 2016 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (4)

Thirty-something years ago, I was a second-year architectural student at Ball State University.


As soon as I walked in the doors of the Marywood University School of Architecture building on April 30, 2016 and I saw the students preparing and pinning their presentations, I felt I was back in school again as a presenter. I wanted to tell the students I was there to critique “Don’t be nervous,” but I knew they would also need to find their way as I did in 1982.


Seeing the aspiring architects certainly brought back memories of how I was as a second year architectural student not knowing certain aspects of presentations, drawings, theories of architecture, functionality, and practicality. Looking back, I remember a project I designed in my second year that had a door that could not be opened. As students, we learn the thought process through research and of course, trial and error. Functionality is something they might not consider, but it is all part of the learning process and a time in their lives when they must begin to think about the technicalities that will transform their designs from schematic to buildable.


I was inspired by the students and honored to be invited to critique the semester long projects they submitted for final review. Carl Handman, AIA and Maggie McManus, AIA arranged the crit for 17 second-year students enrolled in a design studio class at Marywood University.


The students were directed to create a fishing retreat at the site of the former Rocky Glen Amusement Park in Moosic, PA, with space for groups of up to 25 people. They had an opportunity to visit the location at the beginning of the semester to evaluate and analyze the site that had an existing man-made pond and come up with their interpretation of the project. One of the questions they were told to address was “What is a fishing retreat?”


There were a variety of interpretations as unique as each of the students, starting from a single hut or cottage to a more communal gathering place that ranged from a music or rock concert hall to a place of meditation. The students skillfully determined, “what is a fishing retreat? They incorporated their research into their schemes using a variety of platforms. Some of the questions they researched were how the fish will migrate from winter to summer and what is the span of time, how will they behave, where will the building be situated and how does it relate to nature?


In the 15 minutes they were given to develop their presentations, they had an opportunity to practice three essential skills a licensed architect will need to communicate effectively with his/her clients: presentation, graphics, and communication skills. Our goal as jurors was to critique their concepts, organizational skills, creativity, and graphics. Some of their projects were graphically strong but the architectural functionality wasn’t there, other ideas were forced. This is typical of architectural students.


We started the crit at 9 a.m. and each student had approximately 15 minutes to present and crit. Some lasted longer. During the morning session, we reviewed three rounds of four projects and then five more plans in the afternoon after a lunch break.


I really appreciated the creativity in each and every one of their presentations and I told the students I remember feeling nervous when I was in their shoes. I told them communication is the key to a successful architectural project because architects need to understand what their clients want and have the skills to communicate their ideas.





To Be Continued

Posted by Kunihiko Matsui on June 7, 2016 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

To Be Continued



When I met my clients, Jeff and Jackie at a Lackawanna Home Builder’s Show in 2007, they told me they had a project in mind for a while and were collecting information.

Jeff asked, “We have many ideas and we’re collecting pictures, etc., but we don’t exactly know what we should do. How can you help us?”

I told them my job is to reach into their heads and pull out their ideas, interpret them, and put them on paper so we can build a tangible plan. To this day, Jeff quotes what I told him.

A few weeks later, Jeff and Jackie invited me to see their existing house and discuss their project. They were in a quandary whether they should renovate and add to it, or tear it down and start from scratch. After they interviewed a few more architects, they called me to tell me I had their job, but when Jeff told me his brother “is going to build the house,” I thought this contractor is going to come in and just take over. That never happened. We established our boundaries and trusted each other and the result has been an outstanding relationship that has grown into a friendship built on mutual respect.

Fast forward nine years. Jeff and Jackie and I met yesterday to review our goals and determine what project we should complete next. Yes, after nine years, their 7,000 sq. ft. home is still in progress. One of the projects on our list is to complete a steam room downstairs. A driving force for this amenity was a steam room they experienced while they were at their annual getaway to Mirbeau Inn and Spa, an award-winning spa destination in Skaneateles NY. My wife and I also had an overnight stay at Mirbeau.

As Jeff and I discussed what needs to be done to finish the steam room, we recalled the aroma of eucalyptus and rosemary from our trips to Mirbeau and look forward to smelling that same welcoming therapeutic “greet you at the door” fragrance when their stream room project is completed. This serves as a reminder that architecture is not just form and function. It is also a sensual experience.

One of the must-have features I incorporated into their master bathroom design is a his-and-her vanity that will also serve as Jackie’s make-up table. Initially, they wanted a large wall-to-wall mirror, but when I suggested a sandblasted etched pattern on glass that simulated vanity cabinets, after some convincing, they were on board. Jeff and Jackie are thrilled with the results and their reactions to the finished piece shown below; put a smile on my face.

Jeff and Jackie’s project epitomizes the most ideal venture an architect can have and although their dream home is still a work in progress, our journey together continues.


Building Harmonious Relationships

Posted by Kunihiko Matsui on May 23, 2016 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Harmony is essential to all relationships.

One of the most thrilling moments in my architectural career occurs when I develop a personal relationship with my client and I’m able to create a space that provides peace, comfort and joy.

Japanese art and architecture adhere to the principles of harmony with nature. In Japan, a structure can stand alone in a field, or be situated on a city block in a busy metropolis, but chances are it was designed with nature in mind.

Architects have a responsibility to positively impact our world and my goal is to create spaces that will forever live in a person’s lifetime of memories. Whether you’re moving through a city block or walking from room to room in your home, architecture creates dynamic and constantly changing environments we experience every second of our lives. We might not realize the degree to which architecture affects our lives directly and indirectly, as it shapes and transforms our environment. Take some time throughout your day to observe the landscape around you, wherever you happen to be.

How does that space affect you? Do you feel relaxed and balanced?

Visit www.kunimatsuiarchitects.com and please share my blog. 


Project Management: Must-Have Skills

Posted by Kunihiko Matsui on May 16, 2016 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

There’s no denying solid project management expertise and the ability to troubleshoot are must-have skills for architects. Who knows what issues can arise day-to-day? The nature of architecture has always been one of change. Plans can change and challenges occur often times without notice.


My architectural career blossomed and I learned so much while I was employed as a project manager at Hemmler+Camayd Architects. One of my projects at the time, the McDade Center for Literary & Performance Arts at the University of Scranton, was my “baby.”


I began as the project architect and eventually took over the project when we had to redesign and put together a complete set of construction documents in a very short period of time. This position offered me the opportunity to follow through from the design stage to project completion.


When the University awarded the project to a construction management company, Sordoni Construction, I was fortunate to work with their project manager, job foreman, and construction crews and I learned so much about construction. The experience I gained from this job is irreplaceable .

Nescafe Gold Blend Coffee to Architecture

Posted by Kunihiko Matsui on May 10, 2016 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I’m not sure why a national television station in Kyoto, Japan chose a famous architect to endorse Nescafe Gold Blend coffee, but I recall I had one of my first “career” epiphanies while I watched that commercial.

Was it the commercial or was I feeling a call to architecture as an outlet for my creative tendencies? 

There I was, a high school student, lying on the floor in my parents’ home in Kyoto as Japanese architect, “Seike Kiyoshi” promoted coffee and a residence he designed in 1977. Years ago, many commercials featured slogans and Kiyoshi-san’s went like this, “For a man who knows the difference, Nescafe Gold Blend” and an image of the home he designed (home.kurade.net/s/article/70554858.html) flashed on my screen.

Perhaps this commercial enhanced my perception of architects as ethical, artistic and well-respected professionals. Who knows? Maybe I can attribute my long-running infatuation with architecture to Nescafe.

You can expect more stories from my journey with architecture in future blogs, but in the meantime, please share this post and visit kunimatsuiarchitects.com.