Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University Master Plan

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Okinawa, Japan
549 acres / 222 hectares

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology is a graduate-level university established by the government of Japan in the mid-2000s to foster cutting edge research in the physical and life sciences. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects won an international competition to provide master planning services for a dramatic expansion of this unique institution.

Located near the town of Onna on the north coast of Okinawa, OIST’s first phase was completed in 2010. Consisting of a few contemporary stone buildings surrounding an outdoor court, the campus sits atop a tropical, wooded ridge with views to the East China Sea. The architecture of this first segment of the campus nicely expresses the collaborative culture of OIST, whose mission is to foster transdisciplinary connections among its diverse collection of researchers.

Once it is fully built out, OIST’s goal is to house 300 faculty, which, with graduate students and support staff, will total 4,000 people and one of the largest research campuses in the world. While OIST’s land grant is large, 222 hectares, deep ravines traverse the site, resulting in limited and dispersed areas that can be developed. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects was commissioned to address this challenge: to plan a cohesive campus—physically, socially, and intellectually—on this dramatic but difficult site.

Because the OIST campus is vast, each new phase of development will be at a distant from other buildings. Consequently, transportation infrastructure is one of the main components of the master plan. A network of cable cars is planned to span the ravines and link the various campus precincts as well as buses that will ring the campus, transporting students and faculty to the scattered academic neighborhoods. Shuttling in groups fosters social engagement and enhances the intellectual life of the school.