In The Rush To Spiff Up For The Olympics, What Is Tokyo Losing?

This article showed up on my facebook feed the other day.

The problem with those big developments is that they don’t seem to have much character.  There’s something about the rows of closed doors in hallways that discourages intercommunication and neighborliness.  Yes the big buildings  have great views and are efficient but there’s not much character there.  Walking in some of those Tokyo neighborhoods and they just ooze the kind  character that gives life to a big city.  Quite frankly, if you are hoping to encourage travelers to come, character and atmosphere are exactly what you want.

Here’s some big developments in Shinagawa:



On the Shimada River:


And one of the most infamous buildings in Tokyo, the Asahi beer building:

One thing those massive developments never seem to develop is true character.


They never seem to have life in the streets like this.


Or these.





And these.



There’s something to be said about the places just hanging on, but providing a living for people.


A great city needs to remember where it came from and remember, no matter how great the developers claims that their plans don’t always work out. I’ve seen far too many cases where those big buildings just seem to be out of scale and out of touch with the communities that they are dropped into.


Context is important in development.  And a city needs diversity. Anyway here’s an album of Tokyo neighborhoods with all sorts of buildings, large and small.


  1. MadRocketSci · November 15, 2015

    Perhaps only a small part of this, but it has been something more and more on my mind as I live in a modern mega-city:

    The trendy mega-edifices that are built in place of these once thriving areas that are actually lived in tend to have a certain characteristic to them: There are no niches, no easily contained spaces, no natural microcosms within them where people can actually set something up.

    One thing about all the trendiest buildings on campus that I find absolutely maddening is that there is nowhere you can go to get privacy, or to get away from other people. It is all, 100%, 270 degree public space (and overcrowded on top of that). Set up a booth or a display? Forget about it. All you can do is pass through at high speed and try not to let it wear on you. Find a corner (as I used to be able to do in my undergrad university) in the periodical stack to set up and study all night? There’s nowhere like that here.

    It almost seems of a piece with all the mega-trendy “open-plan office” designs. (I have an open desk in an open office that I never spend any time at, because I can’t *think* in that setting. (Nevermind the noise – I have no control over my space.) Better the corner of a cluttered bench in a lab, where my back is to a wall.

    In Calhoun’s rat overcrowding experiments, the rats that stayed sane the longest were the ones that took over and controlled the niches. The ones that had space that was *theirs*. The others had to scramble for spots in poorly defensible public open areas.


    • jccarlton · November 15, 2015

      This seems to be almost universal in those types of development. Something gets lost in all the grand planning. I’ve got another post I started about this that I really need to finish.


  2. Pingback: In Japan, Modernism Has No Chance In The Face Of Change | The Arts Mechanical

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