Architecture as an Urban Issue: Challenges & Inventions in the Practice in Tokyo

This Course is for students in the Toyko Study Abroad Program. 

Tokyo today is in a dilemma of urbanism. As a post-growth phenomenon, abandoned houses are increasing in number, especially in the old residential-commercial mix belt occupied with timber structures surrounding the central zone, exacerbating the physical and social vulnerability of living condition. Yet at the same time, as if to revive the bygone growth, massive investment backed up with deregulation is being made for integrated urban redevelopment in the central zone, generating ever more floor areas.
Tokyo’s population is expected to stop growing and begin shrinking in 2025. After the long struggle with chronic overconcentration, which has made the city the most populous in the world, Tokyo is finally slowing down and also due to the aging of the population. This gear change will increasingly give impact on the economy and the urbanism, although there is no sign of will as yet of the national or the local government to control the imminent paradox. Meanwhile, the market of high-end apartment units and small individual houses continues to thrive.

In the Tokyo seminar of Spring 2020, we will take a close look at some of the attempts being made by architects to challenge the current forces of urbanism in the mindset of “cultivating new potential of architecture out of the existing soil.”*

We’ll begin by taking an overall view of Tokyo’s current urban condition and the driving force behind it: the political, economic and social factors forming the backdrop of the urban or architectural phenomena. We will then take a closer look at two contrasting situations – the mega-scale urban redevelopment in the central zone, and the shrinking neighborhood in the periphery – through research, presentation and discussion.

In the second half of the seminar, we will meet several of the aforementioned architects and discuss with them their works addressing the situation and how these works may offer new experiences of living in the city, or give impact on the behaviors and relationships of those using or inhabiting in and around them.
As the final task, everyone is asked to present his/her idea proposal for facing the challenge in the shrinking zone in the periphery. There is no mid-term submission but continuous research by each individual is required throughout the semester, based on which small presentations will be asked for from time to time.

*Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuko Akamatsu (Coelacanth)

Enrollment in this course was pre-selected.