Anthony Eagan introduces Jorge Almazan’s lecture: Emergent Tokyo – Speculations on the Spontaneous Space City.
Discussions about cities in space revolve around visions of massive megastructures and artificial habitats that master hostile environments to shelter human life. But can these highly machinic settlements truly accommodate earthlings’ emotional, messy, and unpredictable lives? Can a city in space combine a highly productive engineered environment with the human need for communal life, creativity, intimacy, and spontaneity? If we want to start imagining this possibility, Tokyo might be the best place to start.
Tokyo is one of the most vibrant and livable cities, a megacity that somehow remains intimate and adaptive, balancing massive growth and local communal life. How is this possible? We can answer this question by delving into Tokyo’s most distinctive urban spaces, from iconic neon nightlife to tranquil neighborhood backstreets. Tokyo, at its best, offers a new vision for a human-scale urban ecosystem, where ordinary residents can shape their own environment in ways large and small, and communities take on a life of their own beyond government master planning and corporate profit-seeking. In particular, five key features of Tokyo’s cityscape – yokochō alleyways, multi-tenant zakkyo buildings, undertrack infills, flowing ankyo streets, and dense low-rise neighborhoods -– enable this “emergent” urbanism, allowing the city to organize itself from the bottom up.
Unlike much of the existing discussions on Tokyo that emphasize its oriental uniqueness and mysterious chaos, this lecture analyzes the surprising yet comprehensible design principles that explain Tokyo’s most vibrant urban patterns and offers a practical guide on how to bring Tokyo-style intimacy, adaptability, and spontaneity to other cities on this planet and beyond.