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INTtalk: Designs to Help Climate Refugees with Tetsu Ohara

April 2, 2024 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Online and Steuben 311

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By exploring topics of Sustainability and Social Responsibility, this INTtalk will cover the pedagogical approaches of Biomimicry class and its results from the FA23 UN SDGs design competition organized by United Nations Academic Impact. All design proposals revolve around the element of water. Impact and implication of shortage or excess thereof by climate change.

Around the world, we find numerous environmental situations that challenge us to provide design solutions for those in need. The student projects were generated to mitigate the human environmental stresses, and reduce human impact on the ecosystem.

First, aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), students researched global cultural issues involving children. Each student identifies a topic, its geographical surroundings and studies its cultural/societal/migratory condition.

Second, each student proposed “design ideas” that are suitable for the region, methods, materials, economy and climate.

Third, students learned Biomimicry design approach & process and apply those knowledge to their design ideas. Those “design ideas” will transform into “design proposals”. We asked “How would nature do ____?” By taking these steps, Biomimicry lessons get calibrated into the design proposals more effectively. And also, this approach allowed us to develop a more harmonious understanding of the symbiotic relationships between nature and society.

Tetsu Ohara has been teaching studios, options studios/labs and elective courses to students from School of Architecture, School and Continuing & Professional Studies at Pratt since 2007. Launched in 2019, the Faculty-led Japan Study Abroad Program, the summer course, has received the 2023 IES Global Pillar Award for having students work with social/environmental causes in order to contribute to our society. The root for a passion towards sustainability has stemmed from his architectural degree from U.C. Berkeley at College of Environmental Design.

Professional experience design projects include in both the East & West spanning from product design, exhibition design, interior design, to architectural services. He is a principal designer at SpatialDesignStudio in NYC. Some highlights for international cultural work include the Japan Brand “Unfolding” exhibition with the Japanese Ministry of Trade with Felissimo Design House.

Before it, several notable professional experiences list Gabellini Sheppard & Associates for Salvatore Ferragamo store and HLW/UNCMP for United Nations Headquarters renovations.

“A good design reflects a successful combination of collaborating imaginations from diverse disciplines and challenging the constraints of physical/financial limitations while providing environmentally suitable solutions.”


Heyan Cheng, BFA Interior Design Senior

Marcela Alvarez, BArch Architecture Senior

This event will be held in Steuben 311 and streamed live via Zoom. Join us in-person for pizza.