Observation for an urban study dealing with risk and cities: The case of Tokyo

Green apartment in Yoyogi-Uehara, Shibuya Ward, TokyoHouse, Uehara 3-chôme, Shibuya, TokyoHouse in Uehara 3-chôme, Shibuya-ku, TokyoUehara, 3-chôme, Shibuya-ku, TokyoTypical Type Houses in Setagaya ward (as in residential areas in Tokyo)Kitazawa 3-Chôme 6
Typical Type Houses in Setagaya ward (as in residential areas in Tokyo)Kitazawa 3-ChômeIMG_0296
Kitazawa 3-chômeStreet 2Street 1

While I am preparing a series of projects — I do not know how these will turn —, I just opened a new study on Tokyo's overcrowded residential areas. Precisely what interests me is to rethink what a city is and how to include risk and city by studying Tokyo's overcrowded residential areas. Recently Japanese architects discuss the idea of how to shift into a 'habitat city' to quote architect Riken Yamamoto (See OURS: Methods for Habitat City edited by Y-GSA (Yokohama Graduated School of Architecture). The recent events — earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear threaten — highlighted the urgency of rethinking the concept of city by including the question of risk (natural disasters of course, but also climate change while I have not surprisingly heard anything about this critical issue yet) in the 21st century, precisely how to link city and risk, how to design city that regularly faces risks, such as countries like Japan, Korea, Haiti that regularly face with natural disasters. Yet this question of risk must be expanded with other types of risks from viruses up to conflicts.
Lack of open spaces and green areas in dense cities can be critical for cities that regularly face natural disasters. Needless to say that Japanese metropolitan areas, because of a lack of spaces, are vulnerable to natural disasters.
These few pictures are parts of this project mentioned above.
An overcrowded yet quiet residential street at Higashi-Kitazawa,
Setagaya ward, Tokyo. Photo credit: Annick Labeca (Urban Lab Global Cities).

I have already mentioned this, but recently, Tokyo launched a 10-year project that aims at demolishing overcrowded areas of wooden houses to prevent the residents from damage fire and other risks that an earthquake can cause. Yet wooden houses are parts of Tokyo and, in a larger scale, Japanese cities' DNA. Consequently this leads to the crucial question that Japanese architects and city planners, but also residents, and all those actors that are involved in the question of quality and city, are currently posing: "what city for the people who live in?".

For a global oversea on the question of quality management and architecture (but also and city), I will warmly recommand to read Conditions Magazine issue 5/6 "The Politics of Quality Management", in case you have not read this issue yet.

All the images credits: Annick Labeca (Urban Lab Global Cities)

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