Saturday, 31 October 2015

Planning in Japan


Japan is so advanced in the modern world, it leads us to question why does 'planning' work in some places and not others. 

In Japan, we learnt about Tokyo's land economics and the different value that is placed on heritage buildings here, compared to our own Australian value. In Tokyo it is reasonably acceptable to demolish old buildings and rebuild a replicate, mock heritage as we call it in Australia, and mostly frowned upon. In Japan, I think this works well and could be a technique that could be used more wisely. This allows for an extended building life, however on the negative side you lose the real history and the historic vibes. They also like to rebuild these historic buildings with modern additions, making the heritage, look out of place. Tokyo has a big turn over the life of their buildings. With buildings in the 1970's and 80's being built for a 40 year life, and now their relevance and purposes are now changing. This leads to renovations such as gutting skyscrapers as they do not have the capacity to hold new modern commodities, such as the internet. 

It is hard to imagine how buildings will be used in 40 or 80 years and if their purpose will still be active. How can you actively plan and design building uses now, for so far in the future? We learnt in Tokyo if oil and building materials increasingly become more expensive how will these buildings be maintained and will the be affordable to operate? 

Example of a mock heritage building with a modern extension


We were lucky enough to travel to Sendai to see the tsunami affected area, whilst emotional and confronting, the community and planners' are doing really amazing work rebuilding housing estates from a devastating clean slate. These plans are contributed by an extensive consolation with the community. These developments are not just cookie cutter designs made to fit any piece of land. These residential developments are designed for social, cultural and economical purposes. The Japanese culture values land and they way they use it differs to Australia. No piece of land seems to be under utilised and there is no need for garages and backyards, with such good and useable public open space, and plenty of it. 

The estate had a total of four parks, all with various purposes and also a community hall. I was impressed with the functionality of the new housing estate and how innovative it was. Even down to the details of the footpath being an imprint of the existing canal, giving it meaning. Developers in Australia only want to meet the the bare minimum requirements when it comes to all aspects of sub division developments such as public open space and street design. Where as in Tamaura West district, they want the best possible outcome for the residents and the developers actually listen to what people want. A prime example of this is the community advocating for grass in their parks. Originally, the developer wanted stones, however the community wanted grass to remind them of home. This was achieved by the community actively looking after the grass.


Japan compared to Australia both consider 'planning' in a very different way and also have a different emphasise on land use. Japan is a dense place with no land being consider unusable. Even the way the use their land for cemeteries, with oblong shape blocks and the dwellings have no setback requirements from what we have seen. Land is even developed right up to the train tracks and adjacent to major roads.  Australia can learn a lot about developing more dense cities and better effectively using all land. If Melbourne was increased to a higher density, the urban sprawl would have no need to continue and better infrastructure could be implemented with a higher popularity of rail and public transport as well us extending lines and services. The ideal of density could be something Bendigo could consider, with also the issue of sprawl, however probably is not feasible with the current population. (Vline could also use a lesson or two from the efficiency of the shinkansen!)

Verity Bright