I-AUD | International Program in Architecture and Urban Design

Tokyo Workshop 2017 IAUD + USC + University of Adelaide


The average lifespan of buildings in Tokyo is 26 years. The average age of residents of Tokyo is 44 years. Tokyo is a city in which the people are, on average, older than the buildings. In addition, Tokyo was almost completely destroyed twice in the past century – first in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923; then in the devastating allied firebombing in 1945. These statistical and historical facts highlight an oft-remarked aspect of Tokyo’s urban landscape: that it appears to lack monuments – stable, enduring artefacts that provide a tangible connection to past times.

Monuments are to urban space what photographs are to daily life. They pluck a moment out of the flow of life and suspend it in motionless counterpoint against Kamo-no-Chomei’s ever-moving river. But Tokyo shows that when the physical monuments of a city are absent, “temporal monuments” – formal patterns of collective life that are repeated regularly, such as festivals, rituals, cyclical activities – can establish the stable datums and historical reference points served by the built monuments of other cities. We can call this the public “rhythm” of Tokyo.

And while enduring, symbolically concentrated built monuments may be rare, there are other physical elements of Tokyo’s urban space that endure over historical timespans and have collective meaning. Natural features, such as rivers and hills; anchors of tradition such as temples and shrines; and patterns of movement as seen in major roads, bridges, and other infrastructural lines provide the durable ‘base map’ across which the rest of the city flows and metabolises.

Through focussed exploration and intervention on a concrete site in Tokyo, this studio aims to engage these inter-connected temporal and spatial dimensions of Tokyo’s urban environment, seeking to create vivid articulations and embodiments of its particular “rhthymicity”.