I-AUD | International Program in Architecture and Urban Design

Tokyo Studies 2019 TOKYO REQUALIFY: Spaces and Practice of Requalification in Tokyo by Davisi Boontharm

by Davisi Boontharm

This research project focuses on the significance of requalification in resource approach to sustainable city. It addresses and theorises the terminology and practices of requalification by expanding its importance to not only environmental but also cultural sustainability. The research underpinning this project was inspired by the idea of upcycling, which emphasizes the comprehensive understanding of the material dimensions of products and the importance of design that can move beyond the less bad (recycle) to the realm of “simply” good (upcycle) practices. The project questions the current emphasis on reuse as too narrowly functionalistic and proposes the broadening of the idea of upcycling to include the values other than use and money and recognise diverse symbolic, sign, environmental and other dimensions of reality.

The project starts with criticism of the sectorial way of thinking about material objects and an inadequacy of instrumentalized ecological philosophy associated with such thinking and establishes the need for transdisciplinary approaches to the production of knowledge about the material objects and spaces. We argue that sensitive requalification of the existing resources and built environments generates novel and culturally attuned qualities.

The discussion of several cases of requalification across scales portrays various degrees of complexity and demonstrates how those practices correspond to the more profound eco-cultural sensibility. Lastly, we examine the crucial roles of art and design in requalification, which have the capacity to celebrate the non-measurable values of objects and spaces. Seen as an active synergy between the culture of reuse and local creativities, requalification provides a workable alternative to the practices driven by dominant global, capital-led development agendas, which generate the unsustainable sameness across the world.

Tokyo is a good example of city that possesses one of the most efficient waste management systems in the world. It uses the technological solutions of waste management to compensate and justify its unsustainable practices such as scrap and build which dominates the Japanese construction industries. The life span of buildings in Tokyo is about 27 years old, shortest compare to other developed countries. The fast pace of replacement of urban artefacts brings an important question to both environmental and cultural sustainability. The embodied energy in each building got wasted due to its short life-span and the city keep losing its potential tangible cultural heritage in favour of growth in the construction industries. In the case of Tokyo, recycle only solves the problem of landfill but cannot change the consumption behaviour of its citizen. The practice still depends on energy consumption and the loss of cultural heritage still continues. Tokyo is unable to achieve sustainability with technical solution alone, we undeniably need holistic view to resource approach for sustainable city which could be possible through transdisciplinary thinking and action.

ON REQUALIFICATION AND CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY by Davisi Boontherm