Saturday, 31 October 2015

Thinking about Tamaura West District

It was fascinating to observe the development style of the various Japanese cities we visited. Firstly, what comes to mind is the way Tamaura West District was developed and how this differs from the planning in Australia. Unlike Australian developers, who mostly plan for their own needs and try to get away with the bare minimum in planning applications, in this new small estate it was clear that the developers made a conscious effort to involve the community’s thoughts and ideas. Evidently so, through the parks for public space scattered throughout the neighbourhood. The community members, who communally make the effort to mow the grass themselves, specifically requested these open park spaces.

Photos taken at Tamaura West District showing small streets, green strips and walkways

Furthermore, there was a clear contrast to the way new Melbourne outer suburbs are developed, given the much greater diversity within this district. This was seen through the variety of house styles and various sizes, all within roughly 300 square metre blocks with about 25 lots per hectare. Subsequently, this thoughtfully planned district is not car dependant and is possibly the closest example to a 10minute neighbourhood. The streets are not busy with cars and there were clear walking paths behind houses, making it easy to walk to and from the close shopping centre. The community centre was placed centrally amongst the houses, making it easily accessible for residents to socially interact together, heightening the comfortable community based fundamentals of this neighbourhood.

Essentially, this is reflective of the Japanese culture, whereby individuals and families rely heavily on their surrounding community for support, which makes them very close to one another. This is quite different to new suburbs in outer Melbourne, which are so big and spread out making them greatly car dependent. Further, there is sadly a lack of emphasis in planning for community-based interaction in these suburbs, which as a whole is less important in the Australian culture. Given that in these areas people mostly travel by cars and the suburbs are focused around shopping centres.

Overall, from what I observed the traditional Japanese culture is embedded in their complex society, whereby they build and re-develop for practicality in response to the modern world. However, their incredibly old cultural traditions are very much present in their day-to-day lifestyles. The public transport system was outstanding, ensuring consistent punctuality and accessibility within and between all cities. Once again this is a reflection of their culture, which has unquestionably worked out the complexities of society providing reliable efficiency in many aspects, especially from a planners point of view.

I was also impressed by the small-scale urban design that works so efficiently in the cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Sendai. Considering how densely populated these cities are and the very fast pace, everywhere we visited was easy to navigate, especially speaking from a foreigner’s perspective. I particularly noticed in Osaka, the balance of uses in terms of diversity coupled with the density of the skinny streets enabled walkability. The narrow 2-lane streets emphasis the fact that downtown is not car dominated. Furthermore, Nara was not quite as busy, yet it was fascinating to witness the mixed used development that has formed over time. Whereby the layout of the historical area with the great hall, temples, gardens and parks all so close to the commercial and residential areas, and all within walking distance. Meaning they have effectively incorporated new modern development next to the very old historical setting in such a harmonious way that it does not disrupt the cultural heritage.

Felicity Sokolic