Saturday, 31 October 2015

The role of culture in planning

Cities in Japan grow in response to economic growth, efficient construction and with continual maintenance of urban infrastructure. The impact of unforeseen events such as natural disasters, can create historical disasters that force future re-planning. After the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, planning initiatives reconstructed a plan of 7 years including reconstruction, development and advancement. The reconstruction period included social and economic infrastructure, the development phase aims to enrich daily lives of people and the advancement period creates new attractions for the city, also contributing to the economic growth factors.

What was most surprising was the process undertaken to construct Shinjuku. Planning on a physical and economic basis encourages economic growth through newly developed Tokyo cities. With a transit-orientated plan to encourage people to move to new areas such as Shinjuku, there had to be a reason for people to travel to another area other than where they currently resided and undertook daily activities such as work and their lifestyles. The most fascinating fact about Shinjuku was the first intention of developers. By building a business building on the boundary of Shinjuku it encouraged investment. Therefore encouraging more economic investment, a transport company built a line, extended out to the boundary of Shinjuku, providing accessibility. Soon enough, as the train station was built, shops were built on top of the building providing more of an economic boost.

Similarly the three phase reconstruction process can be used to construct a new area. From field trips through the tsunami temporary housing and redevelopment areas, it was evident planners development was narrowly focused on a social and cultural basis. Based on the historical disaster, the future aims to create new developments that could cope with natural disasters. An example we visited as Tamaura West District in which it was evident that housing re-development had been raised onto higher land, incorporating symbols to provide unique communities providing more safety and security. Compactly house designs and an intertwined community helps survivors of the disaster to feel close and safe in new areas. Each housing area fronted onto an open communal space, built to encourage social activity and communal gathering. Originally, developers ignored community input and planned to build cement communal areas as they could not source funding to maintain the garden. Communities proposed on the idea with developers through community consultations agreeing to take care of grass land if developers supplied it. The situation of conflict and developer ignorance risked providing housing development that people may not want to move into if its not appealing.

Despite the cultural differences between Japanese and Australians, Japanese have a stronger sense of cultural expectations on a daily basis, whereas in Australia, the culture is not expected and a lot more relaxed. In planning particularly, including our culture is not vital in planning spaces. Unlike the Tamaura West District where communal spaces are walkable and provided as the locals require close interaction to feel safe, Australians commute in cars to nearby parks or shopping centres where they congregate and socialise. There is not much of a focus on providing numerous spaces per amount of houses. Australia could benefit from housing development ideas particularly with open spaces and the layout of housing development to create more of a community. Several suburbs and estates have hundreds if not thousands of houses in which don’t have nearby green spaces or community organised activities. Only to result in Australians feeling unsafe and not the right feeling for people such as families who may be the target group of the housing development. It should be standard in planning to incorporate social and particularly cultural factors into a housing area. It will create cultural sensitive areas that people will want to live in.

Chiara De Pellegrin