aging

Black Marilyn Monroe featured in aging commercial corridor

black_marilyn_nakano_storefront_decrepit
中野駅の近くにある、黒色のマリリン・モンローが飾ってある店は廃墟化しています。

This small commercial strip, near the center of Nakano, seems semi-abandoned.

Gorgeous balcony garden on top of decrepit building

東京では古い建物に面白い庭がよくあります。高層ビルにもあります。

Another garden I saw from my bike in central Tokyo is this huge balcony garden on top of what looks like a semi-abandonded ten story building. The windows below the garden are either covered up, dirty, or reveal stacks of boxes. I wonder if the building is mixed use, and how such a large and well established garden ended up there. The Jingumae neighborhood is one of central Tokyo’s most expensive areas.

I often notice that the most intriguing and wild green spaces grow next to older buildings. It’s interesting to see the same phenomenon on an aging high-rise.

Squeezing mini-creek into San Francisco sidewalk

I am amazed by this illustration of how to squeeze a mini-creek into a San Francisco sidewalk (from the wonderful Streetsblog). Faced with an aging sewage infrastructure at risk of failure, San Francisco’s water utility is experimenting with bold, low-impact designs, including green roofs, daylighted creeks, rain barrels, and permeable pavement.

The obstacles to this change are enormous. For decades, urban water management has meant removing green space and channeling water into treatment plants. But if successful, mini-creeks and urban watersheds can significantly reduce sewage discharge to the city’s bay and rivers, with estimates ranging from 28% reduction to 91% reduction in water pollution.

In addition to the functional benefits of reduced pollution, mini-creeks will add beauty to what are now life-less streets, and attract wildlife and nature. Restoring creeks will provide a greater connection to the natural environment and urban history.

Fiber City: Tokyo 2050

Green Fingers Fiber City: Tokyo 2050

Fiber City: Tokyo 2050 is a vision of the future of Tokyo with a radically new balance between natural and built environment, conceived by Professor Ohno Hidetoshi of Tokyo University. I am fascinated by how this future vision responds to four urban challenges that involve shrinking: decreasing population, aging society, environmental crisis, and earthquake potential.

The overall vision is that a shrinking economy makes many facilities and houses surplus, freeing up land for a green city. While unprecedented population declines have been predicted for Japan due to falling birthrate and continued resistance to immigration,  I wonder if the metropolis will shrink as much as the countryside. Nonetheless, Fiber City provides new models for urban living in greater harmony with nature, with better access to mass transit, and improved livability with reclamation of historic features like Edo canals and bridges that have been covered by elevated expressways.

The four strategies include Green Fingers (image above), Green Web, Green Partition, and Uban Wrinkle. Taken together, they allow for greater green space, more mobility, reclamation of history, re-use of elevated freeways, emergency access for disasters, and restoration of historic urban features. As a visionary view of Tokyo, from macro to micro, Fiber City provides a model for global cities retrofitting for enviornmental and human benefits.

Green Web Fiber City: Tokyo 2050 Green Partition Fiber City: Tokyo 2050 Urban Wrinkle Fiber City: Tokyo 2050

Corporate ecology

Pasona o2, LED lights

In Japan, all corporations have “Corporate Social Responsibility” groups, and most of them focus on the environment. Some corporations have grant-making foundations (such as Coca Cola Japan), and others have green businesses (Japan’s largest car company Toyota and largest beverage company Suntory both have green roof subsidiaries).

Starting on April 1, 2008, nineteen large companies formed the Japan Business Initiative for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity (JBIB). Members include major electronics, construction, housing, insurance, food and telecommunication companies. I am hoping to learn more about this group, and its efforts to become corporate leaders in advocating for biodiversity.

Shortly before it closed for renovations, I visited an unusual basement farm set up by one of Japan’s largest staffing agency Pasona. Named Pasona o2 (a summary in English here), this underground farm aims to raise popular awareness of agriculture, provide relaxation for nearby office workers, and attract media attention:
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