parks

The end of the walkway is approaching

友だちに会うために、最近に辰巳に行きました。運河がきれいで、新しいマンションが建設されています。しかし、公共のインフラは不全なままです。改良して、水辺に近づけるほうがいいと思います。東京湾をもっと感じたいです。

I recently visited Tatsumi, a landfill island near Yumenoshima in in Koto-ku for a house party. There are lot of new housing developments alongside the canals and neighboring old housing complexes. It’s sad that the public infrastructure is so incomplete. This neighborhood would be much more appealing if the canal-side sidewalks and parks were continuous. This lack of access to the Bay makes me often forget that there is a Tokyo waterfront.

Sakura Beauty: from nature to craft

Sakura season is perhaps my favorite time in Tokyo. After a long cold winter, the beauty of cherry blossoms is stunning. I have been out and about this past week, enjoying hanami, or cherry blossom viewings with friends. In addition to socializing in parks, cherry blossoms also brighten every corner of the city: from the entrances of school yards to a single tree in an otherwise unattractive neighborhood. Going about by foot or by train, it is impossible not to catch a glimpse of mature trees bursting with pink petals.

The sakura theme gets carried over into food items, from Kit Kats to Starbuck drinks. And as if nature is not enough, it is also brought indoors with real branches and even paper crafts, as in this JR station near our apartment.

I’ll be adding many more posts about this season in the next days. . .

Mori Building plans ecological zones in Tokyo

Nikkei article about Mori Building’s plan for central Tokyo ecological zones. The idea is that wildlife can spread out from interconnected large green spaces, including existing parks and large-scale developments owned by Mori Building.

The article is in Japanese, and came to my attention because of Twitter’s Tzuchiya, who regularly posts excellent links on urban ecology topics in English and Japanese.

Although less interesting to Mori Building, I am also curious about the role of micro-gardens in habitat creation.

高層ビルの谷間にあるサントリーホールの屋上庭園 | Nikkei

Riverbank community garden in Tsukishima

Riverbank community garden in Tsukijishima

An architect friend tipped me off to a community garden on a riverbank  in Tsukishima. The local government has organized each small section of the concrete retaining wall into individual plots where residents are tending their gardens. It is a great use of dead space, and allows people in a crowded neighborhood to have outdoor plants.

Most of the plots have a simple, double bench structure to hold potted plants. A few have removed the benches and filled the plot with soil. Most are growing flowers, one is dedicated entirely to bonzai.

Riverbank community garden in Tsukijishima

I wonder if more small parks and un-used spaces can be turned into community gardens. The overall effect displays both individuality and community.

More photos after the jump.

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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

Tokyobessesion: drawings by Pierre Alex

Tokyobessesion: drawings by Pierre Alex

On Monday I visited my new friend Pierre Alex’s “tokyobsession” art opening of drawings, whose subject is Tokyoites. A French product designer, Pierre is a talented illustrator, and this collection of drawings captures many of the themes that animate Tokyo Green Space and my fascination for this city.

Tokyobsession turned out to be over 50 line drawings on photograph paper, each folded in half. In form, they correspond to the sketch books he uses to capture scenes of Tokyo: parks, freeways, alleys, sidewalks, commercial areas, cafes, and the people who animate the city. Using photo paper highlights the quick and “snapshot” quality of his talented drawings, and suggest the perspective of an outsider looking in.

Pierre told me that he enjoys how Tokyo is the “anti-Haussmann” city: unplanned, chaotic, grassroots rather than top-down, improvisational, and anarchistic. The city’s built environment, including buildings and parks, is in many ways not beautiful, but it is how people create urban spaces and live their lives in a blurring of public and private spaces that make the city so charming, captivating, and livable.

Pierre’s view of Tokyo, in words and even more so in drawings, also echo a recent blog commenter’s email to me. This writer told me about her appreciation of the unusual resident-authority relation in Japanese cities that spurs ordinary urban residents to create greenery and community in even the most unlikely places.

I marveled at Pierre’s talent for not just seeing the city but for capturing it in drawings that reveal everyday scenes and the city’s spirit.

Update: After this post, I realized two things. The images at the cafe spelled out the show’s title (see photo below). And many of the images are in Pierre’s blog called “tokyobsession” (in French and illustrated).

Pierre Alex's "tokyobsession" show at dish organic cafe

Mori Building’s Vertical Garden City

Mori Building's Vertical Garden City

Mori Minoru’s Mori Building is Tokyo’s largest urban real estate developer. His Vertical Garden City idea and Urban New Deal Policy are private enterprise visions for a re-made city that is at once more densely populated, more environmental and green, and more profitable for the largest developers. 

I had the intriguing experience of being invited to witness a presentation by Mori Building company for a US journalist. Asked to remain silent so as not to detract from the journalist’s work, I witness one foreign journalist, a simultaneous translator, a guide from the Tokyo Foreign Correspondent’s Club, two Mori Building Public Relations officer and one urban planner. This is clearly a business where image is created through tremendous resources.

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