Seeking to explore power as crucial factor in the design of the built environment, we will look at energy systems and related objects, from sites of generation to spaces of consumption, from distribution networks to control rooms.

Tutors: Filip Geerts and Sanne van den Breemer
Director of Studies: Salomon Frausto

Contributors: Santiago Ardila, Juan Benavides, Daniella Camarena, Stef Dingen, Marco Fusco, Jack Garay Arauzo, Theodora Gelali, Shaiwanti Gupta, Hao Hsu, Marianthi Papangelopoulou, Felipe Quintero, Gent Shehu, Siyuan Wang

敬称陛下 (Her Majesty The Empress)

Idealization of a system, Production, Consumption, Building, Shinjuku, Textile, Culture, Lifestyle, Museum, Mosaic

Since the establishment of the Imperial Cocoonery by Empress Dowager Shōkun in 1871, sericulture is one of the traditional cultures within the Imperial Household. At the time of the institution’s foundation, silk was one of Japan’s most important export products, and Imperial patronage was meant to promote the industry even further.1 Despite an enormous decline in the production of silk, the tradition of breeding silk worms by the Empress Consort has continued through the successive Taishō, Shōwa, and Heisei eras, and is expected to be taken on by Empress Masako come May 2020. Her Majesty will take part in a number of ceremonies marking the different stages of breeding worms and harvesting silk. In addition, she will be expected to devote as much time as she can, to sericulture activities. To put that into perspective, in 2015 Empress Michiko reportedly visited the Imperial Cocoonery twenty-three times, making it one of her most time-consuming duties.2
    As the silk industry has been decimated, the aim of Imperial sericulture has shifted from promoting domestic industry, to promoting traditional craftsmanship. Safely guarded within the Palace compound, The Imperial Cocoonery is a perfect vision of silk production in Japan. The breeding of the Koishimaru species in particular, is a testament to that dedication. Despite the relatively low production volume of this silk worm sort, Empress Michiko insisted on saving it from near-extinction. Silk produced from this specific variety of worms, is of such an exceptional quality, that it is now being used to restore priceless, ancient artefacts.3 As such, the Imperial Cocoonery has been instrumental in safeguarding some of Japan’s most important national treasures, including items from the collection of the Kamakura Museum. Additionally, the wonderful silks produced from Imperial worms are a befitting gift for visiting heads of state. Within the tight confines of international diplomacy, Japanese silk continues to play a role on a world stage.

1. Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris, “Kaiko – La Sériculture Impériale du Japon,” Accessed March 8, 2020.
2. Akemi Sagawa, “Japanese Empress Grows Silkworms.” Accessed March 8, 2020.
3. Imperial Household Agency, “Imperial Sericulture of Her Majesty the Empress,” filmed Spring 2013 at the Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery, Brookline, video, 29:59,

See Photos: Imperial Palace Gardens
Visit Ephemera: 40, 41, 50