1/03/2012

The year Ahead: Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City

I have been following young Tokyo-based architect Ryuji Fujimura for a while, now. Ryuji Fujimura is the author of Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City Project, a project aiming at drawing critical issues that Japan will be facing, starting with 3.11: radiation, environmental catastrophes, Communication technologies, congested residential areas, economics, financial crisis, megacities (the shift from nation-state to cities), super-aging society, global warming (which is surprisingly not quoted in this manifesto) are among critical issues that will shape Japan's urban and rural areas. Born in 1976 and member of the new generation of Japanese architecture, a generation that will be doubtless linked with 3.11, Ryuji Fujimura is in the pure tradition of the Metabolist movement co-founded by Kenzo Tange, Kisho Kurokawa, Takashi Asada, Kiyonori Kikutake and writer Noboru Kawazoe (Kurokawa, Asada, Kikutake and Kawazoe were under the guidance of Kenzo Tange).

Suggested reading: Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Project Japan: Metabolism Talks, Taschen, 2011.

First, this Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City aspires to be understood as a rehabilitation method of disastered areas by natural disasters, in the case of 3.11: earthquake, tsunami, fire, radiation — as mentioned in the recent Tohoku Planning Forum. As known, natural disasters, as well as, as mentioned above, aging society, globalization, falling birth rate, economic problems (a dramatic public debt), financial crises, communication crises, and now climate age and energy, are viewed as externalities to the cities problem, which make Japanese cities more and more vulnerable. The key to this rehabilitation method is to reframe Japanese cities model and place architecture and urbanism in relationship to those flows. Questions of sustainability and renewability are in the heart of this plan beta as well as community — even though we would have expected a deeper insight concerning these two issues —, and reform and improvement of quality of life in not only urban but also rural areas, in particular given the super-aging society of Japan.

Suggested reading: Ryuji Fujimura/Team Roundabout (eds),「アーキテクト2.02001年以後の建築像ー藤村龍至/Team Roundabout インタビュー集[Architect 2.0. Post 2011 Architects — A compilation of Interviews by Ryuji Fujimura/Team Roundabout]」, Shokokusha, 2011 (in Japanese only).

In a book recently published, precisely in October 2011, titled: Post 3.11 Architecture and Society Design, co-edited by the same Ryuji Fujimura and urban sociologist Atsushi Miura, several points were discussed that can be summarized into: habitat cities, a better distribution of urban activities**, a new vision of urban design and housing market (the concept of one family = one house = land (一家族=一住宅=一敷地), that dominated Japan's 20th century urbanism*, is now scraped due to the mutation of Japanese households leading to new demands of living conditions and lifestyle), high quality of life, community, super-aging society, falling birth rate, to quote a few. If energy is now embedded in Japanese cities' mutation and, with evidence, the reconstruction of affected northeast cities, it is however surprising that an important challenge such as climate change (that will participate to threatening flooding and other disasters) is not quoted.

Suggested reading: Ryuji Fujimura, Atsushi Miura, 「3・11後の建築と社会デザイン」[Post 3.11 Architecture and Society Design], Heibonsha, 2011 (in Japanese only).
Atsushi Miura, 「郊外はこれからどうなる?東京住宅地開発秘話」[What will happens to Suburbs? Confidence on Tokyo Housing Development], Chuuoukouronsha, December 2011 (in Japanese only).

Another point is the shift from nation-state to cities which supposes a an urban plan per city as city has its own specific needs. Quoting Richard Florida author of Who's Your City? and founder of The Atlantic and The Atlantic Cities, what Ryuji Fujimura states is the importance of Japanese government to let municipalities decide for city design.

Suggested reading: Richard Florida, Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, Basic Books, 2008.

And in this case, damaged municipalities know much better than the government what local residents want, their living conditions, their specific needs. Residents from Sendai do not necessary expect what residents from Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya or Osaka expect. As Florida points out in his book Who's Your City? Place now plays an important role as it shapes our urban lives: it determines the jobs and careers we access, housing the place proposes, leisures, living conditions we will have, the people we meet, etc.

Suggested reading: Saskia Sassen, Cities in a World Economy (Sociology for a new Century), Pine Forge Press, 2006.

I would like to have further details concerning his idea of 24-hour city as a 24-hour city requires high energy consumption.

Anyhow, the urgent point, for now, is to build temporary housings to shelter evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture and its region and this is probably what this proposal, this Cloud City, envisions. Building for the community, which means to rethink what city is: a city made by and for its dwellers.

Nonetheless, thinking temporary concerning a disaster-prone country, a vulnerable country such as Japan, can provide adaptive ideas to respond quickly to high risks. Yet it contains its negative parts: it tends to neglect long-term issues: climate change as most critical issue that Japan will be facing in the very nearest future.

This proposal is available in an English-version in Genron Portal for critical discourse in Japan website.
Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City is more than a manifesto; it can be viewed as a new vision for Japanese cities, a new urban system. At last it is a first path toward a reconbinance of damaged northeast cities by a member of the new generation of Japanese architects.

Suggested reading: After the Disaster, Contectures, Shisouchizu Beta vol.2 2011 Autumn, pages 38 to 50, December 2011.

It has been organised based on the research led by the Toyo University Ryuji Fujimura Laboratory directed by Ryuji Fujimura and composed of Masato Arai, Mineyuki Oyama, Yukio Morita, Soichi Arihara, Masato Kanazawa, Kazuki Shiohara and Moe Tsuzuki.
Northeast Japan. Originally appeared on Genron.

Here is an abstract of Ryuji Fujimura's proposal:
"Little Fukushima," to be constructed southwest of Fukushima (Okuma Town and Futaba Town, Fukushima Prefecture) is a city planned for allowing the 80,000 residents of areas designated for evacuation to live together again [1]. Applying the standard population density in suburban residential areas of 1,000 people/ha, the amount of land required to house 80,000 people is 8 sq. km. Here, a plan is proposed for a city with 9 mega sections of 1 sq. km. within a square ground, with each side of the ground measuring 3 km. Ushitora no Mori, a 1 sq. km. public square for prayers, is positioned within the city, with an axis pointing toward Fukushima to the northeast (denoted ushitora in the ancient system based on the assignment of the twelve zodia animals to the cardinal directions). Every year on March 11, people can gather in this square to remember the victims and offer prayers for their hometowns. Taking note that elementary schools and hospitals made of reinforced concrete remained standing after being hit by the tsunami and were able to act as evacuation shelters, this plan emphasizes public facilities, both for their function and their symbolic significance. On the other hand, learning from the hollowing of city centers, it recognizes a need for a structure that can sustain urban space itself as an autonomous economic bloc. This plan therefore positions public facilities and offices so as to stimulate development of places of consumption, with buildings densely lined up with no gaps to allow for fun-filled walks, a contrast between a busy main street and back streets with experimental shops, and a network of allayways connecting them. This layout is optimal for rebuilding an autonomous economic zone [2].
Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City © Ryuji Fujimura and The Toyo University Ryuji Fujimura Laboratory.
Originally appeared on Genron.

A city for protecting communitiesAs Japan is a disaster-prone country, full evacuation of residents or relocations are often adopted, among myriad alternative responses to a disaster. In recent times, Miyake Village in Tokyo Prefecture (2000) and Koshi Village in Niigata Prefecture (2004) were subjected to a full evacuation and relocation, and past examples include the relocation of a few settlments in Totsukawa Village, Toshino County, Nara Prefecture, that were damaged by flooding, to Hokkaido Prefecture where the Shin (or "new") Totsukawa Village was created [3].
Miyakejima. Originally appeared on Genron.


Besides such relocations, there are around the world many cases of immigrants gathering in one locality to create their own communities, such as Little China, Little Italy, and Little Tokyo in American cities. If radioactive contamination makes it difficult for residents to return to their original homes in the future, the construction of an alternate site for relocating entire communities, a "Little Fukushima," will become a possible option for the reconstruction plan.
Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City Map © Ryuji Fujimura and The Toyo University Ryuji Fujimura Laboratory. Originally appeared on Genron.
Real and virtual
In the case of the full evacuation of Miyake Village, most residents were dispersed around Japan, apart from a few who concentrated in inexpensive suburban areas such as Hachioji. To supplement periodic gatherings, bulletin boards were set up on the Internet, as places for exchanging opinions among these evacuees, functioning as a primitive social networking service [4]. The fact that the residents were able to return to their island in 2005, succeeded in maintaining their community, and were able to recover from the disaster despite a decrease in population and a transition from the real to the virtual and from the virtual back to the real, is a source of hope for the people of Fukushima who were forced to leave their houses.
The Mega Region. Originally appeared on Genron.

Saitama
A large number of residents of Futaba Town in Fukushima Prefecture, which was fully evacuated, have been displaced to Saitama Prefecture. They, along with the administrative functions of the town hall, initially moved to Saitama Super Arena (Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture) and later moved into the former school building of the Saitama Prefectural Kisai High School (Kazo City, Saitama Prefecture), which now provides shelter for almost a thousand people [5]. Saitama does not have a long history; its land was developed in the Edo period with the shifting of the Tone River and the reclamation of a wooded area. This has prompted some to point it out as particularly suitable for town development, because the ties among traditional communities are not as strong as in other prefectures. We can assume that the fact that Saitama accepted communities of Fukushima was not only because of its geographical conditions but also in no small measure because of the characteristic openness of communities in Saitama.
Japanese Megacities. originally appeared on Genron.
In the past, Fukushima was said to have a strong land base, and the small risk related to earthquake was one of the prefecture's selling points when trying to attract industries [6]. Saitama is said to lack character, but the low occurrence of natural disasters is a characteristic that it should be proud of. The fact that there were no deaths in Saitama Prefecture, while neighboring Ibaraki prefecture suffered extensive loss of life, may emerge as important for Saitama's appeal in the future.
Plan for Remodelling the Japanese Archipelago © Ryuji Fujimura and The Toyo University Ryuji Fujimura Laboratory.
Originally appeared on Genron.

Reconstructing cities along the power plants of information
Area around the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Station, including Okuma Town and Futaba Town, were economically supported by the power plant and related electricity infrastructure industries [7]. To stop the reactivation of the nuclear power plant, there needs to be a proposal that not only focuses on a new energy policy but also considers the industrial structure of the surrounding areas.
The Location of Utility Facilities. Originally appeared on Genron.

Comparing the electricity industry of the early twentieth century with the current information industry, Nicholas G. Carr points out that while the completion of enormous power plants and power transmission networks freed factories from the need to have their own electric facilities and allowed for locational freedom, the current creation of enormous data centers and high-volume information-communication networks is making cloud computing possible [8]. Data centers take up a position similar to the power plants within power transmission networks, and are often referred to as "power plants of information," not least for their appearance of enormous windowless warehouses cramed with cooling towers to cool down the servers.
By way of precedent, Google's early data center was built along the Columbia River in Dallas Oregon, which had all the right conditions, including abundant electricity, high communication speed, and easy procurement of cooling water. The safety and the abundant water from the rivers in Saitama provide advantageous locational conditions for such new industries.
Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City © Ryuji Fujimura and The Toyo University Ryuji Fujimura Laboratory.
Originally appeared on Genron.

24-hour city
A major characteristic of data centers is that they continue to function around the clock. One of the possibilities of industrial use that this emails is the co-generation system that compounds the use of energy. For example, if a natural gas fuel cell system is used for running the data centers, the resulting hot water can be used for cooling and heating in the area. By selectively attracting and concentrating in one area those industries that require a stable functioning around the clock, such as hospitals, logistics, food factories, and bathing facilities, new additional values can be generated in terms of advantages related to energy costs and the twenty-four-hour functioning of public services [9].
The World's largest economic zone
As is clear from the fact that food disappeared from convience stores, and rolling blackouts were carried out immediately after the earthquake, cities today are supported by a network of infrastructures, and people live on top of this network. Jane Jacobs once suggested that the basic unit of economy when thinking about the relationship between space and economy is not the nation-state but the city. More recently, Richard Florida pointed out that the new unit of the "mega region" has emerged, where advantages of the concentration of cities have become outstandingly clear in terms of economic effects [10]. According to Florida, there are forty "mega regions" in the world, which account for 66 percent of the entire world's economic activities. He points out that the greater Tokyo area is one of the mega regions of the largest scale, and that it is on its way to forming an unprecedented "super mega region," combining with the Osaka-Nagoya and greater Sapporo areas.
The Cloud Model © Ryuji Fujimura and The Toyo University Ryuji Fujimura Laboratory.
Originally appeared on Genron.


Risk hedging at the national level
As pointed out by Florida, the Japanese economy currently forms one integrated zone. Therefore, Japan is prone to falling into the situation where a local interruption in the logistics network causes stoppages around the country, as the recent disaster revealed. Taking the likely future occurrence of large-scale earthquakes in the Tokai, Tonankai, and Nankai areas into consideration, there is the possibility of the entire country being seriously damaged should the national axis be damaged. There is thus the need to consider risk hedging at the national level…

References
1. According to reports about Fukushima by Mainichi Shimbun and other newspapers on March 19, 2011, not only the three towns of Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka, but also five neighboring towns and village including Hirono, Naraha, Namie, Sendai, and Katsurao have decided either to fully evacuate the towns or to relocate the town hall function to other municipalities, achieving nearly full evacuation.
2. Kosuke Motani of the Development Bank of Japan talks of the importance of shapping areas as places for consumption for provincial towns in the era of deflation.
3. As many as 2,489 people living in 600 households in Totsukawa Village, that suffered damage from a flood, relocated areas along the Toppu River Hokkaido Perfecture.
4. In his research, professor Tsuyoshi Hoshikawa of Otsuma Women's University has presented examples such as the Miyakejima saigai taisaku mailing list [Miyage disaster countermeasures mailing list] set up and run by Usuzan Net since late June 2000, and Tou-kon (in Japanese only), a website run since August 2000.
5. Futaba Town official website (disaster version).
6. Information regarding industrial complexes in Iwaki.
7. Hiroshi Kainuma, 「フクシマ」論原子力ムラはなぜ生まれたのか [On Fukushima: why was the nuclear village born], Seidosha, 2011 (in Japanese, only).
8. Nicholas G. Carr, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, W.W. Norton, 2008.
9. In the United States, there are cases of university libraries being open twenty-four hours.
10. Richard Florida, Who's Your City: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, Basic Books, 2008.

Reconstruction Plan Beta: The Cloud City firstly appeared in After the Disaster, Contectures, December 2011.

Personal notes
* The concept of One Family = One House = One Land which, as mentioned above, dominated the 20th century Japanese model is notorious for having been based on the domination of Housing supply (and land supply) on housing demand. It is obvious that the impact of 3.11 as well as aging society, falling birth rate, economic mutation, and so forth, on housing supply/demand will deeply disrupt this traditional housing market structure of One Family = One House = One Land. This model was embedded in the rapid economic growth that characterised post-Second World War Japan. At the dawn of the 21st century and the rise of shrinking economies, this model is now outdated, a reform, better, new model might redynamize Japan's residential areas. This is at least the ambition of Japanese architects formulated in the book Post 3.11 Architecture and Society Design, edited by Ryuji Fujimura and Atsushi Miura.
** The northeast Japanese Cities is the reflect of the failure of 20th century urban planning. Hence this call for a new vision of urbanism. As the accent has been put on Tokyo, the Tohoku, known as the granary of Japan, has seen its population shrinking with the migration of its young population to the capital. The recent 3.11 highlighted this failure as fatalities were in a large part elderly people. As observers state a redistribution of urban activities and population, accompanied with new measures toward agriculture and fishies, might contribute to the return of young people to the Tohoku, at least a better balance of urban activities within Japan.

More and source: Genron Contectures.

Who's he?
Ryuji Fujimura is born in 1976. He is lecturer at Toyo University. He established his agency Ryuji Fujimura Architects in 2005 and withdrew from the doctoral program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Tokyo Institute of Technology, in 2008 after completing course requirements.

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