Kanchogai Street

The schedule for this course is variable. Please select this studio carefully.Kancyogai Street, Towada-shi, AomoriThemeThe studio will focus on a town in the south east of Aomori, the northern most prefecture on Honshu, Japan\’s largest island. This area is known in Japan for its agriculture and food production, mostly rice, vegetables, and cattle farming. About 3 hours north of Tokyo station by shinkansen, the area suffers from an increasing tension on its existing social structures, as a result of depopulation, the aging of society and globalization. This condition requires new models to create a (self) sustainable community. The assignment will be two-part. First the students will be asked to come up with programs / ideas that could be implemented to strengthen the sense of community on a spatial, economical or psychological level, second will be to design a arts and community center for the city of Towada.The Japanese population will decline dramatically in the next 50 years. Currently at about 127 million, some estimates predict the number in 2050 to be 80 million. This is a direct result of low birthrates and, deliberately, hardly any immigration. As a consequence, the average age of the population will go up rapidly, requiring communities of elderly to find models to generate the economic means to survive. The working part of the population can\’t keep up paying for pensions and taking care of this ever increasing group of elderly. As a result of globalization and smaller families, there is a continuous remigration back into the city, and areas at the fringes are being left abandoned. New towns built in the 70\’s and 80\’s are systematically losing their population, which leads to curious conditions in \”idyllic\” Tokyo suburbia. Where the city center in Tokyo is increasingly densified with luxury high-rises with amenities catering to the elderly, the traditional rural and suburban sleeper towns are turning into ghost towns. This phenomenon has lead to a wave in municipal mergers in the last 5 years. Intended to streamline public governance, it has also lead to the deterioration of local identities and a loss of sense of community.Can this new situation be seen as an opportunity to device new, more sustainable and possible autarkic models? Certain communities affected by these forces have taken the future in their own hands. In the town of Kamikatsu the elderly population has organized themselves in cooperation that produces decorative leaves and flowers. With the youngest member being 64 and the oldest 94 this town has found a model in which they are independent on what happens on a macro level. Other, similar endeavors are being initiated around the country.Can the Japanese countryside be reprogrammed and/or re-branded in order to attract a different demographic? The countryside in Japan has always fulfilled more of a symbolic role. Popularity of domestic tourism to rural areas comes from a nostalgic search of reunion with the Japanese identity. Extensive home village imagery in travel advertising and in movies tries to appeal to a contemporary feeling of homelessness among many urban Japanese. As for productivity; in a global market, Japanese farmers have only been able to survive the competition of their Asian counterparts with the help of import quota and trade tariffs, such as a 771 per cent tariff on imported rice. Is there a different way to program this land at the outskirts of the city?The conditions as described above provide the context for the main assignment in this studio, which is to design an arts and community center for the city of Towada.Since 2000, the Japanese government has pushed integration of self-governing bodies (municipalities), in order to stimulate decentralization and create financial independence from the country. By doing this it hopes to reduce the annual expenditure of the country as a whole. This has