人間

A woman walks her pet turtle in the rain, at a Koenji shopping street

Turtle_Look_Shoutengai_Koenji

長いあいだ、東京に住んでいるので、もうおどろくことはないと思いました。けれども、高円寺のルックという商店街で雨の日に、亀と一緒に散歩している人に会いました。亀は足を前方と後ろに動かして、頭は見回しています。

亀は濡れているのがきらいだと言いました。だから、オーナーはタオルで亀をふいてあげます。こんな都市の動物と人間の友情はすばらしいと思います。

Sometimes, I think nothing surprises me any more in Tokyo. And then I see this lovely woman walking down Koenji’s Look shopping street with her pet turtle. The turtle looks like he is swimming in air, legs reaching forward and back and eyes taking in the surroundings.

The human guardian explains that she is carrying this towel under her umbrella to wipe off the turtle. Apparently, her turtle does not like to get wet! Thanks to both of them for adding some cheer to a rainy day.

Tokyo metabolizing creates vision for Tokyo as new urban form

「東京は人間のための都市(まち)に向けて変容していけるのでしょうか。」週末に、『家の外の都市の中の家』という展示会を見ました。新しい社会条件に、東京の建築家が創造的なアプローチをします。人間が都市で一番な要素であれば、その都市はどんな風に見えるでしょうか。他人を認識することが良いことならば、住宅はどのように変わるでしょうか。建物と建物の隙間が、建築物と同じくらい大事ならば、都市生活はどう感じるだろうか。時間があれば、10月2日まで展示会をご覧ください。

“Tokyo seems to be changing into a city that is meant for people,” concludes the introduction to the Tokyo Metabolizing exhibit at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. The exhibit combines models and ideas from three architecture firms, Atelier Bow-Wow, Nishizawa Ryue, and Kitayama Koh, and formed part of the 2010 Venice Biennale.

Tokyo Metabolizing provides context for the rapid development of the world’s largest mega-city, and suggests new ways of living well in the city. I like how the architects respond with new dwelling types, including a blending of home and office, residences that share common spaces, and apartments where connectedness with others is valued more than privacy.

The architects are responding to new  realities of who we live with and how we want to live. In Tokyo the average household is less than 2 people, and these smaller households seek new connections with neighbors, colleagues, and friends. I think the most radical suggestion is that an awareness of other people living around you might be considered a positive feature rather than something to be concealed or suppressed.

The metabolizing title harks back to a radical modernism from 1960s Tokyo, and foregrounds the city as a living organism: with a life, history, and progression. Carolyn Steel, in her book Hungry City, uses the concept of the city as an organism  to focus attention on urban food delivery, prep and consumption. The urban built environment is also reflection of social life– from tax policy to demographics– and human aspirations.

I liked that Atelier Bow-Wow focuses on the untapped value of Tokyo’s void spaces: in-between, often wasted space between structures, which have potential for re-use and for gardens, community, and nature in the city.

The exhibit has great scale models, and is at Opera City until October 2. Also worth seeing is a special exhibit of recent works by young artist Ishii Toru (石井). Ishii creates psychedelic contemporary fantasies– full of convenience stores and fast food logos– using a traditional yuzen method of dyeing fabric.

Grass going to seed on a Shinjuku sidewalk

歩道のねこじゃらしから種ができています。このねこじゃらしは人間の助けなしでも、東京の真ん中で元気そうです。新宿のネオンがこの自然を超自然的に見せています。ここでは、自然と都市が調和して見えます。

Tokyo summer has been incredibly hot, humid, and wet. I love seeing this grass growing on a sidewalk a few steps from Shinjuku station. The bright neon makes the grass glow in a hyper-reality. This perfect complement to its surroundings appears with no human planning. Looking at it going to seed I am sure it will multiply.