Tokyo will finally be the host city for the 2020 Oympics, so here go my congratulations to the city and country. Madrid and Istanbul were the remaining runner-up cities. As an architect, it was interesting to see in the Tokyo presentation some images of the wonderful Kenzo Tange buildings for the 1964 games, with an apparent good urban insertion. As a matter of fact, I must recognized I did not follow in detail the bids, partly because I have recently had to study several such processes, which has led me to the conclusion that bids are sales brochures, but, well, in the real execution of the project lies the rub (as nearly always). Besides, as for Madrid I have the advantage of having my own vision (better or worse, but informed) on what can be done here. On whether the choice has been the good one, only time can tell…
But I have never visited Tokyo (or Istanbul, for that matter). Those following this blog will know that this does not prevent me from giving an opinion if I find what I consider to be qualified sources. As in most cases, even if the Olympic bid (brilliantly exposed to the IOC last Saturday) seemed interesting, my interest goes to understanding how the city works. My knowledge on Japanese culture is limited (in some moments of PM Shinzo Abe’s speech his assurances over Fukushima puzzled me as my references are western, but rhetoric etiquette is different in each country…), but I will try (and thank any comment from anyone with better data).
The Bureau of Urban Development of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government published in 2011 a document in English showing the official planning context. As almost everywhere in the world, the administrative borders seem to loose over time their link to reality: the ring road overflows the administrative metropolitan area. Some Japanese specialties are clear, as the approach to disaster prevention. And there is a clear emphasis on the urban recycling of consolidated areas.
The Global Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Regeneration (Tokyo University) also brings more sources. Unfortunately, the links to its website (csur.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp) are experiencing some problems. So let me propose a special experience: volume two of the CSUR Magazine (SUR), published in 2005, is titled “Understanding Tokyo”. Google still keeps a cached copy of the publication’s pdf, albeit without the images. I know that for those working in urban planning these images are essential to understand, but what really is relevant nowadays is not the lack of images, but rather that of meaningful explanations. So I propose to read the document (through http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://csur.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publication/sur/contents02.html) and, in case of interest, complement what it says with other sources about the city. If your language is not English, Google will probably propose you a translated version to your home language: it is an option, but beware that it can be a problem with the columns layout, which will not happen if you read the original English/Japanese version.
As for urban tissue and density (something I’m particularly interested in) I propose Okata and Murayama’s text on urban growth, urban form and sustainability