UMass Amherst Professor Ray Kinoshita Aspires to Create an Architectural Renaissance

AMHERST, Mass. - When people ask architect Ray Kinoshita why she’s chosen to become the new art professor at the University of Massachusetts, she says it’s because she wants to redesign the way we make buildings from the ground up.

"As an architect, I always saw the interiors and the exteriors as intricately linked, yet there are many, many others in the profession who are just the opposite," Kinoshita says. "At the University we’re creating a new approach which combines architecture and design into one program. We’re developing a method that will encourage unity between the disciplines."

Perhaps better known locally as the principal architect of R K Studio in Amherst, Kinoshita has always had both a practical and an academic interest in her work. The daughter of a physicist/father and artist/mother, Kinoshita says she grew up seeing the "creativity and rigor possible in both science and art." And, she says too, she saw the art and science in her chosen field. "I never downplay the engineering aspect of architecture, because building is all about material reality and the forces of nature. Yet it is also art in the truest sense. It is creating a kind of living sculpture that people inhabit."

In her designer glasses, which look almost like a sculpture themselves, Kinoshita still seems more like a hip, young architect than she does a traditional academic. Yet, she is no stranger to academia, having spent her undergraduate and graduate years at Harvard where she won numerous honors and awards. In fact, indirectly, it was academia which caused her to fall in love with architecture in the first place, she says. "When my father was on sabbatical leave in Geneva, I was six years old," says Kinoshita. "I became so captivated with the landscape, I started building medieval cities out of cardboard boxes as a game."

Now, nearly 30 years later, Kinoshita is still playing this game in some sense – and she’s helping to rewrite its rules for a new generation. Along with architects Linda Gatter and Kathleen Lugosch, who also recently joined the faculty, Kinoshita is setting the foundation for a new era of architecture at UMass. "It is a very exciting time to be here," she says. "The department is trying to create something new. We’re getting ready to take the University to the forefront of an architectural renaissance."