Andreas Broeckmann on Thu, 12 Jul 2001 12:26:53 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Urban New Deal Policy - Minoru Mori

Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001 12:49:54 -0400
From: Amanda Ramos <>

Urban New Deal Policy

by Minoru Mori

Urban New Deal Policy-Aiming for recovery from the second defeat following
the war

Japan is facing a time of great directional change that could even be
referred to as The Second Great Depression.
The revitalization of Tokyo is essential, as the 21st century will be an
era of metropolitan nations.
In fact, as the world becomes increasingly internationalized and
information-oriented, people, goods, money, and information will be
concentrated in attractive cities that will transcend national borders.
If we go back to basics and decide what kind of lifestyle we are looking
for, it will become clear that it will be vitally important to invest
significantly in a basic social infrastructure capable of providing answers
to our current problems. Considerable investment will be necessary to
improve both the amount of living space per capita and the urban
environment, aspects of life that have evidently been forgotten in Japan at
the end of the 20th century. The desire to establish a new lifestyle based
on multiple-use urban complexes, which would offer shorter distances
between home and work and an improved urban environment, coupled with a
concrete plan on how to proceed, will by itself create demand and a new
wave of economic growth. This is true because economic growth has always
been sustained by demand in the real economy. In other words, in the past
when the Japanese were still materially poor, their desire was directed
toward goods, but what people want now is a society in which they can feel
their wealth both psychologically and culturally.
The ultimate goal of the Urban New Deal Policy is to nurture affluent urban
life by doubling urban space and increasing free time. One of the reasons
Japanese people do not really see themselves as being affluent, despite the
fact that the country is now one of largest economies of the world, is
their restricted housing space. Per capita living and working space in
Japan is far smaller than in the other leading industrialized nations. This
is true not only for private-use space, but also for total per capita
space. Furthermore, the amount of urban infrastructure such as parks,
roads, parking space, cultural facilities, and hospitals is also clearly
insufficient. It is crucial to create ample urban space through the
expansion of both residential and business space, while at the same time
incorporating necessary functions into urban residents' lives. Doubling
housing space will offer less stressful lifestyles, but also diversify
housing functions, including home entertainment, and allow greater
diversification of hobbies, as well as such developments as SOHO (small
house, home office).

Along with the creation of more residential and office space, another goal
of the Urban New Deal is to create time for urban citizens. Time is a very
precious commodity both for individuals and companies, but it is currently
used inefficiently because of long commuting hours, endless traffic jams
and two-dimensional urban sprawl. This situation makes social contacts
difficult and wastes people's time and money, as well as causing mental

One solution that will help us achieve a decrease in inefficiently used
time and an increase in leisure time is a reduction of traffic jams through
improvement of the road infrastructure. Another useful way to reduce
commuting time would be to promote central city housing and create
multipurpose cities where workplaces and residences are close together.

Leaving road problems for later discussion, I would here like to discuss
the promotion of central city housing and the creation of cities with
integrated functions.

There is no doubt that promoting central city housing can reduce commuting
time. Currently, commuters working in the four central wards of Tokyo spend
a daily average of 2 hours 20 minutes commuting. Reducing this by half
would allow those people to have much more spare time to spend on their own
interests, such as shopping, cultural activities, volunteer activities
(with NPOs and NGOs), community activities, side businesses, lifelong
studies, or family activities. In fact, this reduction could very well
change the way people look at their lives.

With a doubling of leisure time, people would spend their time and money
creating their own individual lifestyles and fulfilling their intellectual
interests. This change in consumers' attitudes could lead to prosperity in
various urban-type or knowledge industries, including education, culture,
information and entertainment.

Central city housing can be achieved by combining current small land lots
and building high-rise structures. Such new structures would enable the
unification of various urban functions, such as work, housing, retail,
leisure, education, medical, and administrative facilities, and thereby
place all facilities within walking distance of homes or businesses. If we
achieve this goal, free time will be significantly increased, allowing
people to fully enjoy urban functions.

Having cities with such comprehensive functions within walking distance
will be helpful both to the increasing numbers of aged and the decreasing
number of children per household. Such cities can provide not only safe but
also an intellectually stimulating living environment for the elderly and
the young alike, and will also provide an environment in which women with
children will be able to work full time without worry.

Such an environment with highly integrated urban functions will become
absolutely necessary for international businesspeople using information
networks. They will require urban space that provides 24-hour business
facilities, as well as the various aspects that support that kind of
workstyle, such as housing close to work, information networks, plus
cultural, educational, and shopping facilities for free time. If we meet
these needs, cities will attract people from both inside and outside Japan
in the intellectual and knowledge industries.

It has to be stressed that our priority is to improve the urban environment
through the integration of building sites, and that constructing high-rise
buildings is not a goal in itself. In order to implement this plan, we will
have to lead the country toward the goal of keeping the percentage of area
covered by buildings low while actually increasing usable space through the
construction of high-rise building developments which, by their very
nature, create large open spaces with trees and lawns, through the
expansion and merging of land units, including a reorganization of urban
land units and reorganization of urban streets.

In fact, I genuinely believe it is time to look for a new direction for
achieving highly functional cities with the comforts of affluence based on
an Asian style of highly concentrated societies. This is a chance to leave
to future generations beautiful, environmentally friendly cities that are
not merely copies of Western cities. It is fully possible with present
Japanese building technology to created "vertically integrated cities with
parks" and downtown areas with high-rise buildings but with green spaces
and a wide variety of activities surrounding such buildings.

Construct buildings with better earthquake resistance.
POINT ONE: We need better earthquake-resistant construction. This is an
essential point for city planning. We need the best technology for
earthquake-resistant construction. We need to construct buildings that can
withstand earthquakes that register 7 on the Japanese seven-point seismic
scale without loss of life. At the same time, we need our utilities
(electric power, water supply, etc.) to be earthquake resistant as well.

Innovate systems to erect buildings that will adapt to social changes.
POINT TWO: We should introduce systems to erect buildings that will be
adaptable to social changes. An example is "skeleton-fill-in technology,"
in which the frame of a building is built with high earthquake-resistant
technology, while room arrangements, interiors, and facilities can be
changed as needs change. In this way we can avoid unnecessary rebuilding
due to obsolescence. Residential construction should set the fundamental
parameters such as width and the height of the ceiling, while keeping
flexible and easily replaceable systems for plumbing and wiring as well as
adaptable interior decorations both for condominiums and rental units.

Nurture and expand the existing secondhand property market.
POINT THREE: We should nurture and expand the existing secondhand property
market. It is essential to have a mature secondhand market to provide
rational liquidity necessary for high-quality property. For example, we
need for the market to be equipped with both private and government
organizations to make reasonable appraisals and financial settlements, and
consistent management for both regular and large-scale maintenance of
secondhand residences.

Create a system of urban civic and cultural aesthetics.
POINT FOUR: We must create a system of urban aesthetics, including scenic
and cultural aspects. The urban framework and buildings, which can be
expected to last for 100 to 200 years, should have an atmosphere of
permanent beauty. It is absolutely necessary, if we want to create cities
where residents and visitors can enjoy life and culture and will find the
environment pleasing, that we make plans to integrate green spaces, clear
urban signage, street furniture, scenic lighting design, and billboards
into our future urban planning.

We have to face the fact that cities are the arenas for the development of
life culture. People have always been, and will continue to be, attracted
to cities because of the joy of seeing and being seen. If we are to meet
these demands, we have to be able to create cities where both residents and
commuters can enjoy their beauty, grow proud of them, and feel at home,
while also satisfying visitors' sense of aesthetics and making them want to
come back again and again. By these efforts, we can leave historically
valuable cities to future generations.
-----Minoru Mori

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