Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Japanese City according to Ashihara and Nitschke

  1. The experiential city
  2. Fosters harmony through uniformity, fragmented image makes the individual feel part of the larger whole
  3. Special relationship
  4. Molecular structure: additive, clustered, non-hierarchical
  5. Ambiguous in map and plan



Network of access routes; disperses and slows movement

Few straight roads

Increases experiential time


縁 (en):

Transactional space; simultaneously the connection and / or separation between spaces

Connects/separates, inside and outside, public and private, city and nature, etc.



Part split from and belonging to the whole

Basic unit of the city, like the ward and block, fragmented and repeated

Creates uniformity throughout the city and among Japanese cities


間 (ma):

Place or space; understood as the place for tea ceremony or formal space

Implies both an objective and subjective reading meaning both the physical space and its sentimental evocation


Natural context:

Topography and surrounding natural elements

Mt. Fuji

The Western City according to Kevin Lynch

  1. The imaginable city
  2. Fosters pride through distinction, clear image allows the individual to feel the whole within them
  3. Linear relationship
  4. Skeletal structure: bones (path), joints (nodes), muscle tissue (districts).
  5. Understandable in map plan



Lines of vision and movement; channels and speeds movement

Military and ceremonial axes

Efficient transportation flow

Reinforcing public image of city and populous



Boundary or break in continuity

Acts to reinforcement of the path and delineation of the district

ie. Defensive wall

Represents subtractive nature of western cities



Area of a city with common identifying characteristics

Differentiation of social class, activity, building type creates the district’ and city’s identity



Convergence of paths or concentration of paths or concentration of activities,

Often demarks important public spaces, like commercial center, transportation center, ceremonial center, etc.



Visual reference points within a city often acts to reinforce the node

Defining elements on the skyline, like churches

Monuments and sculptures

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Needs of Contemporary Urbanism and the Missing Rules of Smart Growth*

Here, I will offer a new perspective on urbanism. I seek to effect change in the ways that urbanists, policy makers, and local planners design our cities and towns.

Many disciplines, particularly scientific fields, have been experiencing continual growth and development for several decades. It would seem that they have anticipated the arrival of a new century, a new millennium, a new era and have prepared themselves well to participate in revolutionary advances. Urban design, on the other hand, seems to be constantly looking backwards for ideas about design for the present, depending on pre-World War II theories and dismissing over half a century of progress and development. Instead of simply duplicating the plans of our ancestors, it is the time for us to make a step forward into this new era? We should finally begin to develop our living spaces to meet the requirements of the twenty-first century.

Neighborhoods are shaped in various ways depending upon the residents’ needs, desires, traditions and the environmental concerns. Therefore, any community planning should be organized into seven layers which are the proposed rules of Contemporary, Forward Urbanism:

  1. Zoning Layer--residential, educational, commercial, and public service facilities as well as new and necessary facilities such as senior service centers, media centers, technical service points, heating and cooling points and finally green spaces and environmental protection centers.
  2. Residents’ universe layer which includes the residents’ movement network and the urban furniture as it is related to a universal design for children as well as senior and physically challenged residents.
  3. “Transportation” decision layer, which will be used to link the project with various modes of transportation. Though the means used for traveling to and from communities is a major issue on the planning level, we should think of connecting all the neighbourhoods using original ideas that could affect the development of the transportation system itself.
  4. The site environmental and sustainable dimensions’ layer. Every site has its advantages and disadvantages, which necessitates a unique design plan as well as using the best energy that site can sustain.
  5. The traditional and cultural elements of the region layer. Local arts and cultures need to be reflected and implemented in the master design.
  6. Up-to-date reflection layer. The necessity of reflecting the era in which a building or city is built, because every period has its basic necessities, requirements, and priorities.
  7. The concept of "life cycle" analysis of the neighbourhood. This layer should include detailed reports on the lifetime costs of new communities. This type of study really reveals the long-term savings of intelligent new growth policies and processes.

The mentioned rules are the tools that could be the links between contemporary urban theories and future theories. Where the ideal future communities should be more diverse, more organized, and better connected. And the ability to reflect the new dimensions on several projects, new communities, Infill, development and redevelopment projects.

*I did some minor changes on the original paper to fit into my blog

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Funky Fukuoka

by Robert Nagata Zingg and Jihad Bitar

This month two young international architects point out the quirks of Fukuoka's often funky landscape.

Fukuoka, our Manzoku City*... but is she really built to please? To love her form requires steeling yourself for some brutal knocks on the head. Architecturally, there is plenty of love to go around. Naturally, no one argues over her splendid temples, and picking on the trendy American-style shopping malls is well, just too easy. Remember, those beloved temples were once the imported Disney Lands of their day.

Maintaining more recent structures has never been a priority, and for good reason. Frankly, they could all go tomorrow. The "Big One," typhoon, economic bubble, renegade airliner or Godzilla could wipe our urban slate clean. Kobe and September 11 illustrated again just how hard they can fall, so coveting the city and its dated engineering is courting an inevitable heartbreak. Many precedents exemplify how ancient architects rolled with the punches, and bent with the times. Traditional wooden buildings if shook violently were designed to fall apart neatly, and then easily reassembled. Kyushu farm houses were laid out in groups, providing a hedged bet that at least one would survive whatever an angry God or army could throw at them. Repairing the more recent buildings results in hybrids at best, and unfortunately, more than often, nasty mutants.

Here, renovation is dubbed "renewal." And renewal means new. "New"carries a special cleansing power which often takes precedent over aesthetics. The poorly maintained structures of the recent past are purified with aseptic, introverted concrete cubes in a flash. Ise Shrine could last a thousand years, but is rebuilt every twenty. So, what happens when town planners want to soften the jinx of a former graveyard or hospital for the chronically ill? They'll anesthetize the neighborhood with pure geometry and grandiose badges like "Pure Romanesque Earther Core de Maison Vague" (for your so-called European life). Ugly, but potent. Fukuoka's buildings, however funky, are married to a modern, semi-nomadic lifestyle and have become more of an apparatus than a home. In the future our tiny capsule apaatos will be as cool consumer products as today's keitai are. So watch your head, and find solace that even if you hate it now, relax: it won't be around for long.

*Manzoku: Japanese for "satisfaction," taken from Manzoku City, a tall shiny new pleasure dome in Nakasu.