Problems and Possibilities_The Residential Suburbs of Tokyo

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Collage, Colour, Students

Problems and Possibilities_The Residential Suburbs of Tokyo

Rugile Ropolaite


After WWII, Tokyo expanded in the shape of suburbs, many of which, today are becoming socially and physically obsolete. I attempted to analyse how physical environment of residential suburbs has affected the social life of the dwellers. Kashiwa Village in Kashiwa City, Chiba prefecture in the northern part of Tokyo metropolitan area serves as a case study for and depicts the possible design solutions for that area. Despite it’s organized planning and specific characteristics, Kashiwa Village does contain the same issues as other, less planned old residential Tokyo suburbs: ageing population, occurrence of vacant homes, lack of proper public infrastructure and loss of community vitality. Nevertheless, declining population can be seen as an opportunity when creating socially and economically sustainable future suburbs. In order to achieve that, new planning measures should response to local qualities and needs of each suburban area. With Japan’s Land Readjustment principles and the main asset of Kashiwa Village, which is residents knowledge and admiration of greenery, future strategies for a lively community space and conversion of suburban homes are created. The outcome is a colorful  juxtaposition of different ownerships, ideas, uses and functions that residents see as relevant in order the keep their hometown alive in the declining future.


shop interior

(C:\Users\Rugil353\Desktop\08 04 planai visi Model (1))

(C:\Users\Rugil353\Desktop\Kashiwa Village dwg\03.16 detai


Who influences you graphically?

Emptiness does not merely imply simplicity of form, logical sophistication, and the like. Rather, emptiness provides a space within which our imaginations can run free, vastly enriching our powers of perception and our mutual comprehension.“ (Kenya Hara, 2008)

In this case it was a juxtaposition of different ideas and images. I see it as a collision of my European background and the Japanese context. The graphical style as a whole is inspired by various architectural offices whose graphic style I admire – from to Dogma to Point Supreme, from legendary Superstudio to maybe a young architectural office that I just discovered. I admire such style, because it does not have any limits of how to convey an idea, it is a pure montage and even fiction in some cases, that takes elements from different mediums – painting, graphics, sculpture, photography, cinema, anything that can be important to the site, the people, the idea. It always allows and requires one to be on the look out and pay attention to other art forms. For instance, in the case of this project, it took the  elements from Japanese woodblock prints, ukiyo-e, a genre from Edo period and one of the most beautiful forms of painting, that is ageless, modern and specific to Japan.

_Exterior view

What format did the research of these post war dwellings take? Why do you neglect to show it as part of the proposal? 

The research itself was a purely theoretical investigation, that included analysis of the history, attending a OECD meeting in Tokyo regarding the future planning in Japan, interviews with locals and reading all the English-written books and articles, that I could find about Tokyo suburbia and post-war period, especially from an urban planners perspective. At that time I was living in Japan and I could not understand Japanese language therefore my sources of information were quite limited. The research was portrayed with old existing diagrams and plans, depicting the ideas of XX century planners in Japan, photographic maps that helped me to discover the process of suburban development. Most importantly the real life photographs that I took, portrayed my research findings – urban sprawl, irrationally mixed developments, vacant houses and properties, lack of infrastructure and properly maintained public spaces, in the best way, is some cases very realistic and alarming, but that is what I aimed for.

The proposal and the strategy is a direct response to my research findings, it in itself is another chapter, currently a fictional one, that takes place in the far future, that, due to the unstoppable decline, will be different from the existing situation. However this chapter is still not finished, the question of politics, management and execution of this strategy for declining suburbia is still a question mark that leaves space for further research and requires expertise from other specialists.

(C:\Users\Rugil353\Desktop\Kashiwa Village dwg\03.16 detai

What dictated the use of monochromatic palette for the technical drawings compared to a more vibrant coloured palette for the perspectives?

The plan drawings in my vision provide an overview from a distance and show more information about the logic and spatial layout of the master plan vision, the common space and houses in it. When I was developing the graphics, coloured version of the drawings did not look right, it stole focus from the important information I wanted to portray, plus together with the already vivid collages it looked too heavy. I decided to make them black and white, but at the same time not turn them into your usual technical drawing. I wanted to challenge myself, so I used the combinations of different patterns and hatches that would show the vividness of the spaces I had envisioned. In the perspectives one becomes an insider and sees personally from a human point of view of how the places could look like, all the elements, colors and textures and what mood they would create.

(C:\Users\Rugil353\Desktop\Kashiwa Village dwg\03.16 detai

(C:\Users\Rugil353\Desktop\Kashiwa Village dwg\03.16 detai

What defined the specific views you chose to reveal the proposal through?

Some of the specific views are real photographs from Kashiwa Village turned into the future visions of how they could like when the use of  buildings will change. I chose the most informative angles I could find to demonstrate the ideas, as the houses are so densely built. The interior collages, however, are based on 3D models of the existing homes  photographed and again demonstrate the activities that would take place when those homes would be retrofitted – a home for the elderly, child-care facility, a shop, workshops – facilities that, according to my research residents found relevant in Kashiwa Village.

one house exterior


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