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Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging that is at least 500 years old. So why is a group of first-year University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa architecture students studying this deceptively simple art form?

“They need to understand how to use their eye,” said Graham Hart, a teaching assistant and graduate student at the UH Mānoa School of Architecture.

“Everyone has an eye for design, just being able to compose things and different arrangements and elements,” said Hart. “That really relates to form making in architecture as well as ikebana.”

The crash course in ikebana lasted only six hours and was taught by a team of sensei and assistants trained in the Sogetsu style.

“We are more progressive and we do more structural work,” said ikebana sensei Bertha Tottori. “We do arrangement beyond the vase.”

The connection between architecture and ikebana was immediately apparent to both students and their instructors.

“They see the similarities in balance in their designs,” said ikebana instructor Earl Shimabukuro. “And then the spatial relationship between the flower and the branches.”

The students had to use all of the materials they were given including wire and plant matter, both living and dead. The items were than twisted, clipped and contorted in various ways by the students as the created their arrangements.

“It really teaches you about the beauty in the simplicity of what you can do and how cutting away materials can actually make them a lot more effective than they are originally,” said architecture student Gabriela Andrade.

“It’s a lot of fun because it really challenges you with the different materials and also you’re allowed to be creative because it’s a free type of art,” said architecture student Justin Lim. “There’s not really too many restrictions based on what you can do.”

“The biggest thing was how to speak a different language, using what we learned from class, like lines and stuff, how to use it in a more organic way,” said student Brigette Agustin.

The display of student work only lasted a few days, but the hope is that the experience is one they’ll take with them throughout their academic and professional careers.

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