Still Grouching (Modern Architecture Projects in Japan)

Michael Ende whose book Momo we are reading in class talks about the way that wrong relationship with time negatively affects the shape and liveability of space.

Last but not least, the appearance of the city itself changed more and more. Old buildings were pulled down and replaced with modern ones devoid of all the things that were now thought superfluous. No architect troubled to design houses that suited people who were to live in them, because that would have meant building a whole range of different houses. It was far cheaper and, above all, more timesaving to make them identical.


 Our man in Rome in his celebration of the Good Word [222-225]  writes about ‘the politics of space’ and describes it as:

  • utopian,
  • driven by a sense of urgency,
  • seeking to achieve instantaneous fulfilment (and therefore)
  • always short-term,
  • frozen in time and
  • vulnerable to abuses of power.

The politics of time (that cannot be separated from space), by contrast, allows

  • for transformation through growth,
  • for change as a process,
  • for acceptance of limitation and finitude,
  • for the seeding of ideas and their gradual nourishment in people’s hearts and minds, and in our institutions.

Time, writes Pope Francis, is greater than space. I think this may be some kind of koan. I have it dangling on my prayer rope.


New buildings will help define our future cities, but what do people want from them?

A recent survey from design company Sasaki asked people from six different US cities what they loved and hated about their urban environment.

It revealed a passion for old buildings – 57% of those surveyed looked at old buildings when walking down the street, compared with 15% who admired skyscrapers. Only 17% wanted more shiny, iconic buildings. 

[Source: BBC]

I’d be interested to know what the results of a similar survey in Japan would reveal.


Don’t get me started on Olympic architecture slated to happen in one of the capital’s most beautiful parks (and one of my particular, favourite green spaces).

I was relieved at least to see Professor Maki’s objections.

“I’m saying it’s just ridiculous,” he said. “We are raising our voices, but they don’t listen.”

. . .

He has accused the sports council of bureaucratic arrogance and leading Tokyo down the same road that Beijing took in 2008.

“Somebody at the decision-making level wants to do it again, just like in the case of China,” he said.

“They want to show off shining technology so that people will marvel at it. It is exactly the same mentality in our government.”

“We have a very modernised country but we still have a bureaucracy that governs everything,” the designer of the 1964 gymnasium added. “We are not a civil society where citizen voices can be critical.


Which makes me wonder: what in the heck am I doing in Higher Education in this land if as, Rowan Williams, our former man in Canterbury wrote: “The academy’s greatest gift is in cultivating a critical citizenry who cannot be treated as fools?” But that’s for another time.

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