new urbanism

Conference paper on Kanda River, biodiversity and new urbanism in Tokyo

This past weekend was the International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress in Suzhou, China. My co-author Matthew Puntigam traveled there with professors and graduate students of the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and he presented our paper co-written with Professor Suzuki Makoto.

The Kanda River connects many residential, commercial, and downtown neighborhoods before emptying into the Sumida River. We looked at the past, present and possible future of what is the longest river that originates within Tokyo. The biodiversity potential is significant: in one small section of Tokyo’s Kanda river, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s 2001 survey documented 260 plant species, 42 riverbed species, 9 types of fish, 291 types of insects, 30 bird species, 2 reptiles species, and 3 mammal species.

You can download a PDF of our paper, Biodiversity and New Urbanism in Tokyo: The Role of the Kanda River (6 MB). Your comments and questions are most welcome.

Urbio 2010 conference in Nagoya

Nagoya will be hosting a conference next May called URBIO 2010, on urban biodiversity and design. The conference precedes October’s 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10) which will also be held in Nagoya.

I am excited about the conference’s focus on urban biodiversity. With the world rapidly becoming urban, and Japan leading the way in rural to city migration, cities are becoming key sites for human life and the promotion of biodiversity.

The deadline for suggesting a presentation is December 31, so please sign up now if you want to attend. My understanding is that all presentations will be accepted as the organizers are trying to create an inclusive experience.

Over the past months I have realized that Nagoya is promoting many new urbanism events, including a recent Creative Design City Nagoya conference, which had a keynote by Professor John Wood of Goldsmiths, University of London.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Last week I gave several talks about Tokyo Green Space, including at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimusho, 外務書). The 1960s modernist building and landscaping impressed me. You can see the bright yellow ginkos in the background and the last fall leaves in the foreground.

My main point to the Ministry was that Japan has not done a good job of explaining its accomplishments in creating livable cities. Both its ordinary gardeners who compensate for a history of poor planning, and its landscape visionaries who are creating new public spaces for people and wildlife are unknown within and outside Japan. Most foreigners are surprised at how human-scaled and enjoyable Tokyo is.

Given climate change and global urbanization, Japan should promote its achievements and expertise in new urbanism, with relevance to developed and emerging cities around the world.

I also gave talks last week at Hitachi Ltd Headquarters to an audience that included Hitachi global business, defense systems, environmental strategy, and research institute leaders, as well as Kajima and ARUP biodiversity specialists, university professors, and Japanese media. Voted the MVP (most voted person), I also gave an impromptu speech, in Japanese, at the wonderful TEDxSeeds conference organized by the extraordinary culture curator Satoh Keiko.