Map Critique_Made in Tokyo

Made in Tokyo | Momoyo Kaijima, Junzo Kuroda, Yoshiharu Tsunamoro of Atelier Bow Wow

Criteria

Given my background in architecture, I am interested in the role of mapping in the study and research on architecture and urban planning. However, as Shannon mentions earlier in the course, architects usually have an agenda or a hypothesis before they even start collecting data for mapping. Therefore, as part of my map critique, I would like to choose a study done by architects that utilizes the idea of mapping purely as a study. In other words, the map that must be open-ended, and not become conclusive, and limited to an architectural or urban proposal.

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Background | The survey of nameless and strange buildings in Tokyo

Atelier Bow Wow is an architectural practice based in Tokyo, Japan, well known for their architecture and research on micro public spaces, and ad-hoc architecture. Kajima and Tsunamoro studied Architecture in Europe, and the idea for their “Made in Tokyo” project originated when they recognized the vast difference between European cities and their native Tokyo, particularly the eccentric spatial compositions and functional combinations that would be unimaginable in a traditional European city. They claim that these buildings are in fact “an intricate reflection of concrete urban situation” that is very specific to Tokyo, and instead of overlooking them and using only famous architecture as a criteria base for designing in Tokyo, maybe these buildings could be a source for inspiration.

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Criteria | Da-me Architecture

Da-me architecture (No-good architecture) are not A grade building types, such as libraries and museums. They are B grade building types, such as car parking and batting centers that borderline between architecture and civil engineering. They don’t respond to cultural context and history; however, they are economically efficient answers to the pragmatic requirements with minimal effort. As such, they do a very good job at conveying the reality of Tokyo Urban space.

For their guidebook “Made in Tokyo,” they gathered about 70 typologies of da-me architecture based on category, structure and use. For example, in the hybrid between expressway and department stores, the traffic above and the shopping center below belong to different categories and have no use relation, and they are united only via structural order.

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Method of representation

The format Atelier Bow Wow chose to represent was that of a guidebook, along with a virtual map of Tokyo in traditional ukiyo-e style. Guidebooks categorized the way a city is used, and could potentially become a tool for urban planning. However, a guidebook doesn’t need to have a conclusion, clear beginning nor order.

Map Critique

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The map aims to create a resource for architects to study the no-good, grade B architecture of the city by ignoring the famous and landmark architecture. Mapping the hybrid uses of the buildings establishes the possibilities for co-existence and promote creativity and freedom for production. However, by creating a “virtual” map of Tokyo, the purpose was lost as it drives the reader out of context. To expand, while the architects claim that da-me architecture is the by-product of Tokyo’s hyper-dense urban planning, an interesting urban species that could only be found in Tokyo, their map does not show the city of Tokyo. We lose the urban context. In my opinion, the architects would have made a better point by populating the actual streetscapes of Tokyo with these 70 different hybrid buildings.

The map, itself, is very clear and graphically simple. It is a map of buildings in an urban context. However, the disadvantage is that the map could represent only so much. From looking at the map alone, one could not imagine what is happening with these buildings and why they are mapped in such a way. A better example of using the guidebook format would be the maps of Cities without Ground. The use of color for different levels of ground, the occasional captions on landmarks and spaces, and the ghosted buildings at the background to create a sense of hierarchy help to make the reader understand the complexity of the elevated subway networks without falling out of the urban context.

Prototype

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Through my prototype, I aim to use the example of Cities without Ground to demonstrate how “Made in Tokyo” presents the da-me architecture out of context and fails to show the co-existence of programs in these buildings.

The idea is to color-code the buildings on the map based on different relationships in cross-pollination of programs: in terms of category, use and structure. And to further explain these relationships in different maps with captions and more colors. I have also ghosted in the surrounding buildings to create a sense of contextual understanding.

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