Japan Urban Planning

The history of modern Japan is closely connected with a process of strong and accelerated urbanization and industrialization that favors the Pacific Coast strip. The movement of the capital, operated by the Meiji government, is the sign of this planning will and initiates a historical phase of direct involvement of Japan in the interests, tensions and conflicts of the industrial capitalist area.

According to plus-size-tips, the set of cities that had established themselves, in the historical course, between the lowland areas and the coastal strip, are subject, from 1868 onwards, and with dizzying acceleration from 1951 to today, to a growth phenomenon whose current result it is the formation of numerous conurbation bands especially along the coastal and port area. The administrative division into 47 prefectures (34 in the island of Honshu, 4 in that of Shikoku, 7 in Kiushu, as well as the two prefectures of Okinawa and Hokkaido) is thus overcome by a socio-economic reality that requires forms of larger scale programming. This phenomenon of urban concentration is the result of an industrialization model that has its premises in the 1950 plan, the take-off point towards the so-called economic miracle,

Thus, the model of economic development based on industries for long-term consumer means corresponds to a model of urban development which tends to find a point of contact between territorial planning and architectural design through the assumption of the urban building parameter a precise intervention tool. As a result of this process, the entire Japanese territory has undergone profound transformations. At the heart of this process are the strengthening of the railway and road network with very advanced systems and techniques that allow a rapid connection, even submarine (Honshu-Kiushu) and, at the same time, the tendency to overlap (once again with the town – design ; on the negative side, in addition to the obvious consideration of the reconfirmation of the line taken already at the Meiji era, the paroxysmal accentuation of defects such as the strong imbalance in the distribution of the population, the loss of a large part of the wooded heritage, the decrease in water reserves, high costs of building areas, lack of housing in areas with a strong residential concentration. For example, the Japan Economic Yearbook of 1974 publishes the data of an official census which shows that over 400,000 ha in recent years. of agricultural land were purchased by non-agricultural capital and some 200,000 of these hectares were previously covered with forest. Another data is that according to which the Tokyo-Yokohama conurbations alone accommodate about a tenth of the entire national population.

Following this situation, the macroscopic damage of which has worried wide layers of opinion to the point of becoming the object of attacks in the political sphere, the Japanese government was forced in 1973 to present a new general development plan to modify the previous one and, immediately later, to also replace the latter with a 1974 law for planning the use of the national territory. This is an important innovation not only on the formal level, but above all under the theoretical aspect: the now outdated ideology of development is now replaced by the important concept of land use. It goes without saying that this planned use tends to determine an articulated balance of the specific modes of

It is not possible to understand, for the moment, in which direction the architectural debate that will follow these new programmatic lines will move. In fact, the previous phase, the one that the new plan tends to overcome, was characterized by a close interdependence between methodologies and scale and typology of interventions on the one hand, and ideological interest in the “shape” of the city on the other. Without going into detail on K. Tange’s Tokyo plan, which undoubtedly remains one of the most important urban planning products of recent years, it is worth underlining how much the architect himself contributed to the design of urban plans for cities in countries other than Japan. On the level of elaboration of theoretical models the major contribution remains the project for the Boston bay drawn up in 1959 with the students of MIT. It is the study for a city of 25,000 residents to be built on the sea. In it, for the first time, the program of construction of elements of macrostructures that mediate the relationship between urban-territorial scale and architectural-object scale appears formulated in a precise manner. This is the central theme on which the more complete plan for Tokyo will be set the following year.

This scheme also appears today as an important alternative to the English proposals for the new cities of Cumbernauld and Hook, to the Dutch studies by JB Bakema for Amsterdam or to the Italian urban planning proposals referable to L. Quaroni’s project for the San Giuliano district in Mestre. In fact, the scheme that appears in the plans for the Boston and Tokyo Bay derives on the one hand from a clear characterization and identification of the elements intended for the creation of the service infrastructural network (roads, canalizations, etc.) which are dimensioned, even figuratively, on the scale of an intervention capable of overcoming the physical and logical dimension of the city; and, on the other, by the set of building elements, for various functional purposes; which remain on the scale of individual architectural “objects”.

In this sense, the plan allows its execution by parts which may correspond to reliable economic planning phases to specialized sectors of local administrations. From another critical point of view, however, the risk of an ambiguity in the role of the architect reappears here. With this proposal, he is also available to forms of urban planning typical of a speculative management of the territory.

The borderline between programmatic reality and formalistic utopia that K. Tange has thus consciously touched has been deliberately overcome in a polemical key by the Metabolism and Neo Mastaba groups (see above) but, in the current state of experience, the realizations in that direction do not they were able to overcome the dimension of interventions located in some parts of Japanese urban centers or of demonstrative experiences such as in some pavilions of the Osaka Exposition (1970).

Another example of urban planning is the renovation project of the center of Shizuoka by architects Takayama and Tange. On the other hand, the activity of the Japan Public Housing Corporation founded by the government in 1955, of which the residential district of Kori (Osaka) is a good example, is more in line with the experiences of international urban planning connected with the concepts of CIAM. Other interesting examples are those that refer to the Oita Tsurusaki conurbation of Takayama and to the organization project of the new city of Mizushima, one of the new artificial ports with a specialization in steel.

In consideration of the contemporary presence, in Japanese urban planning, both of experiences that point to the identification of a meaningful, summary and emblematic form of the intervention, as a result also of a technological balance of the urban planning weights introduced (also with respect to the image that arises from this type of town – design with respect to the other described above which finds a singular confirmation in the character of industrial design Japanese of the same period), it is to be assumed that Japanese urban planning will soon be able to overcome the identity crisis by which it now seems to be struck and whose reflections are visible in the loss of tension of the architecture already mentioned above.

Japan Urban Planning