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Global Luminaries Honored at Commencement 2012

Global Luminaries Honored at Commencement 2012

When RISD holds its 2012 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 2, approximately 448 undergraduates and 197 graduate students and their families will celebrate the completion of their hard-earned degrees.

When RISD holds its 2012 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 2, approximately 448 undergraduates and 197 graduate students and their families will celebrate the completion of their hard-earned degrees. Special guests at the ceremony include an international roster of honorary degree recipients who are being recognized for their groundbreaking work and profound impact on contemporary culture. RISD’s 2012 honorary degree recipients are: architect and professorWang Shu, who will also deliver the keynote address at Commencement; writer-activistRebecca 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.

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 approach to architecture in which the landscape and the built environment seamlessly merge.

Just last 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. Othernoted 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 will accept an honorary degree at Commencement.

Rebecca Solnit | A historian, activist and author of 13 books, 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 Disaste (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 bookRiver 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 atHarper’s Magazine and writes for the political site

Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli

(photo by Nicolas Guérin)

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 animatorHayao Miyazaki, his colleague and mentor, directorIsao 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 filmSpirited 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, includingMy 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. TheGhibli Museum, Mitaka in Tokyo is dedicated to the studio’s history and hand-drawn animation styles.