Restructuring Relationships Between Parks and Stations in Tokyo

Most major older cities in the world are served by rail transit and commuter systems. Indeed, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the railroad and especially the station were palpable symbols of modernization, subsequently becoming transformed and acquiring other meanings commensurate with the evolving needs and cultures of the cities in which they were a part. In Tokyo, although the underlying physical structure of much of the city reflects its feudal predecessor – Edo – the process of modernization was strongly influenced by an expanding rail transit system and the location of large stations. In fact, more than in most other places, real estate interests were inextricably bound up with early rail development as a means to an end, rather than the other way around. Moreover, during this process there was an almost inevitable juxtaposition of old and new, as Edo and Tokyo cohered together. One outcome was the close proximity of railroad and transit stations to remnants of aristocratic precincts and estates, now incorporated within Tokyo\’s public open space system. In this regard, Tokyo Station and the Imperial Outer Garden, Ueno Station and Ueno Park, Shinjuku Station and Shinjuku Gyoen and Shibuya Station and Yoyogi Park, immediately come to mind. Furthermore, beyond these juxtapositions, the role of stations and areas immediately around them has changed, often dramatically. They are no longer simply stops on a transit system, if that ever was the case, but have become broader foci for a wide variety of commercial transactions, information interchanges, leisure activities, public displays, chance encounters and cultural reproduction.The aim of the studio will be to imagine, explore and cultivate possible meanings and imports that station core precincts and adjacent public open space might have in twenty-first century Tokyo city life. Three sites have been selected. They are: 1) Shinjuku Station and areas designated for redevelopment to the south in the direction of and including Shinjuku Gyoen, a former Imperial garden; 2) Shibuya Station and its valley and plateau surroundings, including Yoyogi Park, as well as redevelopment of Shibuya River; and 3) Shimokitazawa Station, on the fringes of Tokyo, a relatively new kind of development circumstance, characteristic of expansion across the Yamanote Plain. Work in the studio will be conducted in groups, as well as through individual exercises, and will require input from a variety of disciplinary perspectives with the Design School. The studio is sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Transportation and Environment, the Kajima Foundation and the River Front Center, working in collaboration with Keio University in Tokyo. There will be a field trip during the course of the semester, and the studio will meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm.