Sea Forest

Planting trees at Umi no Mori

先月友だちと海の森でボランティア植林に参加しました。二時間以内で、二十人が五百の木を植えました。この新しい都市の森はすばらしいと思います。五十万木はごみの上で育ちます。たくさんの都民はこの大掛かりなプロジェクトをまだ知りませんでした。

Last month some friends and I participated in a volunteer tree-planting at Umi no Mori, a forest being created on a landfill island on the bay. I’ve written before how few Tokyo residents know about this ambitious project promoted during Tokyo’s failed second Olympic bid in 2007. Umi no Mori is meant to carry cool ocean breezes into Tokyo’s crowded urban core.

The tree planting was fun. We were in a group of twenty or so volunteers planting 500 trees in a 25 square meter section. There were about 25 varieties of trees, and we planted them very close together. I learned from one of the volunteer leaders that this dense planting encourages the trees to compete and grow faster than normal. One of the volunteers explained to me that this is part of Miyawaki Akira’s method for restoring forests on post-industrial greenfields.

Creating new waterfront parks and planting 500,000 trees is certainly a great thing for Tokyo. Still, I wonder if this project were less top-down and more open to the citizens what greater impacts this project could have:

1. By encouraging more people to participate in the creation of the park, it would be a great chance to explain to Tokyo citizens about native trees and habitats. It would be awesome to link planting new trees in the Tokyo Bay with also adding greenery in every Tokyo neighborhood, with active participation by city residents.

2. By opening even a small section now, more people can begin to experience the park and perhaps learn more about urban garbage. What precisely is being put into this landfill? How do the layers of garbage reflect our contemporary lifestyles? What can be done to reduce the amount of garbage that must be buried?

I think this park will eventually be fantastic. However, it’s a missed opportunity not to make its creation more participatory, more transparent, more public, more connected to the rest of the city, more educational, and a catalyst for public and collective rethinking of the urban environment and waste production.

Ambassador Cedeno of Costa Rica and his wife Tauli, and Edoble’s Jess Mantell and her friend Miho participated with me.

Dystopian vision of Pacific Ocean in-fill

Seiwoo's Dystopian vision of Pacific Ocean in-fill

Seiwoooo’s Alban Mannisi, a landscape architect based in Tokyo, has created a future scenario dystopia in collage and narrative about the future of Saipan and the Pacific Ocean in 2048.

Mannisiimagines a world in which sustainability and massive waste create so much new reclaimed ocean land that Saipan becomes a hub of land traffic between Beijing, Tokyo and Osaka on one side, and Honolulu, Los Angeles and New York on the other.

The project’s aim is “to develop some critical views on the new trend of sustainability in urban planning and to stimulate the people involved to be more conscious of the possible outcomes that can be disastrous.”

Is this an antidote to the positive message of Tokyo’s Umi no Mori (or Sea Forest), or a worst-case dystopia?

I had the pleasure of meeting Mansini recently, and he shared these Tokyo and global urban architecture links with me:

-Funny weird Japanese architecture : Atelier bow Wow : Made in Tokyo
-Japanese landscape architecture company : Studio onsite
-An architect-Urban planner-Thinker and teacher at Waseda University  SOUHEI IMAMURA/atelier imamu
-The best Landscape Arch mind: James Corner
-Netherlands Urbanism Review : MONU

More about Mannisi and Seiwoooo here.

Umi no mori: What if a forest is created and no one knows?

Umi no mori, Sea Forest, wind passage, Tokyo

What if an urban forest is being built in Tokyo and no one knows?

In the past weeks, I have met with a Tokyo Metropolitan planner, the Mori Building press department, a foreign real estate developer, a University of Tokyo environmental scientist, a clean energy entrepreneur, and a visiting artist-in-residence working on urban farming. In the next days, I’ll also be meeting with a Tokyo architect and a senior Hitachi representative.

At this early stage in my project, one thing that has become clear is how little known some of Tokyo’s most innovative projects are among real estate professionals, cultural leaders and ordinary citizens. I have been surprised how few people in Tokyo know about Ando Tadao’s plan to create a forest in the sea, called Umi no mori, with half a million trees built over 88 hectares of landfill in the Tokyo bay.

Initiated in 2007 as part of the ten year plan to re-make the city in part to compete for the 2016 Olympics, this Sea Forest project aims to clean the city’s air, reduce the heat island effect, involve elementary school children, and provide cool breezes throughout the city in summer.

The land is built on top of 12.3 million tons of municipal waste buried from 1973 to 1987, topped with alternating layers of refuse and cover soil, originating at no cost from water purification plants, sewage sludge, city park and street tree compost.

Resoil for Umi no Mori, Sea Forest

There are also ambitious plans to involve elementary school children with growing seedlings and planting them in the new forest.

Umi no mori, Sea Forest, kids planting and growing seedlings

And here’s Tado Ando’s inspiring message about this project’s importance for Tokyo and the world’s connection with the environment:

Umi-no-Mori ( Sea Forest) will become a symbol of our recycling-oriented society through which Japan, a country that has a tradition of living hand-in-hand with nature, can make an appeal to the world about the importance of living in harmony with the environment. In view of the fact that landfills exist in all corners of the world, I perceive this island as a forest that belongs not just to Tokyo, but to the world, and through this project, wish to communicate the message of “living in harmony with nature.”

「海の森」は東京の森ではなく地球の森として、世界へ向けて、「自然とともに生きる」というメッセージを届けることができると考えています。かつて焼け野原になった街・東京は、先人たちの努力によって復興されました。今度は私たちの手で緑豊かな森をつくり、次世代の子供たちに美しい自然を愛でる心を伝えたいと考えています。未来の東京、日本そして地球のために、皆さん一人一人の「志」をどうか募金に託してください。

Perhaps the Tokyo government does not want to spend too much money on publicizing their activities, with the idea that it’s better to act than talk. However, this enormous public work project seems like a great opportunity to educate Tokyo residents and the world about the positive activities city governments are taking on behalf of people and the environment.

To read more about Umi no Mori:
http://www.uminomori.metro.tokyo.jp/index_e.html (English)
http://www.uminomori.metro.tokyo.jp/index.html (日本語)