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Wang Shu to Deliver Keynote Address at Rhode Island School of Design’s 2012 Commencement


Shu will receive honorary degree, along with writer-activist Rebecca Solnit  

and the directors and producer of the Japanese film animation house Studio Ghibli 

PROVIDENCE, RI – On Saturday, June 2 at 1:30PM, 197 graduate and 448 undergraduate students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will receive their diplomas during RISD’s 2012 Commencement celebration. For the second year in recent history, the ceremony will take place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence, adjacent to the space that houses the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition.

Commencement is a vibrant celebration that culminates the RISD experience. Graduates typically transform their caps and gowns in idiosyncratic ways – by painting, reimagining and embellishing them to make a more personal artistic statement or simply to have fun with this colorful RISD tradition.

At the ceremony, RISD will present honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees on to several special guests at its 2012 Commencement ceremony. The honorary degree recipients who are being recognized for creating groundbreaking work and making a profound impact on contemporary culture are: architect and professor Wang Shu, who will also deliver the keynote address; writer-activist Rebecca Solnit; and the directors and producer of the Japanese film animation house Studio GhibliHayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki, respectively, with Suzuki accepting the award on behalf of the studio.

This year the RISD Alumni Association recognizes Nicholas Felton 99 GD, the influential designer who sparked new interest in the field of information graphics and made the Timeline redesign of Facebook’s profile page a success. Felton will receive the Association’s Business of Design Award, given to an alumni entrepreneur for excellence in the visual arts and leadership/achievement in business.

Graduating students will mount a series of exhibitions leading up to Commencement, including the Senior Invitational Exhibition at Woods-Gerry Gallery, the RISD Annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition at the RI Convention Center, a selection of graduate student works at Sol Koffler Gallery, a student-curated exhibition at Gelman Gallery in the Chace Center, and the Senior Film/Animation/Video Festival at the RISD Auditorium. Details about each can be found in the Exhibitions area of the website.

For more information on RISD’s 2012 Commencement, visit   

Wang Shu | As one of China’s leading architects, Wang Shu is deeply concerned about modern architecture that is alienated from nature and cultural history. In response to China’s rapid urbanization, he advocates an architecture in which the landscape and the built environment seamlessly merge.

Just this week news broke that Wang is the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is widely considered the highest honor in the field. A formal ceremony will take place in Beijing on May 25 to present him with the $100,000 grant that accompanies the prize.

“The recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future,” notes The Lord Palumbo, jury chairman for the Pritzker Prize. “As with any great architecture, Wang Shu’s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”

In 1997 Wang and his wife Lu WenYu founded the Amateur Architecture Studio, a practice known for using vernacular, traditional and recycled materials alongside experimental building techniques. The team designs projects that suit their context, and takes inspiration from objects of cultural importance, such as the ink stone from the Song Dynasty (960–1279) that inspired the award-winning Ceramic House in Jinhua City. Other noted projects include the Vertical Courtyard Apartment in Hangzhou, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum and the Five Scattered Houses in Ningbo.

In 2011 Wang and Lu were recognized with the gold prize from L’Académie d’Architecture de France and in 2010 they won the Schelling Architecture Prize. Wang is head of the Architecture School at the China Academy of Art and has lectured and taught at universities all over the world, including serving as the Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor at Harvard School of Design last fall.

Rebecca Solnit | The author of 13 books, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit writes about art, politics, community, landscapes, ecology, memory and the environment, among other interests. Her work traces thematic junctions in art and cultural history, showing how people work to maintain a sense of connection to place and each other in an often anonymous, fragmented and fast-paced modern world.

Solnit’s latest book, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (2010), visually charts the diverse cultural geography and history of San Francisco through 22 complex maps. Among her other better known works are: A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (2010), A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2006), Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (2005)and Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2001).

Solnit won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her book River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (2004). She has also earned a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award, is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and writes for the political site

Studio Ghibli | Studio Ghibli, which derives its name from the Arabic word for a strong North African wind, was established in 1985 by director and animator Hayao Miyazaki, his colleague and mentor, director Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki to “blow a new wind through the Japanese anime industry” and push the boundaries of traditional animation. Since then the studio’s phenomenal work has focused on pacifism, feminism and the relationship between humans, nature and technology, while also offering an incisive critique of capitalism and globalism.

Studio Ghibli is perhaps best known in the US for the Oscar-winning film Spirited Away (2001). Its latest release, The Secret World of Arrietty (2011), just opened in February and is now showing in theaters across the country. Ghibli’s diverse portfolio of films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Only Yesterday (1991), Princess Mononoke (1997) and My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), have contributed to the studio’s reputation for exacting detail and for allowing its drawings to really drive each story.

Disney and Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter has acknowledged Studio Ghibli as one of the greatest animation teams of all time. The studio has also been lauded for the humanity, spirituality and integrity of its films, and for refusing to allow American distributors to edit their signature nonlinear structure.

Studio Ghibli’s work has a huge following both in Japan and worldwide. Their films inspire ongoing academic research and have been shown at Carnegie Hall and in the Los Angeles American Cinematheque retrospective series. The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka in Tokyo is dedicated to the studio’s history and hand-drawn animation styles. 

About Rhode Island School of Design 

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the United States. Approximately 2,400 students from around the world study at RISD, pursuing full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 studio majors. RISD is known for its phenomenal faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on, studio-based approach to learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand. Required courses in the liberal arts provide an essential complement to studio work, enabling graduates to become critical and informed individuals eager to engage with the world. Through the accomplishments of its 26,000 alumni, the college champions the vital role artists and designers play in satisfying the global demand for innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum of Art help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit or


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At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.