designers

School kids in a gaming trance on a station platform. Is this a “still city”?

schoolkids_portable_gaming_nakano_station_platform

昨年末から、オランダの「Still City」という東京についての研究とアートのプロジェクトに参加しています。「Still City」の主題は成長後の都市です。中学生たちが電車のホームでDSで遊んでいる写真は、静かな都市のイメージの一つだと思います。東京は巨大なのに、公共の場所は平穏です。安全なので、包括的です。

Since late last year, I’ve been involved with a research and art project called Still City, based in Amsterdam. Over 25 Dutch urbanists, designers, and artists came to Tokyo to create a guide book exploring the idea of Tokyo as a Still City. The main meaning of “still city” is post-growth.

This image of two school kids lost in a daze of handheld gaming on a train station platform also make me think of a still city. Tokyo is a “still” mega-city that is remarkably quiet despite the crowds of people, and with few exceptions, disarmingly safe. Tokyo is also a place where public functions, from transit and streets to bathing and swimming, are clean, efficient, and open to everyone.

Gorgeous fall day at University of Tokyo campus

I attended a morning lecture at the University of Tokyo about landscape planning by Harvard Graduate School of Design professor emeritus Carl Steinitz. Many wonderful examples of Chinese, European and American large-scale landscapes, and a sense of continuity with Professor Steinitz’s professor and mentor, the illustrious urban planner Kevin Lynch.

My perspective on urban planning is far removed from lofty discussions of master plans. In my mind, Tokyo is a living city despite poor planning and governance. Those who believe in planning from above have difficulty in conceptualizing or benefiting from the enormous energy and capability of ordinary residents.

Leaving the lecture and on my way to a student cafeteria curry lunch, I was thinking these thoughts when I was struck by the autumn light against the mature trees and the shadows against the early 20th century brick buildings. There was a slight stench of ginko fruit. What a prefect visual and olfactory moment.

This week I have been very fortunate to hear several lectures by architects, urban critics, and landscape designers, including events at the Norwegian Embassy and Mori Building. It’s great to recognize so many talented people focused on urban environments and living with nature. I was also fortunate to share lunch with a Hitachi executive working on Smart City Business Management, a new division involved in global city projects. It was not surprising that he is a University of Tokyo alumnus.