I was very flattered that one of Australia’s top geography textbooks, published by Wiley, included my photograph of Ginza Farm in their “Japan and Korea” page. My father in law was confused by the idea of the two countries together. I’d like to think it’s a hopeful gesture. Of course, since it’s an Australian textbook, the atlas is clearly centered on Australia and its immediate neighbors.
東京の路地に小さな庭のスペースを作る方は、一般のルールに従わないところが素敵です。このブログの写真を使って、友達のショウさんがBell Street Filmsと一緒に３０秒のビデオを作ってくれました。去年、ショウさんはベランダの庭にデザイン人類学校と東京グリーンスペースについてビデオを作りました。
This 30 second clip features my photographs of flowerpot gardens and stories about their makers, who explain to me how they break the law in order to create safer streets. Last year, my friend Sho’s Bell Street Films made a short video about Tokyo Green Space and design anthropology, shot mostly in my balcony garden.
My tiny point and shoot Canon S90 has provided almost all the photos on Tokyo Green Space. Inspired by seeing the revival of film cameras, and assisted by B/B who gave me advice and a tour of Nakano’s famous Fujiya used camera shop, I’ve just started taking film photographs with a super cheap Canon EOS Kiss 5 camera body and a good 50 mm lens.
I’m excited about improving my photography skills, and seeing what film can do. It’s also fun to go to film labs. I took my first roll to Horiuchi’s main office in nearby Wada. The last time I used a professional lab I was a graduate student in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the 1990s. What I like about the Wada location is that, although very close to where I live, I always get lost going there by bike.
With Chris’ help, I posted a photo essay about photos and buildings on Tokyo-DIY-gardening. It’s easy to imagine how plants can soften the built environment. Looking at plants in the city I am also struck by how buildings make plants even more beautiful. The essay asks more questions than it answers. Looking at everyday Tokyo streets and non-landmark places provides a starting place to consider environmental aesthetics.
When I walk through Tokyo, I realize that the beauty of spring flowers, and plants in general, are increased by their juxtaposition with the built environment. There’s something about the context that makes urban nature more beautiful and more captivating.
Above are lilacs blooming on May 1 in Tokyo on Yasukuni Dori in Shinjuku, across the street from Isetan’s rainbow circular parking lot. Below are dogwood in full bloom in Higashi Koenji, with a 15 story apartment building behind the tree.
And at a different scale, there is the constant contrast between my potted balcony plants and the city that extends in every direction for as far as the eye can see.
An amazing photo of plants for sale in Japan in 1886, taken by Adolfo Farsari. From Flickr’s steyb, via Twitter’s @tzuchiya.
Amazing animations showing how smart growth can improve streetscapes across America by adding greenery, slowing auto traffic, and applying smart growth principles of walkable streets, in-fill, mixed use, public plazas, and adaptive resuse.
You can search dozens of cases by map, by community type (urban, suburban, exurban, rural), by site type (avenue, highway, greyfield, etc), and by the type of improvement. The site is from the National Resource Defense Council.
The extremely visual nature of this site shows the steps that can transform common streets into extraordinary new places.
Picturing smart growth, from NRDC
A-small-lab, Chris Berthelsen’s creativity research and practice studio, has just launched an amazing blog called Fixes. Fixes investigates and documents “alterations of space/objects at the public/private boundary in suburban Tokyo.”
There are many creative examples of people using simple and recycled materials to improve spaces outside homes and shops in a residential area. A wire coat hanger stores outdoor sandals on a beam, someone creates a wood stand for plants and bbq seating on top of a driveway boundary, a gardener recycles plastic storage containers for garden edging, and, above, someone uses a cinder block to even out the entry stairs to a residence.
Chris has an amazing eye for the creativity of Japanese people making small changes to their environment and blurring the boundary of private and public space. This blog project is simply genius.
The chart above (click for larger size) is a first effort to analyze three types of vertical urban gardens: small business, corporate and residential. I am interested in plant selection, public access, design and construction, maintenance, temporal dimension, and green space benefits.
As I collect more images and thoughts about green urban space, I will post more of these photo analyses. Please let me know what you think.