Defying the cult of speed: in search of resonance in urban Japan
Michael Drewing (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Paper short abstract:
Concerns of alienation provoked by the constant acceleration of society lead to new questions in urban planning. 'Resonance' and 'human scale' are two approaches to understand and tackle those problems as seen in the urban environment of Shimokitazawa, Tōkyō.
Paper long abstract:
In the district of Shimokitazawa in the west of Tōkyō, different ideas of what it means to be a city dweller are colliding. Despite strong and long-lasting opposition from residents, large-scale remodeling of the district currently takes place. The Odaykū-Railway-Line has been placed underground and the surrounding area of Shimokitazawa station undergoes a remodeling that includes the construction of a 26 meter wide road. While residents are trying to protect the individuality of the district, urban planners primarily focus on traffic control and disaster prevention. A clash of concepts concerning the very essence of city-life takes place, addressing the question of how we ought to construct our living-environments. For the vast majority of the global population, the future will be defined by urbanization. This trend brings upon us tremendous challenges. While we design our future cities, we also define our shared living environment. It is a growing understanding that this environment must be shaped for the well-being of its inhabitants. Only some weeks ago, the participants of the third UN-Habitat conference pointed towards the 'quality public spaces and streets […] considering the human scale'. While the concept of 'human scale' is not new to architects and urban planners, it is difficult to unveil the exact meaning behind it. I argue that the 'human scale' can and must be combined with the concept of 'resonance' as formulated by the German sociologist Hartmut Rosa. According to Rosa, human beings need to establish a connection to the world to counter the acceleration of modern society and to prevent alienation. A carefully designed living-environment, a tremendously important element in life, easily qualifies as what Rosa calls an 'axis of resonance' and allows us to establish a meaningful connection to the world. As both, recipients and emitters of resonance, we need human-scale cities to live in and a city-planning framework that allows individuals to have significant impact on their surroundings without permanently colliding with the interests of others. Taking the example of Shimokitazawa, my research explores the meaning and significance of resonance in urban environments as consideration for future city-planning.
Conceptualising speed and deceleration