Tokyo: Artifice and the Social World

The architectural and urban projects of this studio are focused on the potentials of the declining, yet evocative area of Tokyo known as Bakuroch? Yokoyamach?. This shrinking neighborhood is made up of a diverse range of business. Historically, the neighborhood has been known as the blue collar garment district of the city. Yet the character of the neighborhood is changing. Recently, the area has become the subject of increasing interest by a younger generation of people who are seeking new ways to live and work there, a prospect welcomed by the older generation of residents.

Unlike the zoning regulations of many western cities, Tokyo’s policies are more open to the mixing and adjacency of functions. This situation creates many exciting opportunities for architecture and design. These include the use of both infill and open sites, interiors, modification of the existing building stock, roofscapes, gardens and landscapes.

Polemically, the work of the studio is situated between the prevalent large-scale projects of major developers and the very small-scale interventions of traditional neighborhoods. How can architecture, urban design, and landscape play a significant role in the transformation of the district without resorting to the hegemony of a mega-project? Can we construct a coherent and systematic urban design strategy for the district, based on the proximity of multi-scalar design proposals?

Each member of the studio, either individually or with another student, will be asked to develop a unique programmatic set of themes of their choice. These programs can be linked to a diversity of project types and precedents, each with its own distinct site/s. From workshops to a kindergarten, from residential projects to a small garment museum and garden, from a vertical/sectional public building to a transportation hub and community rooms, the intention is for the combination of individual projects (artifacts) from the studio to form the basis for the physical and social revitalization of this part of Tokyo.

The outcome of the studio will be presented in the form of detailed designs with drawings at different scales, models, and renderings. The student projects will be included on the Japan Story website and in a planned publication.

Travel is planned to New York City’s garment district and to Miami to study parallel developments and neighborhoods- including new projects. All course travel is subject to change or cancellation. All travelers must follow University and local travel guidance pertaining to COVID-19, and should read through the GSD Travel and Safety Guidelines webpage prior to enrolling in a course with a travel component.

Some students may also be able to travel to Japan for further research of their project, perhaps as part of an independent study during the summer of 2022.

We will meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and also be joined by a number of advisors/consultants, from Japan as well as the United States.