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Urban Spaces in Japan

日本の都市空間 (Nihon no Toshi Kukan) is a book written by 都市デザイン研究体 [Urban Design Research Collective] of the University of Tokyo, supervised by Kenzo Tange, published by Shokokusha originally in 1968. This platform presents principles of urban spaces in Japan from the book, translated in English.

Disclaimer: the English translation is for educational purposes only and not to be utilised for any other uses. I do not own the copyright of the original texts. If there are mistakes or errors to be rectified, please get in touch with Saran Kim (@sarankim_arts).

2 Principle of Space Order

Attempting to grasp our country’s spatial structure through the substantial concept in the process of spatial formation, is challenging.

Space is full of symbolism, subjectivity, relationship with others and its undetermined nature. Thus, the subject may not be distilled accurately from an object itself.

Of course, it does not mean that there seems to be no system to its space, but rather the order of space could be comprehended by stages of independent from concepts in its process of spatial formation. In other words, it could be understood by functional, structural and symbolic phases.

Here, we introduce some of the typical ideologies of the past to consider the stepwise assignment of systems to space, that is, the principle of space order.

We look into four factors listed below as the concepts forming the spatial structure:

Hierarchical Accessibility
Placement due to Circumstances
Esthetic Triangle

And the other four factors below as the epistemological concepts such as qualities and characteristics of space:

Formal - Informal
Process Designing
Imaginary Space
Activity Space

How it Begun & Thank You

This translation project emerged from my encounter with the book Nihon no Toshi Kukan at the Architecture Foundation Australia Student Summer School in February 2020, right before the spread of COVID-19. Rick Leplastrier, one of the mentors at the summer school, brought his copy of the book to the youth hostel where all the students were staying and studying. While it was such an eye-opening experience reading about Japanese architecture and urban design and how they relate to the broader cultural, social and environmental contexts, hearing from Rick that there is no English translation publicly available made me realise the privilege I had taken for granted in the ability to read it in Japanese. Knowing how Japanese architecture and urban design have been and continue to be influential globally, at least in Australia where I completed degrees in architecture, the value of translating such a seminal book into English for educational purposes became apparent.

However, I was acutely aware of the copyright implications in translating the works of others. I contacted Shokokusha to clarify the regulations for translating it for educational purposes. Yukiko Otsuka from the editorial department kindly reached out to Arata Isozaki, Yasuyoshi Hayashi and Reiko Tomita, three of twelve co-authors from Kenzo Tange's lab at the University of Tokyo (it has been a great grief to receive news about the passing of Isozaki sensei in December 2022 and Hayashi sensei in December 2023). Otsuka san confirmed that the authors gave me  permission to translate their book on condition that it is translated for research purposes and not for commercial uses, and the final product is to be shared with Shokokusha.

I would like to thank Otsuka san, Isozaki sensei, Hayashi sensei, and Tomita sensei for allowing me to translate Nihon no Toshi Kukan and Rick for introducing me to such a fascinating and eye-opening book. As much as the book did to me, I hope the translation becomes a pathway for non-Japanese-speaking students to explore architecture and urban design in Japan more deeply.

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