Matthew Corsover

Business - March 5th, 2010
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of JS Design and Construction

With dual backgrounds in various types of architecture and degrees from the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Matthew Corsover and his wife Tomoko packed their bags and moved from New York to Tokyo less than two years ago. Since that time the couple has been successful at establishing a unique architectural design and construction company that is well-equipped to offer customers a full range of specialized services from kitchen renovations to commercial interiors and new building construction.

How long have you been in Japan?

My wife, Tomoko, and I moved here in 2008. Tomoko was born and raised in Tokyo, and I had been making trips here since 2001.

What is your background and how did you arrive at your current position?

We both studied architecture and received our licenses in New York City. Working in New York, my experience has been mostly residential: apartment and kitchen renovations, house additions, and new homes. Tomoko’s projects have been a bit larger scale: commercial spaces, mid-rise apartment buildings, and hotels.

After our son was born, we decided to move to Japan and try to put our combined experience to work here. Once we were in Tokyo, Tomoko met a general contractor that was also looking for a new direction, and JS Design and Construction was born.

JS Design and Construction architecture‘The practice of architecture is

about a synthesis of aesthetic

and functional desires with the

realities of space and materials.’

Can you tell us a bit about your company?

JS Design and Construction is a bilingual, full-service architectural design and general contracting company. We provide a complete range of services: zoning analysis to determine the optimal allowable building for a given site, custom home design and construction, kitchen and apartment renovations, and the repair and maintenance of existing buildings. By combining our New York design training with the experience of a construction company with a 30-year history, we can offer our clients a single point of contact for all the phases of their project, from planning and design through to construction and maintenance.

What are the Japan-specific challenges your business faces here?

Of course, building codes and construction techniques are different in Japan than in the US. The practice of architecture itself also has a very different history here, so the role of the architect and his or her relationship with the homeowner is different. In the US clients will almost always go to an architect first. In Japan they’re just as likely to start with a construction company or real estate office. Understanding how to reach our market effectively by teaming up with other allied professionals has probably been the biggest adjustment.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring professionals and entrepreneurs?

Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses and ally yourself with people whose skills complement your own. Then, be resolutely optimistic about your eventual success. Can you describe your business philosophy for us? For us, the practice of architecture is about a synthesis of aesthetic and functional desires with the realities of space and materials. To that end, we see the client as a collaborator instead of just a customer. The real excitement for us comes from crafting a unique building to meet the needs of the client. Just as the specifics of a particular site can lead to a distinct building, the specifics of the way the client uses the space also help shape a unique project.

What are the best and worst decisions you’ve made doing business in Japan?

The best decision was partnering with an established Japanese construction company. That allowed us to really jump-start our business. The worst decision was probably waiting too long and running into this slowed economy.

What do you do in your spare time?

Spending time with my family is always my first choice. I also love to cook and I love to eat. If I have the time, I try to travel. Japan is a beautiful country with an amazing regional food culture that I never get tired of.