Re.CLAIM Does a change in peopleâ€™s perception influence complex urban issues?
Yuka Yoshida Master of Landscape Architecture Amsterdam Academy of Architecture
Re.CLAIM Can we set in motion a virtuous circle whereby a positive change in peopleâ€™s perceptions can engender further improvement in the urban environment? Re.CLAIM is a design proposal that aims to change the perception toward the Nihonbashi River over time in order to reconnect people to the urban river in the city of Tokyo. Since 1960â€™s, Nihonbashi River, known as the epicenter of Edo (current Tokyo) culture, is covered by the concrete structure of the metropolitan highway. This is the result of the tight schedule to open the highway for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the neglect toward the urban river during the postwar economical boom (1950-1970â€™s). Today, the massive concrete highway covers 90% of Nihonbashi River. Also the river is bounded by concrete flood walls to protect the lowland from the extreme high-tide. In addition, rows of buildings are facing their backs to the river limiting the visual connection from the land.The under-utilised dark and lifeless spaces along the river are making it even more difficult to feel the presence of the water that is runs through the city unnoticed. For this complex yet culturally and environmentally significant river, the design proposal of Re.CLAIM finds the opportunities in small scale interventions over long period of time to make Nihonbashi River more visible. Seeing the necessity to strengthen the flood walls for the expected natural disasters as the catalyst for the project to start, the new flood wall design integrates the adjacent under-utilised spaces with the fabric of surrounding neighbourhoods. The Re.CLAIM interventions accept the highway as a condition of the present Tokyo and respect the existing character of the adjacent neighbourhoods to be reflected on the water edge. Showing the spatial quality of the neglected river will gradually lead to improvement of the perception toward this once neglected space under the highway, and reclaim the urban life with Nihonbashi River in the future.
NIHON • Japanese noun; ‘JAPAN’
BASHI • Japanese noun; ‘BRIDGE’
• Japanese noun; ‘RIVER’
Nihonbashi Bridge with Mt.Fuji in Edo Period (1603-1868)
Nihonbashi Bridge Today, Tokyo (2014)
Inspired by Dutch water cities
In the past years that I lived in the Netherlands, I have witnessed the ways Dutch people live with water. Water is the significant part of the beauty of the landscape of this country and the core of the development of their economy. What seems to be a simply beautifulÂ landscape is a result of a complex water system and landscape interventions. Utalizing water beyond its function and creating an urban environment to enjoy living with water is what I was inspired the most. The ways water can benefit urban life is what I learned by being a landscape architecture student in Amsterdam. Tokyo, the city I was born was also originated as a city of water. The canals in Edo period (16031868) played an important role in the development of the city of Edo; this was vividly documented in Ukiyoe prints and written in number of Japanese literatures. However, the development of land transportations and polluted water during the rapid growth of the Japanese economy after the World War II diminished the value of canals in Tokyo. Today, many of the canals from Edo period have been filled and replaced by roads. In the centre of Tokyo, only a few historical canals remain. The few that are still remaining are largely inaccessible, and they are polluted by the surrounding dense urban environment. Disappeared water bodies and pollution of existing water, the majority of people in Tokyo have very little to no relationship with water in their daily lives.
Being in between these two cities, it makes me wonder how urban life in Tokyo could benefit by having more accessible water in the city center, as it is in Amsterdam. Although there are cultural differences, I believe that the existence of water brings richness to an dense urban environment and raise the awareness of our surroundings. My desire to find a way to approach contemporary issues of urban water in Tokyo with the knowledge of living with infrastructure I gained in the Netherlands, is my motivation and the starting point of my graduation project, Re.Claim.
“Tokyo is ashamed of the concrete”
Nihonbashi River is one of the remaining canals in downtown Tokyo, and the most symbolic canal from Edo period. It is 4.85 km long, and located in the central part of the city. The name originated from the most welknown bridge in Japan called Nihonbashi, which means Japan bridge. This monumental bridge is however, 90 % covered by the massive structure of Metropolitan highway, and it is the most controversial urban river conditions in Tokyo. Although there have been discussions about replacing the highway with an underground tunnel, according to the highway corporation’s, it is not their priority to replace or remove it in the near future. The reality is that the modernised city is heavily dependent on the raised highway and it is not ready to be removed. By focusing the discussion on the highway, people’s strong desire to reclaim the river has been put on hold. I chose this challenge as my graduation project. How can a design move this process of reclaiming Nihonbashi River forward without knowing if or when the highway will be removed? What can we do today to influence the future of Nihonbashi River? The origin of Nihonbashi River goes back to Edo period (1590-1868). In the Edo period, the Nihonbashi River was the centre of the trading in Japan. Many warehouses were built along the river and from here, goods were distributed to inland. It was also the place where entertainment of Edo flourished. The Japanese traditional performance, Kabuki, began along the Nihonbashi River. It was the epicentre of Edo culture. The biggest change came to Nihonbashi River in 1960’s. A few decades after the World War II (19391945), Japan had a period of great economical boom. The city of Tokyo went under a great change from the burnt field to the world class city. Network of infrastructure constructed, and the highway above the Nihonbashi River was also a part of this change in downtown Tokyo. The limited time and budget for the planning in order to meet the date of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, made it difficult to purchase the land for highways. Despite the voice of residents
against the plan, the curvilinear shape of the Nihonbashi River was suitable for the construction of the new highway, thus it was chosen to be the site. This was the time industrialisation polluted the water quality, and river was not seen as a valuable element in the city. Nihonbashi River lost the sky. This was the start of the city facing the back to Nihonbashi River. In the last decade, urban water management is an important topic in the world, and urban water system needs to be reevaluated beyond their nostalgic values. It is evident based on the similar projects in other parts of the world, improving the access and the quality of surface water can improve the quality of life in dense urban environment. In the recent history, water management in Tokyo is more focused on protecting people from natural disasters. Although there has been effort to restore urban rivers to attract people, it is still difficult to find a way to safely bring water back into the quality of urban life. This is one of the reasons why the images of beautiful canals in people’s mind are still strongly related to the nostalgic images from the past rather than the potential quality of the urban water. Tokyo is now facing new challenges. 2020, the Olympic game is coming back to Tokyo again. 56 years after the dramatic change the city went through, now it is once again time for the city to change for the future. Since the last olympics, modernised city of Tokyo changed the mentality of people and their identitiy. In 1960’s, top down development disconnected the urban life from water. Now it is time to reclaim again, not in the same way as it was in 1960’s, but for people to be a part of this changes. Not all at once as it was, but over time to create more resilient and rich urban landscape. It is the moment to change the perception of water from the symbol of the past to the opportunities for making a beautiful cityscape for the future.
NRC article, September 10th 2014
History of Riverbank
Change of attitude toward urban river
Edo period (1603-1868) Waterfront as the public gathering space.
Meiji period (1868 - 1912) Waterfront for lease trading. Begining of privatization.
Postwar (1945-) Poor water quality and decrease of water transportation made the water less important infrastracture of the city. Highway was placed on top of Nihonbashi River.
Urbanization & floodwalls (1970â€™s) Flood protection walls were built. Selling waterfront properties to private parties to fund the public works.
Meiji-Taisho period(1900-) River bank seen as a part of architecture and beauty of the city.
Buildings facing away from the River There are less windows facing the river. High flood walls took away visual and physical access to water.
What can we do Today?
Design as a tool to reach for a better future
Buildings are facing away from the river. City is dependent on the highway network.
Without knowing the future of Metropolitan Highway, Re.CLAIM will start a process to prepare the river to be a part of the urban life of Tokyo. Instead of waiting for the government to remove the highway, design can create a condition which will yield to a better future with or without the highway. Through this new relationship with urban river, peopleâ€™s desire to reclaim Nihonbashi River will be stronger. The power of peopleâ€™s desires can alter the priority and improve the way urban rivers exist in the city center of Tokyo.
Starting the process to reconnect with Nihonbashi River.
Highway or No Highway More possibilities for the future of Nihonbashi River to be reclaimed by people.
Invisible River from the Sky
Visiting the Darkness Under the Highway
Going through the space under the highway gave me a different perspective to the hidden river. The massive concrete walls, steel ceiling and columns created an atmosphere similar to being in Bailica Cistern. The sound of highway and the city were eased by water, and closed walls of the building facing the river added another layer of isolation to the shaded river. Remaining stonewalls from Edo period were hidden under the ramps. When you look closely, you can find the signatures of the people who placed them long before the highway was built. There were stories from the past layered under the highway. Juxtaposition of the old and massive highway structure presented the development from Edo to today. The experience of being in the space that has been isolated from the urban fabric for a long period of time was far from unpleasant.
Kanda River Watershed in Tokyo Prefecture
Tokyo Metropolitan Area Area: 2187,65 kmÂ˛ Population: 13.227.730 Population density:5920/ kmÂ˛
A a re
o ky o T
Kanda River Watershed population: 1.6 million urbanized area: 97.0% open space: 3.0%
Development of Nihonbashi River
2014 Disappeared canals in present Tokyo
1592 A shortcut to Sumida River for inland transportation.
1620 Kanda River was connected to Sunida River to secure drinking water for the people of Edo.
1603 The first Nihonbashi Bridge was built.
1639 Nihonbashi River was disconnected from Kanda to prevent flood.
1902 Nihonbashi River was reconnected to Kanda River to connect water transprtaiont with train transportation system.
Geography and Power Significance of the geological location of Nihonbashi
Water city, Edo Period
Position of Nihonbashi River represents the power and beauty of the Edo period. As many prints from Edo period show Mt.Fuji, Mt.Tsukuba and the top of Edo palace were visible from the bridge. Due to the close vicinity of the sea, it was the entry point to the Edo palace and the starting point of Japanese road network.
Lost body of water from Meiji Period
Disappeared water network became a network of highways
The lifeline of the city is replaced from water to highway network. The water pattern of Edo has been traced by the metropolitan highway and a few remaining canals. Nevertheless, Nihonbashi River is centrally located in the present city of Tokyo. It runs through the neighborhoods of stock exchange, Japanese National bank, shrines and other institutions which play significant roles in Japanese society. Tokyo station where approximately 1 million users come per day is only 10 minute walk from the river. Besides the residents of the neighborhood, there are students,
businessmen, tourists from all over the world coming to the area surrounding the river. There is no lack of activities surrounding Nihonbashi River today.
Green and Hihgway Pattern of Tokyo
public and private area in the city
Structure of the city of Edo is recognizable with the pattern of highway and green
Landscape of Tokyo
â€œinfrastructure + water + greenâ€?
where is green?
Urbanization since 1926
urbanized area 47.4% open space 52.6%
urbanized area open space
urbanized area 93.0% open space 7.0%
urbanized area 94.0% open space 6.0%
1955 urbanized area open space
2004 urbanized area 97.0% open space 3.0%
Nihonbashi River as a Urban Drainage River
Kanda River at the time of Guerrilla Storm
There are two sources of to Nihonbashi River. One is the cleaned waste water from watertreatment plants located in the upstream. The other is ebb and flow from Tokyo Bay. On sunny days, Ochiai Watertreatment Plant releases 220,000m3/day to Kanda River, and 1/3 to 1/2 of which is directed to Nihonbashi River, and the rest goes to Kanda River and to Sumida River. Which means approximately 230m3/second of water is going through Nihonbashi River on a normal day. Tokyo has one of the most advanced under-
ground flood prevention system. However, at the time of guerrilla storms, water level of urban rivers rises quickly and it puts the low land at risk. Nihonbashi River is not an exception. It is one of the most difficult challenges to improve the accesibility of urban rivers in Tokyo.
30% capacity to pipe 540,000m3 to Tokyo Bay
30% of the water which is not stored from Kanda River need to escape through Nihonbashi River to Tokyo Bay.
Flood walls are protecting the lowland of Tokyo
min.1m A.P. 5.5M
abnormal high tide
A.P. 2.0M A.P. -1.0M A.P. -3.0M
Typical Section: Nihonbashi River (+A.P. Arakawa Peil)
high tide low tide bottom of the river
The ebb and flow of water carries 480,000m3 of water from and to Tokyo Bay everyday. The difference between high tide and low tide can be between 80cm to 220cm during the spring tide, and at the neap tide, it is between 20cm â€“ 80 cm. This average difference of 150cm significantly affects the water quality and accessibility of Nihonbashi River. During the abnormal hightide, water level raises higher than the surrounding area of Nihonbashi River. There is also a risk of tsunami from Tokyo Bay at the time of earthquake. During the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, water raised higher than the estimated height. This brought attention to the stability of the flood
wall for the future possibility of great earthquake in Kanto region. Flood wall is necessary to live with the current condition of the river in lowland of Tokyo.
Elevation Map of the area around Nihonbashi River
areas above normal high-tide lower than abnormal hightide(A.P.+5m) areas below normal high-tide level (A.P.+_2m)
Construction of Flood Walls Flood wall is Repaired by piece by piece over time
Right flood wall repaired in 1973 by Iwata Construction Co.
Right flood wall repaired in 1972 by Yamada Construction Co.
Right flood wall repaired in 1972 by Ootomi Construction Co.
Floodwall Construction Plan provided by City of Tokyo Department 1
Flood wall is a continuous element. However they have been changed by different parties over time
Visible and Invisible River
c. b. d.
o s tat ion
Limited Space for Nihonbashi River in Multiple Layered City
Metropolitan Highway train track 24 bridges water
subway 3m - 15m underground
Nihonbashi River average width 40m
flood wall max.5.5m A.P.
flood wall max.5.5m A.P.
Subways/ Train network In the multilayered city,Tokyo, there is only limited space available for a river to run through. The obvious boundaries are the metropolitan highway and the flood walls. In addition to that, there are 8 subway lines going under the river, and 2 raised train tracks running through the space between the highway and water. There is no continuous open space adjacent to the river. In addition to that high property values of the areas limit the space for water to escape.
raised train tracks
70% of buildings are facing away
90% covered by Metropolitan Highway
Nihonbashi River i li ne
ouch maru n
da l ine
8 lines of underground subways
Land-use Reveals the Neglects toward Nihonbashi River
legend road green space parking service bridge landing miscellaneous
Flood wall and the highway caused another wall of negative perception around the river Peopleâ€™s negative perception towards the space under Metropolitan Highway has influenced the building typologies and land-use of the adjacent areas along the river. The combination of these walls makes the river
even more inaccessible. My proposal is to take thiis wall of negative perception by improving the spaces adjacent to Nihonbashi River.
Wall of Shame to Wall of Life Design concept
Wall of Shame
Wall of Life
Design Principle The interverntions strengthen the flood wall while they bring people and nature closer to the river.
Flood Wall Nihonbashi River
support wall existing wall
Flood Wall as Public Space Urban Activities + Nihonbashi River
Palette of Reclaimed Walls Reacts to Urban Life Walls beyond protection. Small units of intervention for big impact.
Low Tide 0-1m A.P.
High Tide 1-2m A.P.
Insentives for Private Parties
tax free space
Minimal Urban Interventions yield Large Impacts
Minimal scale of the intervention allows changes to start tomorrow. Over time the changes will be more and more visible from the people who come to the area close to Nihonbashi River. If more people experience
the value of having a river next to their every day lives, there will be stronger force to improve urban rivers in the city of Tokyo. One day, the effect will go beyond and into the surrounding areas.
Kand Case Study IV
da Station Nihonbashi
Case Study II Tokyo Stock Exchange
Case Study I
pr om en ad e
Case Study I
view point boatlanding
w t o
sumida river promenade
Site I: Entrance from Sumida River -No Highway. -Entry to Nihonbashi River from the bay area and Sumida River. -Potential to connect with the promanade of Sumida River. -Walls are more than 2 meter higher than the surrounding area. -Boatlanding for larger boat from Sumida River is missing.
Case Study II
mitsukoshi department store
Site II: Nihonbashi Bridge -Landmark of Tokyo. -Most Visited part of Nihonbashi River -Crossing point of shopping area and Financial district -Boatlanding for the tourists is located.
Case Study III
10 min to Kanda station
new commercial space bridge plaza
green promanade new commercial space tokyo station
Site III: Tokyo Station and Ferry Landing -Close to Tokyo Station -Dynamic View point of the City -Unutalized space under the trantrack -Large Parking space along the river.
Case Study II
kyouritu womenâ€™s collegehool alternative
boat landing Institute of Education
view to the palace pedestrian bridge
Site IV: Entrance to the Imperial Palace -Close to Imperial Palace -Hidden Historical stone walls -Surrounded by University and Highschools -Close to Kudanzaka Station
“The power of people’s desires to reconnect with Nihonbashi River will move the city towards the river.”
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Yuka Yoshida Master of Landscape Architecture Amsterdam Academy of Architecture Mentor Maike van Stiphout Commission members Paul Achterberg Boris Hocks 2015