Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology sparks innovative discovery worldwide

Okinawa, Japan

Perched above the dramatic north coast, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University ignites interdisciplinary connections among leading researchers from around the world. The Institute was founded by the Japanese government to promote scientific breakthroughs, innovation, and sustainable development of Okinawa. We were delighted to join the international team in the early stages of this project to create a masterplan that reflects the collaborative nature of science and fosters daily connections across disciplines.


The campus as a village

The OIST campus can be thought of as a “village”—a human-scaled place where people gather, live, work, and play. Providing opportunities for social interaction and chance encounters was a critical element of the campus design. Social spaces for meetings and interaction were integrated carefully to encourage collaboration amongst students and researchers while fostering a sense of community.

Integrated into the landscape to create a memorable sense of place

Okinawa is a beautiful subtropical island — an extraordinary landscape that presented unique challenges, including deep ravines that traverse the building site and result in dispersed areas that can be developed. The design carefully responded to the site’s topography, existing vegetation, climate, and views, similar to, but different from, the existing OIST buildings. The masterplan places the residential campus village on the lower part of the site adjacent to a lake, with state-of-the-art laboratories and central facilities higher up the site. These two areas are connected by a curving pedestrian pathway, imbued with opportunities for social and academic interaction.

The buildings are shaped to “frame” the valley in a gentle way, creating a clear and memorable sense of place.
“Great science arises where there are no boundaries but strong networks. Scientific breakthroughs happen at the borders of disciplines.” — Dr. Peter Gruss, President/CEO, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University 
The Sports, Recreation, and Student Center building is intended to promote the wellbeing of faculty, staff, and students and would become an important node of campus life.
Elevation showing the valleys of the site.

Putting research and learning on display

OIST’s mission centers around cutting-edge research and teaching. Accordingly, the masterplan design makes learning, research and collaboration visible on campus. Laboratories and the spaces that surround them were envisioned as light-filled, highly flexible research environments that encourage social interaction and creative thought.  As OIST grows and changes over time, expanding into new disciplines and adapting to developments in practice in technology, its labs can evolve along with it.

The lobbies of buildings 1 and 3 have a covered walkway connection which is part of a larger proposed network of pedestrian sidewalks.

More About the Project

Project Team

  • Cesar Pelli, FAIA, RIBA, JIA
  • Fred Clarke, FAIA, RIBA, JIA ↗
  • Mariko Masuoka, FAIA, LEED AP
  • Jun Mitsui, AIA, JIA
  • Wes Wright, AIA
  • Bruce Hancock
  • Blake Mitchell
  • Marcus Myerholtz
  • Bailey Topper
  • Aude Jomini

Principal Collaborators

  • Lab Planning: Jacobs Consultancy
  • Higher Education Consulting: Rickes Associates
  • Sustainability Design: Nippon Koei/EAC

Project Information

  • Location: Okinawa, Japan
  • Client: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University
  • Size: 222 hectares
  • Completion: 2014
  • Firm Role: Master Planner

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