Identity and Sustainability 

towards new ways of urban redevelopment in an age of shrinking cities


In this book, I have tried to tackle research on urban redevelopment projects in Japan from the perspective of open space. An important factor in progressing my research was my collaboration with my co-researcher, Prof. Hans Binder (BFH-AHB, Architect) from the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland. We carried out much joint research on “sustainable urban redevelopment”, focusing particularly on case studies of the redevelopment of post-industrial sites in Switzerland and Japan. On the occasions when I guided Prof. Binder around case study sites in Japan, the term that I often heard him use was “identity”. Even when I guided him to development sites which had attracted great acclaim, the look in his eyes was as if every place was the same. When he spoke about this lack of individuality, the argument I sometimes used to counter him was the following: “Even within Europe, the habit of sticking fast to one’s identity seems to be particularly strong among the Swiss people, and the system-based limitations that operate in Japan may make it difficult for me to counter this, but within the Japanese framework, we are making every possible effort to present special Japanese characteristics”. The essence of that debate still remains in my heart.

  To give a specific example of the way it has influenced me, whenever I meet the designer of a building or the person in charge of the administration of an urban development project, I tend to ask: “So what do you think about the identity of this place?”, at which, on many occasions, a look of bewilderment appears on the person’s face, as if this question is being posed for the first time. Of course, I have had debates which asked the impossible, like trying to compare projects in Japan, where scrap-and-build is a basic precondition, with Europe, where there is an abundance of historic buildings, and where people have a high degree of interest in conservation. It was also argued by Tetsuro Watsuji in his book, Climate, in 1935, that scrap-and-build was a basic characteristic of Japan, a country in which natural disasters were frequent, and that this was part of the Japanese climate; this characteristic seems to have intensified since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Some architects have argued  that new buildings are being designed with an identity, while on the other hand, landscape architects refute this, and assert that there are historical links with the characteristics of local areas and open space, and with the formation of texture, and that a sense of locality is very important. It was as an extension of these points that the debate developed into the question of the way in which identity was important within the context of sustainability, and that was what constituted the basic driving force that triggered the publication of this book.

  The major focus in the content of this book is on case studies of the redevelopment of post-industrial sites. However, that said, the arguments in the book are also pertinent for other development projects. If the book contributes in however small a way to urban development in Japan in the future and to an understanding of the importance of creating space, I will be content.

  I also wish to put on record my receipt of a Grant for the Publication of Research Results from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The foundation of my research was carried out in 2007-2008 under the title “Research concerning the development of urban adjustment in accordance with sustainable local management”, funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research(C). The content was enriched by research information that was subsequently added. I wish to express my gratitude to JSPS for their continuing assistance.




 これまで日本の市街地再開発事業について、オープンスペースの観点から研究に取り組んできた。そしてスイスの共同研究者ハンス・ビンダー教授(スイス ベルン応用科学大学)とスイスと日本の産業施設跡地の再開発の事例を中心に「持続可能な都市再開発」について検討を重ねてきた。彼に日本の事例をいくつか案内して見せている時に彼が発した言葉が「アイデンティティ」である。話題のホットスポットとなっている開発地も彼の目にはいわば「金太郎飴」のように何処も同じに見えるようであった。「ヨーロッパの中でもとりわけアイデンティティに固執するスイス人らしいな、そんなこと言っても日本の場合には制度上の限界もあるし、その枠の中でそれぞれ特徴を出すのにせいいっぱいやっている」と反論はしたものの、その議論はずっとこびりついていた。



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