Shimokitazawa, well-known for being a vibrant area, home to many bars, restaurants, and speciality stores, just minutes away from major hubs such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, might well be partly destroyed by a new plan of the government for large road right through the neighborhood. The new plan would result in transforming a low-rise, local scale, community orientated neighborhood into a commercial center similar to so many others in Tokyo.
The workshop aimed at creating a testimony to the unique urban and cultural value of Shimokitazawa, with its narrow streets, dense pedestrian traffic, and dynamic cultural activity. The workshop was an experiment in global participatory planning, which produced alternative urban plans for Shimokitazawa. More than 130 Japanese and international urbanists, architects, artists, photographers, and local residents worked together for a week and produced a multicultural, multidisciplinary and multimedia portrait of Shimokitazawa and visions for its future.
This report is organized in five sections: First, an the context of Shimokitazawa and the objectives of the Urban Typhoon workshop. Second, the scope and organization of the workshop. Third, the review and output the workshop and 2 related events, the Ubiquitous City Symposium and the Cultural Typhoon Symposium. A general assessment of the output as well as thought about future prospects for Shimokitazawa, alternative communities, and participatory planning concludes the report.
Context & Objectives
The Urban Typhoon workshop was directly connected to two of the major community groups active in the neighborhood, Save the Shimokitazawa and Shimokitazawa Forum. These groups were formed in response to a master plan by the Municipality of Setegaya (to which Shimokitazawa belongs) which includes a 26 meter-wide road that would cut through the North part of the neighborhood. According to surveys executed by Shimokitazawa Forum, a large majority of the residents do not welcome the new planned road. Another part of the plan however is generally welcomed; the Odakyu train line, which runs through Shimokitazawa will depress the railway below ground, liberating an important space at the center of the neighborhood. So far, the municipal authorities have failed to acknowledge the opinion of the community, disregarding the concerns of local residents as well as urban experts and academics who say that the new road is not necessary and that it might destroy one of the most interesting area of Tokyo.
Behind the specific context and circumstances of Shimokitazawa, lays a theme of great relevance for urban communities in Japan and around the world: the participation of the residents into the planning of their urban environment. Over the past decade, participatory planning gradually gained recognition in the fields of planning and development. Developing cities, such as Curitiba in Brazil and Bogota in Colombia, have put in place successful participatory schemes, which inspired other cities as well as international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Resident’s participation has become an essential element of urban policy in the developing world as well as in first world cities, including Tokyo. Indeed, the Metropolitan Government of Tokyo, in its 2025 Urban Development Plan set as a goal “Greater transparency of the process by which decisions are made by having the administration be more accountable from the initial planning stage, employing PI [Public Involvement] -type methods, strengthening resident participation, and so on” (http://www.toshiseibi.metro.tokyo.jp). The Municipality of Setagaya too, states as one of its five main goals for its 10 year plan “A community that the city’s residents create”, through “cooperative community development” (http://www.city.setagaya.tokyo.jp).
Because it is a relatively new notion, there seem to be a gap between the stated intention of urban policy makers and the reality at the local level. Some of it might be due to the lack of experience of Municipalities in this field. Therefore, Urban Typhoon proposed to experiment with participatory planning schemes in Shimokitazawa, inviting local residents to brainstorm on the future of Shimokitazawa together with students, urban planners, architects, designers, artists, sociologists, media artists, political activists, and other optimists, to produce a multicultural, multidisciplinary and multimedia testimony to the unique spirit of Shimokitazawa, and alternatives to the master plan of the Municipality. The ultimate goals of the workshop were to establish a communication between the local community and the Municipality, and generating a model for participatory planning.
Organization & Scope
The Urban Typhoon workshop was organized by a group of about 30 people of various ages and backgrounds. The group included urbanists, architects, designers, members of local community groups, professors, and students from various universities including Meiji University, Keio University, Waseda University, the University of Tokyo, and Sydney University.
Everyone was invited to participate, regardless of their age, profession, educational background, nationality, or opinion about the master plan of the Municipality of Setagaya. Participants could choose between 13 units representing different approaches and various disciplines including: art, architecture, urban design, video, new media, and oral history.
29 world-class architects, designers and artists coming from Japan, Australia US, Latin America, and Europe lead the 13 units. Each unit had 1 to 4 leaders and between 5 and 15 participants. The leaders were completely free to run their unit as they wanted and were encouraged to develop their own assessment of Shimokitazawa. As a result, the workshop produced a broad range outcomes.
More than 130 people participated to the workshop, from Shimokitazawa, Tokyo and other Japanese cities, as well as Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, America, Europe, Africa and India. Foreign participants were primarily students, coming from various universities around the world, including, the National University of Singapore, the School of Architecture & Planning in New Delhi, the University of Sydney, MIT, Harvard, Columbia University, and Cambridge University.
The workshop toke place in the heart of Shimokitzawa in two venues: Alley Hall, a private space available for community events, and Nan Station, a Nepalese restaurant which put its second floor at the disposition of the workshop for a week. Alley Hall was principally occupied by architectural units, which needed tables to draw and make models. Non-architectural units occupied Nan Station as well as other temporary spaces in Shimokitazawa.
Many units chose to engage directly with street-life in Shimokitazawa, walking around and interviewing local people, experimenting with alternative uses of public spaces, performing street actions and architectural interventions, building temporary art works, and so on. This had the effect of getting the attention and involving local residents, shop-owners, and visitors to the workshop. For a week Urban Typhoon participants could be seen everywhere in Shimokitazawa, documenting, talking with locals, writing, drawing, photographing, filming, mapping, or simply trying to find their way back to the workshop space.
The workshop was connected to two international symposia: The Ubiquitous City Symposium which toke place at the University of Tokyo on June 28, and the Cultural Typhoon Symposium which toke place in Shimokitazawa from June 30 to July 2. These events, which provided an opportunity to reflect on the theme and objectives of the workshop, are described later in the report.
Review & Outcome
Two workshop reviews were held, both open to the public. The first one toke place Thursday June 29 at Alley Hall. The space was hot and crowded and the atmosphere very intense. About a 100 visitors joined the 130 participants who presented their work continuously from about 8pm to 2am. An all night long party followed the presentations. The Thursday review was a good preparation for the final review held at the Cultural Typhoon Symposium held at Shimokitazawa Seitoku High School and organized by graduate students from various Japanese universities, including the University of Tokyo and Waseda. The final presentation was very crisp and sharp, each group presenting its work for 15 minutes.
The participants produced an impressive amount of work ranging from direct design proposal for, District Street 10, the area that will be liberated by the Odakyu line, to artistic interpretations of Shimokitazawa, passing by recordings of the oral history of the community. The product of the workshop is of good quality and might be published as a book & CD-ROM. It will also be gradually uploaded onto the Urban Typhoon website, so that everyone can view it and comment it. Each unit will have its own report page in addition to the general report page on the website.
The output of the workshop will serve as a starting point for further discussions in the community and beyond about the cultural importance of Shimokitazawa and possible alternatives to the master plan drawn by the Municipality. Starting from September, weekly meeting about the themes developed during the workshop will be held. There will be 13 events, corresponding to the number of units, and more if the experience is conclusive. The aim of this series of meetings is to keep on developing the ideas generated during the workshop and provide a regular venue for discussion and debates in the community about the future of Shimokitazawa.
The workshop is a model for “cooperative community development”, connecting the local community to a global network of experts from some of the best academic institutions around the world. This model can be used by the Municipality of Setegaya to fulfill some the goals of its 10 year plan. The Urban Typhoon team wishes to present the outcome of the workshop to the Mayor of the Municipality of Setagaya as well as to representatives of the Metropolitan Government of Tokyo.
Process & Output : 13 units
Torsten Blume & Akihito Hatayama / Germany, Tokyo
Participants: Cheng-Ling Lin, Chuang, Yu-Chieh, Shibata Sunao, Kiribayashi Misa, Ando Noriko
Torsten Blume is an urbanist, instructor, and curator at the Bauhaus-Dessau Foundation. He contacted the Urban Typhoon team a few weeks prior to the workshop, expressed his interest to participate the workshop, and send a very interesting article on “urban mediactivism” (available here). The team immediately invited him to organize a unit. He was joined by one of his former student, Akihito Hatayama who is currently studying landscape architecture at the University of Melbourne. When they proposed to organize a street act using overhead and digital projectors, the Urban Typhoon team was both really enthusiastic and curious to see how they would bring this idea to life.
The overhead unit actually exceeded all expectations staging an amazing street act with dancers dressed in white costumes projecting moving images of Shimokitazawa onto themselves, mobile screens, and passing vehicles. The performance certainly generated many interpretations. The technical savvy of the Overhead team, the perfect balance between organization and improvisation, the out-of-space outfit of the performers, their fluidity and grace, and the seriousness of their intent, left the audience, which was composed of workshop participants, passers-by, and residents, completely stunned. The street act beautifully expressed the gravity of the situation to which the residents of Shimokitazawa are confronted. That is, the imminent destruction of their urban and cultural milieu by master planners drawing new lines on the map from their central Tokyo office without any consideration for the intrinsic complexity and sophistication of Shimokitazawa.
Carla Leitao / New York, Lisbon
Participants: Kagino Masahiro, Hande Unlu, Wu Ming-Wei, Kato Kensuke, Noguchi Midori, Ai Kubota, Ono
Carla Leitao is an architect, designer and professor, teaching at Cornell University and working between New York and Lisbon. Carla architectural approach is explicitly influenced by virtual reality and computer game and in Shimokitazawa she lead the participants of the E-XQUIS unit into a journey at the frontier between dream and reality.
E-XQUIS conceived collective scenarios taking place in Shimokitazawa. Strange characters of the type we find only in Shimokitazawa created a fantastic world full of seemingly insignificant details revealing the hidden spirit of Shimokitazawa. Carla invented a method of non-proprietary, participatory design, which consists among other things in passing a scenario from one team to the other. The result is a “cadavre exquis” type scenario where each participant imagines a section of a collective scenario. The scenarios themselves become a model, that participants used in a last phase. The outcome of the unit which suggests a dream-like Shimokitazawa was presented in the form of texts, maps, movies, and a blog:
Back to Shimo Scale
KobaLab: Masami Kobayashi / Tokyo
Participants: Igarashi Rika, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Geeta Mehta, Chua Co Seng, Paul Yeo Wei Da, Miyano Eriko, Inaba Nanami, Moribe Yuko
Masami Kobayashi is an urban designer, teaching at Meiji University and visiting professor at Harvard University. He is also the leader of Shimokitazawa Forum a community group proposing alternatives to the master plan of the Municipality of Setagaya. He has lead studios with both Meiji University and Harvard in Shimokitazawa before and is one of the most knowledgeable person on the urbanism of the area. The KobaLab unit, which was one of the best informed unit in the workshop, proposed a comprehensive alternative plan for the area which will be vacated when the Odakyu Line goes underground, District Street 10, which recognizes the necessity for Shimokitazawa to adapt to new reality of Tokyo without loosing what makes it attractive and unique.
The unit realized that the scale of Shimokitazawa, with its small buildings and narrow streets, was one of its defining feature. It proposed to reconnect the small streets on both side of the Odakyu line and found a solution to harmoniously integrate higher and larger buildings in the urban fabric, by creating passage-ways allowing pedestrian circulation and ground level activity. The KobaLab unit renamed the area that will be vacated by the Odakyu line “Shimokita Groove” and devised a program revolving on three axis: commercial, cultural, and community. It proposed to concentrate small scale commercial activity around the station as well as the development of a cultural area further down the Groove. One of the feature of the cultural area would be a “flexible-use” space and a cultural center. Next, the unit proposed a community space with a botanical garden, recognizing the need for green space into Shimokitazawa, and a gallery street where the numerous artists gravitating in and around Shimokitazawa could exhibit their work. This plan seeks to accommodate the cultural and artistic vocation of Shimokitazawa.
CAt: Kazuhiro Kojima, Kazuko Akamastu, Tomohiko Amemiya, Che Wang / Tokyo
Participants: Chiu Hui-Chih, Agnes Nyilas, Zuzanna Ufnalska, Soga Kotaro, Mochizuki, Ooaki Megumi, Sano Tomohiko, Yamakawa Tomotsugu
CAt is a leading architectural firm in Tokyo with projects all over the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Kazakhstan. Kazuhiro Kojima, principal of CAt teaches at Tokyo University of Science. Kazuko Akamatsu has been working together with Kazuhiro Kojima since 1990 and is a lecturer at Kanto Gakuin University and Nippon Institute of Technology. Tomohiko Amemiya and Che Wang both work for CAt and are respectively graduates of the University of Tokyo and Tonghai University in Taiwan.
The unit drew a black and white map of Shimokitazawa; black areas representing spaces with only one fixed function, and white areas representing spaces which can change function and names. Then, participants tested white spaces with unconventional temporal uses. This approach was interesting in different respects. Firstly, it engaged participants to takeover public space in a way only musicians and groups of young people usually do, Secondly, it recognized Shimokitazawa as a space for creative experimentation and raised a larger question about the freedom of citizens to re-appropriate urban space. Thirdly, the ludic aspect of small urban takeovers permitted a non-conventional interpretation of urban space. Some ideas which would not have seemed serious enough in an academic context, could be proposed during the workshop, such as a walking path and community garden along the railway. The informal and relax atmosphere of the workshop allowed participants to unleash their creative potential, while the professionalism of the CAt unit insured that the content produced was communicated to the audience in clearest possible way.
Exploring Shimokitazawa; Experiencing the City
Save the Shimokitazawa: Kazuho Kimura, Kenzo Kaneko & Shunichi Ishizaki (JAMUO) / Tokyo
Participants: Gu Peiwei, Irene Avetyan, Chiu Po-Jui, Yang Tzu-Hsin, Sugie Satoshi, Yamamoto Hiroshi, Ishikawa Yasuhiko, Morimoto Ayako, Kitaya Sadaji, Shida Ayumi, Segawa Kazuko, Nagamine Yuko,
Save the Shimokitazawa (STSK) is a grassroots group which was created in response to the master plan of the Municipality. While its members are of all ages, STSK appeals particularly to students, artists, and people active in the cultural scene of Shimokitazawa. Kazuho Kimura is the editor of the Shimokitazawa based cultural review Misatikoh and a graduate student at the University of Tokyo. Kenzo Kaneko is an architect who has lived his whole life in Shimokitazawa. Jamuo is a musician involved in the night scene of Shimokitazawa. He regularly organizes great parties in Shimokitazawa.
The unit organized by STSK proposed to produce a short movie to present Shimokitazawa to the rest of the world. The global character of the workshop, which had 50% of international participants, lead the STSK unit to explore aspects of Shimokitazawa that are universality appreciated by young people from Japan and abroad. The outcome of the STSK unit is a 10 minute documentary in English with interviews of Japanese and foreign residents and visitors. The main questions they were asked were “why do you like Shimokitazawa?” and “what makes it special?” It comes out clearly from the documentary that many foreign visitors are looking for the type of relax atmosphere that Shimokitazawa offers. Shimokitazawa is indeed a high point on the agenda of many foreign visitors interested in the contemporary urban culture of Tokyo. Moreover, the documentary shows that newcomers moving in Shimokitazawa are attracted by feeling of community and “old Japan” that they find in the neighborhood, something that they do not encounter in other areas of Tokyo.
Embracing the Typhoon
Art Harbour: Lehan Ramsey & friends / Tokyo, Sydney
Participants: Sarah-Jane Norman, Rachelle Su Zhitian, James Teng, Sasaki Yuya, Kurosaka Mariko, Yuta Miyawaki, Michael Fowler, Paul Gazzola, Akina Mikami, Asami Sasaki, Akiko Sameshima, Kenn Bushby, Markuz Wernli, Tsukuru Teruya, Yamamoto Shinya
Lehan Ramsey, artist and professor at Future University in Hakodate, is one of the co-founder of Art Harbour. This loose group of collaborators from Japan and outside has lead various projects and workshops since 2001. Art Harbour uses art to make people think about their environment and imagine other possible worlds.
Rather than making a plan in advance that would determine the course of their actions, Art Harbour came to Shimokitazawa with an open agenda and the intention of creating a collective project in function of the context and opportunities. The first mission for Art Harbour was to find a place where the 17 members of the unit could gather. After exploring the neighborhood in depth, they decided to hold meetings in the street and created a “portable talk station” to interview residents. Art Harbour engaged in various artistic experimentations, such as the “Luv Shimokitazawa box” that anyone can use to publicly display Shimokitazawa related art work, and a complete set of postcards of Shimokitazawa, that can be sold to raise money for grassroots groups. Another interesting project initiated by the Art Harbour unit was a numbered sticker with a easily recognizable logo and a text reading “Site of Cultural Importance”. The team put the sticker up in specific places around Shimokitazawa and then produced a map displaying the location of these sites. Art Harbour is now working together with Hidenori Watanave of the Team Un-Simulateneous unit, on a web version of the map, which will allow people to geotag specific locations in Shimokitazawa, leave comment about the sites, and propose new one.
Yehuda Safran / New York, Paris
Participants: Nisreen Zahda, Sato Taisuke, Song Jeanhwa, Kawaji Miki, Huda Mustafa, Prasomsouk Senethanongvath, Yadigar Esen
Yehuda Safran is an artist, architecture critique and writer living in Paris, and teaching at Columbia University, Mendrisio in Switzerland and Nanjing in China. Yehuda Safran brought a critical edge to the workshop, beginning by showing Guy Debord’s “Society of Spectacle” to the participants in his unit, engaging them to explore Shimokitazawa without complaisance, paying particular attention to shopping and fashion and the way they contribute to the identity of Shimokitazawa.
The unit reflected on the uncertain mix of kitsch, cute, and visual incoherence in Shimokitazawa, which instead of keeping culturally-conscious visitors away, contributed to the neighborhood’s cultish status. These characteristics reminded some participants of collage-style African fashion inspired by bits and pieces from everywhere, leading them to call Shimokitazawa the Africa of Tokyo. Visitors, they said come to Shimokitazawa for exoticism, wilderness, creativity, and adventure. Going to Shimokitazawa is a trip to otherness, outside of the formalism and tidiness of Tokyo. It is a place to let go. Shimokitazawa they said, is a mythical area, it is Tokyo after the earthquake; upside down, fragmented, a mosaic of tiny places each with its flavors and colors. The kitsch and cute, they concluded, is part of the spirit of the area, and should be preserved as a testimony of the open, all-encompassing, and spontaneous character of Shimokitazawa.
Studio SUMO: Yolande Daniels & Sunil Bald, New York
Participants: Aya Miyoshi, Jillian Puleo, Ma Xiao,Kathryn Sargent, Lim Hui Min Jan, Kawakami Masashi, Hanazawa Jyun, Nakayama Kei, Mike Yong
Yolande Daniels and Sunil Bald are practicing architects working together as SUMO and teaching respectively at Columbia University and Yale University. They regularly come to Japan to work and teach at JOSAI International university in Chiba. The unit analyzed street life in Shimokitazawa and based on these observations, proposed a plan for the area which will be vacated by the Odakyu line.
The unit started by addressing the question of what makes Shimokitazawa distinct. In an introductory presentation about Shimokitazawa, Masami Kobayashi explained that Shimokitazawa is a “brand name” carrying a good image which makes it is easy to sell property in Shimokitazawa. But what are the urban characteristic of the Shimokitazawa brand? The Street-Life unit identified three urban features specific to Shimokitazawa: pixelation, flow and movement, and adjacencies. Information, goods, people flow at various speed throughout the streets in and out a heteroclite mix of pixel-like buildings. The juxtaposition of moving and static elements and the way they relate to each other is specific to the small urbanism of Shimokitazawa. Based on this analysis, the Street-Life unit proposed an uncompromising fill up of the Odakyu Line segment with small buildings and streets connecting three possible “circuits” along the current railway: the health circuit, the shopping circuit, and the activism circuit. The scheme is at the same time simple and reflective of the “organic” complexity of Shimokitazawa. It lays the basis for what should be a longer and deeper analysis of the particular urban fabric of Shimokitazawa and its influence on street life and culture.
“La Calle”: Insignificant resources for significant impact
Supersudaca: Pablo Corvalan, Elena Chevtchenko, Felix Madrazo, Manuel de Rivero / Latin America
Participants: Koh Kai Li, Seth Hostetter, Liu Yen-chun, Lin Chung-nan, Li Xiuqi, Cooper Fang, Watanabe Noriko, Kinase Ryo, Haba Chieko, Matumoto Masataka, Watabe Ryohei, Suzuki Yoshihiro
Supersudaca is a network of Latin American architects who met as students at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam,. It was represented at Urban Typhoon by Pablo, professor at La Universidad de Talca in Chile; Elena, working in Rotterdam at Juurlink+Geluk; Felix Madrazo, working in Rotterdam at OMA; and Manuel de Rivero, professor at La Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima. Supersudaca has been organizing workshops throughout Latin America, using humor and imagination to overcome real urban issues.
The unit analyzed six street segments in Shimokitazawa using various methods such as photoshoping certain elements out to make others more explicit, adding elements to the street, taking pictures following a time sequence, sketching sections of the street at various times, and graphically representing statistical data. From the analysis, participants devised direct interventions and realized them. Using a common set of methods to analyze different spaces permited to compare them and do site-specific interventions. It engaged the participants directly with the life of one particular street segment. The familiarity they developed with the environment allowed them, in some cases, to obtain support from the shop owners for their interventions. Some participants transformed the streets into temporary salon adding furniture such as chairs or carpets. These interventions sometimes succeeded in creating temporary spaces of conviviality where people would meet, talk, or rest. The relaxed and informal atmosphere prevailing in Shimokitazawa provides a favorable environment for these types of urban action. Following the collective assessment of these experimentations, the group created a new piece of street furniture intended to become an universally recognizable symbol around which residents of Shimokitazawa could unite: “Tenclock”, a surrealistic sculpture composed of a clock without hands with a huge red nose in the middle. This funny landmark for Shimokitazawa, now placed in front of a building that will (maybe) be destroyed by the road 54 planned by the Municipality, symbolizes the absurdity of the master plan, the urgency of the situation, the unique party scene of Shimokitazawa, and the power of creative people to takeover urban space.
Shimokitazawa Oral History
Taro Taguchi / Tokyo
Participants: Astrid Edlinger, Irugi Cheong, Aumi Shida, Ayako Muneki
Taro Taguchi is a young researcher and teacher in Department of Architecture of Waseda University. He developed a new method of investigation of urban and rural settlements based oral history recollection and published a first book about it.
The Oral History unit interviewed various types of residents of Shimokitazawa about their personal history and the way the community has changed. The apparently simple method of investigation consisting of collecting people’s personal history produced a beautiful and sophisticated outcome, which could well have served as a preliminary to the workshop. Far from street life and aesthetic consideration, the oral history unit drew a contrasted and intimate portrait of Shimokitazawa from within people’s homes and lives, which “allows us to imagine the real Shimokitazawa from people’s memory”. The bookstore owner, the gentleman in his 70’s, the hair designer in her 20’s, the real-estate owner, the high school student, the record store vendor, are some of the characters who told their Shimokitazawa histories. From the nostalgia of the bookstore owner regretting the time where the neighborhood was a “grey zone”, cheep enough to be inhabited by “weirdoes” to cheerful consumerism of the hair dresser “Shimokitazawa is everything! My cloths, my bag, and my wallet...”, passing by the fatalism of the Cafe owner and senior citizen who has lived through all the changes, “there are more fast-food-like places for young people now. That’s life. Things change”, we start feeling the spirit of the past, invisible but still present and wonder if the Shimokitazawa we know now is not already a memory. And then we hear the records store vendor describing how recently young people started crowding the streets of Shimokitazawa, and remember that history can take many turns: “last golden week was a kind of peak for Shimokitazawa”. The Oral History wrote a selection and sentences recorded during the interviews and hang them all over the workshop space on beautiful pieces of fabric, creating a very warm and colorful atmosphere.
Hidenori Watanave, Yukihiko Yoshida, Taro Nishimoto / Tokyo
Participants: Yukihiko Yoshida, Taro Nishimoto, Shiba Hiroaki, Ishizuka Ken
Hidenori Watanave researches computer-based spatial design, produces events mixing digital art and live performance, and teaches at Digital Hollywood University. Yukihiko Yoshida is a dance critique active in the field of dance and performance telematics. Taro Nishimoto is an artist and lecturer at Asagaya College of Art and Design and Joshibi University of Art and Design.
Team Un-simultaneous proposed to map what they called SODE in Shimokitazawa and staged street performance with dancers. SODE are spaces (or actions) which are necessary but undesigned, somewhere in between public and private, and from which you can look to the outside but that you cannot see from the inside, as the backstage of a theater. The team first searched these spaces and mapped them in a google-earth map <http://mapping.jp/school/school_gmap.html>. The photos of the SODE were sent via mobile phone directly to the database. The Un-simultaneous team found 178 SODE in Shimokitazawa, which included for instance alley spaces, strange objects, and activities such as roller-skating. The unit then selected four SODE and performed a “SODE performance” which was determined by the particularity of each SODE. A big glass window became a public mirror that performers used to play with their reflection; an pedestrian bridge over the train station became a stage which performers used to communicate with other performers on the plateform; a back halley became a mysterious passage way in which a whole crowd of people rushed, and the exterior stairway of the Urban Typhoon workshop space became a multi-level stage where performers could practice dancing steps under the direction of another performer in the street. The creative takeover of apparently random spaces in Shimokitazawa was a powerful metaphor for the fate of Shimokitazawa. While some believe that Shimokitazawa lacks rational design, others see it as a urban treasure box. SODE mapping invites us to read the city as a collection of small spaces that can be activated by the power of imagination. In a way, Shimokitazawa itself is that ill-defined, undesigned, SODE space in the city of Tokyo.
Gilles Grassioulet & Jun Ofusa / Switzerland, Tokyo
Participants: Aramaki Naoko, Koshitu Mariko, Kuyama Megumi, Taniguchi Natumi
Gilles Grassioulet is a painter and video artist currently traveling around the world realizing a video art project. Jun Ofusa is the “oldest” VJ in Tokyo, a television producer at NHK, and art teacher living in Tokyo.
The Urban Haiku unit used various media to express the poetic aspects of Shimokitazawa, including painting, photo, and video. The particular focus of the Urban Haiku unit was on Shimokitazawa as a pedestrian space. Everyday tens of thousands people walk through the streets of Shimokitazawa, which is one of the few totally car free area of Tokyo. How is a space experienced through walking? What is the signification of walking? What are other examples of pedestrian journeys and towns throughout the world? Walking is a art; with our feet we draw poetic paths around town. The many narrow streets of Shimokitazawa are a delight for flaneurs and day-dreamers. The human density of Shimokitazawa can only be experienced through walking. Walking opens the senses and allows one to feel and interact with the surroundings. It is a profoundly human act, which connects individuals with their natural and social environment, and sustains local life and small shops. It is particular symbolic importance at a time when urban space is being rationalized and depersonalized by commercial development at a global scale. Walking follows another logic than the logic of efficiency. Our feet have been used as a tool for self-affirmation throughout history: exodus, pilgrimage, initiatory paths, pacific marches, political protests, marathons, and dance. Replacing a smilingly chaotic network of pedestrian streets in Shimokitazawa, the 26 meter-wide road planned by the Municipality of Setagaya, will destroy a complex web of social relationships at the community level. The local quality of the area that be experienced through walking has been produced incrementally over the years. It is something that no master plan can ever reproduce. The 100,000+ people who walk through Shimokitazawa everyday are as many silent protesters against the road 54 project.
Alto Majo: Alex (Jaimes) Jaimes, Tomo Takeda, Matias Echanove, Joanne Jakovich / Tokyo, Barcelona, Sydney
Participants: Lucy Styles, Grace Chang, Dennis Yang, Shih Chia-Ling, Rebecca Milner, Sasaki Kyoko
Alex is a photographer and researcher in visual media living in Tokyo, Tomo is a designer living in Barcelona, Matias is an urbanologist living in Tokyo, and Joanne is an architect & researcher in Sydney. Together they form Alto Majo, a collective created with the intention of producing a multimedia art work for and about Shimokitazawa.
The group proposed a creative exploration of Shimokitazawa revolving around three interconnected axes: sensation, action, and creation. First Shimokitazawa was to be experienced through the senses and mapped conceptually. The maps would then be used to initiated multiple small scale street action that would be documented to create a final collective and multidimensional representation of Shimokitazawa encompassing complexity, and paradox. Loosely following the program described above, and even frankly escaping it, the group produced a disparate collection of sketches, maps, collages, photos, film, and painting which they assembled together as a delirious presentation/performance. A chinese song expressing the nostalgia of a disappearing present opened the act, followed by a reality-show style family therapy session by the Alto Majo team members. The team then went on to explain a completely new project they conceived the night before consisting in creating a web page that would link Shimokitazawa to other communities around the world experiencing similar situations, from Dashanzi Art District in Beijing to the Zappatist revolutionaries in Mexico. They then proceeded to show short movie clips expressing the vibes of Shimokitazawa and the dreadful prospect of its annihilation by planned road 54, as well as an embarrassing video showing one of the member of the group chanting his love for Shimokitazawa. This apparently incoherent output, revealed the attachment of Alto Majo to the space of unrestricted self-expression that Shimokitazawa represents.
Eye of the Typhoon
Photo & video: Yuki Satou, Takayuki Yoshida, Haruka Akagi, Taro Bannai, Kanae Tanaka, Riyoko Suzuki, Mitsuhiro Mori, U, Maico Shirai, Satomi Shimizu, Nagisa Isobe, Kenji Nishimura, Hiroki Maekawa, Kouta Nakagawa, Yuka Kitai, Sayaka Saitou, Shouko Yoshikawa, Riyo Tanaka
The report would not be complete without mentioning the photographers and cameramen who documented the whole workshop for a week. They were everywhere all the time, sometimes almost invisible, sometimes interacting directly with the different units. Some of them are semi-professionals and other take pictures as a hobby, in any case they dedicated their time and energy to the workshop and work with a great diligence. As a team, they produced took 2500 photos and 20 hours of video footage.
Events Related to Urban Typhoon
The Ubiquitous City Symposium
University of Tokyo, June 28, 2006
The Ubiquitous City Symposium aimed at investigating the potential of ubiquitous information technologies for public involvement and participatory planning. Taking an experimental approach, the symposium was directly connected to the Urban Typhoon workshop in Shimokitazawa. 17 experts from Japan, Europe, US, and Latin American discussed ideas and projects ranging from virtual world, to creative geographical information mapping, passing by “direct”, low-tech urban strategies for informal settlements. The proceedings of the Ubiquitous City Symposium will probably be published together with the outcome of the Urban Typhoon Workshop. If the municipal government of Setagaya is willing to take this unique opportunity, some of the innovative ideas that were discussed could be implemented in Shimokitazawa with the support of major academic institutions and research centers.
The Cultural Typhoon Symposium
Shimokitazawa Seitoku High School, June 30 - July 2, 2006
Cultural Typhoon was a 3 days cultural studies symposium on the theme of “cities” and urban culture, which was organized by students of the University of Tokyo and among others. While Cultural Typhoon focused on academic discussions and theory, Urban Typhoon focused on practical work in Shimokitazawa. Urban Typhoon intended to bring a local as well as a global dimension to the Cultural Typhoon Symposium. More information about Cultural Typhoon is available online at www.cultural-typhoon.org
Summary and concluding thoughts
The success of the Urban Typhoon workshop relied on its ability to bring together people of different backgrounds, origins, and interests. It linked together the local dimension of Shimokitazawa and the global issue of citizens participation, and it allowed residents to exchange ideas with outsiders coming with their own experiences and knowledge. International participants instantaneously recognized the unique cultural character of Shimokitazawa and identified with the local community. They provided fresh ways to look at Shimokitazawa, pointing out to some special qualities of Shimokitazawa which are so familiar to local residents that they don’t notice them anymore. On the other hand, local people helped international participants understand some of the complicated problems faced by the community. The connection with the community anchored the workshop into the local reality of Shimokitazawa, and gave more depth to the output. Most of the participants, including foreign unit leaders, came because they were motivated by the theme of the workshop and wished to learn about Shimokitazawa and Tokyo, and meet people with similar interests.
The workshop was completely inclusive, welcoming people of all ages independently of their educational background. This allowed people from all types of fields to learn to look at the neighborhood in an architectural way. In turn, the units benefited from the particular knowledge and skills of each participants. Moreover, each unit could get inspiration from the other units. In some cases, hard working units motivated all other units to work harder. The multiplicity of modes of expression and intervention, produced a multidimensional vision of and for Shimokitazawa.
The connection of the workshop with the Ubiquitous City Symposium and the Cultural Typhoon Symposium provided an opportunity to reflect on the implications and possible extensions of the workshop. They also gave visibility to the workshop beyond Shimokitazawa and connected it directly with academia. These events gave legitimacy to the workshop and secured some financial support while letting the team completely free to organize the workshop as they wanted.
The absence of hierarchy in the team organizing the workshop allowed it to incorporate new people and ideas very fast. All organizers participated to the best of their abilities and felt personally responsible for the completion of the tasks they decided or agreed to fulfill. The team-spirit of the organizing team was communicated to all participants who felt a shared responsibility for the good proceeding of the workshop.
The workshop ultimately provides a model for participatory planning at the local level with support from experts from all over the world. It is to be hoped that the Municipal government sees it as an opportunity to fulfill it objective of promoting “cooperative community development” schemes, stated in its 10 year plan.
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