Studio Focus

The research studio is a design analog to the Urban Humanities Initiative. The research component of the studio will focus on the development of narratives of risk, resilience, and recovery in the contemporary megalopolis.

Recent events like extreme weather events like Katrina and Sandy, extensive wildfires in the Western US, and the combined natural and environmental disaster of the tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant have led to greater scrutiny of the precarious set of assumptions that underlie the relationships we establish for the interface of the natural and manmade environment. The broader issue of rising sea levels has been the subject of technical projections and the source for design speculation in exhibits like Rising Tides at the Museum of Modern Art. The vastness and society-wide impacts of the disaster of 3/11/11 in Japan introduces a super-wicked problem so multifaceted and complex that it defies systematic intervention. Nested economic, social, technological assumptions contribute to a set of variables that are interrelated and simultaneous, defying attempts at modeling from single disciplines or environmental factors.

Rising sea levels introduce a level of inevitability to the eventual reconsideration of the constructed perimeter of coastal cities. We will not solve complex issue of global sea level change in the course of a three quarter design seminar, and recognize a level of futility in addressing the problem by developing more thorough tidal models or by identifying sturdier foundations for more resistant buildings. We propose to acknowledge a significant level of unpredictability in complex problems intend to respond by creating public spaces that allow for adaptation and improvisation.

Nature of Disaster

Within the fundamental chronology of disaster response is an embedded assumption of an interim condition: the time between the disaster and the presumed return to normal. This chronology of assumes a cyclical or wave like series of events: life as we know it, the interim—response and assessment—and the return to normal. The focus of the studio is an effort to investigate the spatial characteristics of this interim space through the creation of public spaces adjacent to athletic venues that will be developed for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

While physically unaffected, following the earthquake and tsunami Tokyo lost power and transportation infrastructure and consequently, a massive population of displaced. With few gathering places, a massive population of displaced citizens eventually walked out of the city, in some cases following the deserted tracks of the train lines normally used for commuting.

Staging the new normal sees interim space as the space of the displaced, through either planned or unanticipated events, in this case drawing an analogy between the type of urban space needed to support the flux of visitors to a global sporting event and space needed to temporarily assess disasters and support those affected. We will be distinguishing between planning and improvisation and designing infrastructure and interventions capable of supporting the inherent capacity of societies to adapt.

Tokyo and the Olympics

The city, repeatedly reconstructed in the past century following the earthquake of 1923 and firebombing during WWII, is structured in response to those circumstances, its fireproof nature is reflected in its urban design, with taller buildings creating fire containment from neighborhood to neighborhood. In order to reestablish industry and commerce, the water perimeter of the city was reconstructed early and is largely obsolete. Development in the city is largely a matter of adding increments of density and minimized the historical relationship between the city and its waterfront.

The city has comparatively little public space, with vast areas designated for transportation infrastructure and much of the city privatized. The planned venues for the 2020 Olympics will be used as catalysts for proposals for new public gathering spaces. The distributed nature of the venues at the periphery of the city have the capacity to create a network of spaces for public gathering and to support activities beyond the limited time of the Olympics.

Tokyo has been a subject of reclamation and reconsideration for much of the postwar period. Kenzo Tange’s seminal Yoyogi Olympic Arena the Olympics constructed for the 1964 Games became the symbol of the country’s postwar re-emergence and presaged the work of the Metabolists in the decade that followed. Tange’s impact on the next generation of practitioners was considerable: Koolhaas credits Tange with reestablishing the social status of the profession and the reinvention of the architect in Japan. Koolhaas further suggests that Metabolism emerged in recognition of the “impossibility” and precariousness of the society and suggested an imperative for total transformation.

Analysis of the Tokyo Bay projects of the Metabolists will be case studies used to assess the implications of creating addition space within the dense city of Tokyo. 



Kevin Daly