||April 18, 2017
||Civil Engineering and Architecture
Translated into Japanese
There has traditionally been clear demarcation in Japan in education and
practice concerning the design and construction of buildings. It may sound
strange to many civil engineers and architects outside Japan that the Japanese
civil engineers, Doboku engineers, who design and construct roads, dams and bridges, do not deal
with buildings, which are left to the structural engineers who belong to
the Kenchiku field. In other words,
- The scope of work for American* civil engineering consists of designing and constructing roads, dams,
bridges and building structures primarily on the basis of applied mechanics,
while it does not include architectural design of buildings related to
functionalism and aesthetics.
- Japanese Kenchiku specializes in buildings, but it covers practically every aspect of the
design and construction of buildings, including architectural design, structural
engineering, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning
Thus, American civil engineering and Japanese Kenchiku are broader than Japanese Doboku and American architecture, respectively. Due to the discrepancy, the direct translation of Doboku as civil engineering and Kenchiku as architecture can be misleading as my experiences below show:
- When I entered the graduate school of the University of Washington on a
government scholarship back in 1950, I was assigned to the School of Architecture
probably because the name of the Kenchiku department at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) from which
I had graduated was translated as "the Department of Architecture"
in my English transcript. I discovered that the structural design of buildings
that I had intended to study was taught at the Department of Civil Engineering
rather than at the School of Architecture. I have eventually earned a Master's
degree from the Department of Civil Engineering.
- Another case concerned a foreign student who came to Tokyo Tech to study
structural engineering for buildings. His dismay when he entered the Doboku department was similar to mine, although the direction was opposite, i.e.,
what he had intended to study was taught at the Kenchiku department. To avoid such confusion, the Kenchiku department at Tokyo Tech is translated as "Department of Architecture
and Building Engineering." The Kenchiku departments in Japan that can be properly translated as departments of
architecture belong to art colleges like the Tokyo University of the Arts
(Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku).
- When I learned that President and other executive officers of the American
Society of Civil Engineers visited Tokyo, their original itinerary did
not include the Architectural Institute of Japan, I took the liberty of
inviting them to the Institute to meet their counterparts who specialized
in structural engineering.
A similar ambiguity exists in the translation of the names of professional
societies concerning civil engineering and architecture:
The Japan Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers calls itself
"Japan Section of ASCE" without referring to Doboku. I wish to urge civil engineering departments in Japanese colleges to
modify their English names to indicate that buildings are never dealt with.
Likewise, departments of architecture in Japanese colleges are urged to
modify their English names to indicate that they deal with structural engineering
for buildings in addition to architectural design.
I advise civil engineers and architects outside Japan to contact the Architectural
Institute of Japan mentioned above and the following organizations if they
seek information on structural engineering for buildings in Japan:
I would like to thank Mr. Linden Nishinaga, P.E., LEED AP, for reviewing
my article and for making valuable comments.
* There may be other countries.