Design. Density. Delight. There’s so much going on in the many photos taken by editor-in-chief Gordon Price on his trip, which is, if you haven’t noticed by now, very much a working/thinking holiday.
As to what it all means…Gordon posits and proposes, and it makes you wonder along with him what makes Tokyo tick. How did they get a lot of things right, while also making so much of it beautiful?
Maybe you have some answers. Follow him on Instagram and engage. Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome; and as always, the pics below are just a sampling of what he’s posting.
The shopping mall component of Roppongi Hills is another petting zoo of luxury brands – a mystery to me how they maintain their cache when they seem to be as common as Starbucks, from airports to mainstream main streets. Or are they really just advertising – loss leaders in bricks and mirror for mass merchandizing without appearing too massy?
I just heard that one reason I’ve been surprised at Tokyo’s urban forest is because of a program to plant a million trees, likely back at the time in the early 1990s when the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated. This was the city’s way to help reduce carbon. These trees look like they were planted somewhat later, indicating an ongoing commitment.
I mentioned last week when in Hong Kong that it seemed the population was noticeably heavier than a few decades ago. Wealth + sugar = fat. But that doesn’t seem as true in Japan. I don’t have data, but the people do not seem as overweight. Perhaps it a combo of genes, active transportation and urban form (especially transit use) and diet. Yes, the global sugar-water industry has made its inroads, but as the picture reveals, the bottles are much smaller. And even that can make some difference.
From this building on the left, Michael Alexander deduces that the smallest lot width is 30 feet, at least in this part of Tokyo. It would be fascinating to know the story of the original survey and why lot sizes, street widths and block sizes were chosen. (Block sizes are like Manhattan’s: long lengths and narrow depths, with no interior lanes.). Some interior streets between the wide arterials that create a discontinuous grid are like lanes: often no sidewalks.
This is one of the most significant buildings ever built in Tokyo that no longer exists. And not because it was destroyed in an earthquake. Indeed, part of its fame is that it survived the devastating earthquake of 1923 (and the bombings of WW2). This was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, meant to serve and reflect western taste as a showcase of Japan modernity. And for that reason it was torn down in 1967 to be replaced by a modernist highrise that made more economic sense (see adjacent pics). Today the FLW Imperial would be a must-see attraction. Its loss was the Tokyo equivalent of the demolition of Pennsylvania Station in New York in 1963 – a neoclassical landmark greater in its way than Grand Central. Two acts of architectural vandalism.