An innovator who undertakes planning, design, and operations in the field of architecture.
What he gained from integrating rowing club activities and his studies. After 3 years' experience as a company employee, he started his own business.
Staying over at Tohoku University's rowing club training camp in Toda City, Saitama Prefecture, Kajiwara kept practicing with his team and participated in the qualifying competition for the Seoul Olympics. The team reached the final round, but got 4th place, just one spot shy of qualifying. Undeterred, he asked his mentor and professor at the Architecture Department if he could continue and prolonged his stay at the training camp in Toda. He decided to participate in the All-Japan Student Championship and in the All-Japan Championship to be held in August during his 4th year at university. The team came second in both championships. He explains, “I really wanted to win, so I asked my professor if I could stay at the camp even longer for the National Sports Festival in the autumn. But of course, even my kind professor told me to come back to Sendai. I continued practicing at the university's Natori training camp and applied myself fully to my graduation thesis. When I was at the Toda training camp, I rarely went to class, but I never neglected my architecture studies. When you're studying on your own, you have to think about what and how you're going to study, so it was a valuable experience for me.” Through his activities at the Tohoku University Rowing Club, Kajiwara learned organization-building, experienced the difficulty and fun of digging deep and continuously thinking, and the fun of effectively using the knowledge he acquired. After clearing the hurdle of balancing both his studies and rowing, he chose to work for a major real estate company where he could learn more about organization-building, and rethink architecture from the outside. He worked at three divisions: architecture and design, sales, and planning, spending a year in each one. As he had told the company when he first joined, he quit after three years. Finally, it was time to start his own business.
After striking out on his own, he cleared a high hurdle, and established a company that handles planning, design, and operations.
In 1992, Kajiwara established the architecture and planning firm, UDS Ltd. (known as Urban Design System Co. at the time). In striking out on his own, feelings of freedom and excitement won over anxiety. He began working on a “cooperative house” where would-be residents form a cooperative to build houses rooted in building design, and he spread that system to society at large. He realized that he could fulfill the needs of both constructors and customers by consistently handling projects from start to finish, from planning to design to day-to-day operations. By not confining his company only to existing architecture and design work and by sending out a new “system” into the world, he differentiated his company from other architecture firms. As an innovator in the industry, he established a game-changing style. In particular, KidZania Tokyo and the hotel CLASKA were enthusiastically received by the public, and his business grew as he brought in talented people into the company.
He says, “Actually, I had to clear a high hurdle. It was a very tough issue, and I was worried about it for a long time. Somehow, I came out of it and, through this problem, I reaffirmed the importance of distinctiveness and expertise as an architectural technician. I feel that my company came out much stronger than before.” In order to establish a corporation in China, he and his family moved there in 2011. While living there for seven years, he experienced the difficulties of the Chinese market, but at the same time, he also experienced China as a country and the strength of its people. “I was able to gather a good team, and I managed to establish a local corporation that handles planning, design, and operations in the UDS style. In 2018, MUJI HOTEL BEIJING was completed. Going forward, I'd like to support my young Chinese associates in thinking on their own and doing their best,” he explains.
“Why do you think so?” The important thing is to think and find things out for yourself.
After returning to Japan, Kajiwara pursued the planning, design, and operation of hotels, commercial facilities, and public facilities more vigorously. UDS Korea Ltd. was established in June 2018, and his architectural style is flourishing in Japan and overseas. What are his thoughts on cultivating people? He says, “The world is changing rapidly. We also have to be able to change flexibly. When training staff, I don't force the organization's logic on them. Rather, I ask them 'How will you approach it? How will you change?' while helping them understand the organization's way of thinking. This is the same thing I learned at the School of Engineering and at the rowing club. My professors and seniors at Tohoku University never rejected my ideas; they always asked me 'Why do you think so?' They taught me the habit of digging and thinking deep, and how to look for answers on my own.” The fun of architecture lies in creating a concept, writing it down in 2D, on paper, and bringing it to life in a 3D building. According to Kajiwara, this is “an experience you can't really have anywhere else.” He says, “Engineering, including architecture, is a subject where you think by yourself and come up with an answer. I love thinking, imagining, and being excited. I hope that today's middle and high school students will also think seriously about what they like, aside from working on their entrance exam studies. That's because text books and classes don't teach what one likes. I, too, would like to continue looking for ways to fulfill my high school dream of helping children around the world.”
Born in Tokyo. In 1985, he entered the Architecture Department of the School of Engineering at Tohoku University. After working for a major real estate company from 1989, he established Urban Design System Co. in 1992, which was renamed Urban Design System Co. Ltd in 1994 and UDS Ltd. in 2012. Currently, he trains staff and works on expanding new projects in his capacity as Chairman. He also lectures part-time at the Graduate School of Engineering at Tohoku University.