Living in Tokyo you become used to the continual process of demolition and new construction. Not the ten or twenty year boom and bust cycles I’ve seen in San Francisco and New York City. Even in the perpetually shrinking Japanese economy, Tokyo continues to morph and grow. The photo is from the demolition of a post-war Showa house in Nakano, a residential neighborhood. It will undoubtedly be replaced with a multi-unit structure made of pre-fab materials and slightly customized, standard layouts.
Closer to my house, I’ve seen the local liquor seller vacate his main storefront, which was replaced by a brand new 7-Eleven in less than four weeks. I watched the incredibly fast work to the interior, modernizing a 1970s storefront into the faceless, placeless space of a convenience store. They also installed enormous heating and cooling structures on the roof. I was glad to see that the liquor store owner has retained an adjacent, closet-sized space for his liquor sales. He seems to enjoy interacting with the neighbors.
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.