Sponsors:Fukuoka Jisho Co., Ltd. Fukuoka Realty Co., Ltd.
 Co-sponsor:Shinkenchiku-sha Co., Ltd.   

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July 1, 2020
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Theme Discussion

A city where people want to live and work
──On holding the Fukuoka International
  Architectural Design Competition

Shohei Shigematsu, Masataka Baba, Chiaki Hayashi,
Michiaki Matsushima, Ichiro Enomoto


When holding the Fukuoka International Architectural Design Competition, the judges discussed how we interpret Fukuoka and Seaside Momochi and what kind of future we should be contemplating. There are many clues here, so we hope you will find this helpful as a reference for your application.



Updating the vision of the future from 30 years ago

──What do you think about the potential of Fukuoka or Seaside Momochi?

Shohei Shigematsu (hereinafter, Shigematsu): I believe Fukuoka, where I was born and raised, is the city in Japan (an island nation, remember) where you have the strongest sense of borders. Information signs are in three languages (English, Chinese, and Korean) in addition to Japanese, and you can see the influence of neighboring Asian countries in the food culture. Additionally, although it is now suffering from the effect of the coronavirus, international tourism has been thriving here. The diversity that this border city brings is probably what has cultivated its unique culture. Until about 10 years ago, the development that we had in mind was modeled after major cities in Japan such as Tokyo and Osaka, but now we understand our potential and try to pursue an even more unique identity.
Seaside Momochi (hereinafter, Momochi), which is the target site of this competition, was developed after the Asia-Pacific Exposition Yokatopia was held here, but when you actually visit, you can sense its fate as “a city built for the future.” Due to the lack of authenticity, it seems to lack the desire of a normal city, where you can feel pride in fostering culture and hope for the future. On the other hand, it has been about 30 years since the land reclamation was completed, and a whole generation was born and raised in that time. We are now in an important phase of thinking about the next identity of cities like this, including other new cities built on reclaimed land in Japan around the same time. It is also a city that was built experimentally, so it can be a testing ground toward the future.

Masataka Baba (hereinafter, Baba): The interesting thing about Fukuoka is that it has two extreme sides: the local side and the global side. On the local side, it has big festivals such as Gion Yamakasa Festival and Dontaku Festival expressing the local identity, and the people of Fukuoka have supported these events. Another characteristic of Fukuoka is that urban and architecture projects that highlight the individuality of the region, such as Fukuoka Jisho’s Momochi and Nexus World (Shinkenchiku 9105) projects, are started from the private sector.  Additionally, Fukuoka is an area highly motivated in terms of globalization, as it was quick to respond to multilingualization. While Kyushu is viewed as one cultural area, it has a population size close to that of Denmark. Thinking about the role of Momochi with international awareness at such a scale may give it interesting possibilities.

Chiaki Hayashi (hereinafter, Hayashi): I also feel that Fukuoka is a highly conscious city that is thinking about its position in Asia. Another characteristic of Fukuoka is that there are many UI/UX (user interface/user experience) startup companies based here. Having a lot of creative people in the city increases the design experience from a consumer perspective when releasing products and services, and this will be its strength in competing in the world.
In contrast, when I visited Momochi the other day I had a similar impression as when visiting Tsukuba, which was developed as a city of research and academia: the impression that what we dreamed of 30 years ago still remains intact and is slowly separating from the present. Thinking in reverse, however, it has an advantage in that it is easier to notice things that are out of line because it has not changed for 30 years. It seems to me that maybe it has the potential to move into the future if we change two or three of those things. I believe the key to finding the potential of Momochi is to figure out what to change what not to change.

Michiaki Matsushima (hereinafter, Matsushima): I think this competition is a big project to settle the “future of 30 years ago.” I was a little involved in a project to add speculative arts to Makuhari New City in Chiba. But Makuhari New City is by no means a lively city now; there are few people walking around and only big facilities standing out. This is because the opposites of the elements of urban development advocated by Jane Jacobs – such as not building long, straight roads, making them multifunctional, and mixing old and new buildings – are done all together. That was considered the basis of the “future city” at that time. Momochi, which was built about 30 years ago like Makuhari New City, seems to have similar issues. It will be interesting to think about what the city can be “multiplied” by, besides arts.
In the context of technology, new systems will be created not only by GAFA and Silicon Valley in the US, but also by Asian companies like Baidu and Alibaba as China gains more momentum. I believe Fukuoka, which is close to the rest of  Asia, has the potential to feel and incorporate such dynamic movements in a perceptive way.

Ichiro Enomoto (hereinafter, Enomoto) I was raised in Momochi until I was in the sixth grade and live in Yakuin now. There are many paths in Yakuin, and when strolling around, I found it to be more fun than Momochi. That is, while experiencing the town, I think there is a lack of spontaneous urban updates in Momochi, whereas that cannot be said of Yakuin. And yet Momochi is a coastal town with bright sunshine and is still a popular place to live, and condominiums in that area are quite expensive. The school district is also popular, and Momochi has a reputation as a great place to raise children.

How to create the value of a real place

—What are important perspectives in planning a city today?

Shigematsu: In this competition, it is necessary to not only have architectural proposals but also plan the site in a way that forms the identity of Momochi. When doing so, it is essential to understand examples from around the world. For example, Venice Beach and Santa Monica in Los Angeles, known as Silicon Beach, are cities where having fun, living life, and working coexist, which is unique to the stable and mild climate along the beach. In Florida, Miami, which has developed as a resort destination until now, is promoting urban development based on the integration of art and hospitality with a focus on immigrants from Latin America. Attempts to form a new identity are made in various cities. Additionally, Dumbo in Brooklyn as well as Fort Point, known as the hub of Boston’s innovation, utilize waterside building stock to create cities that feels authentic while generating a new atmosphere that specializes in creativity and startups. For Momochi, too, I think the key is to analyze existing environments and assets to bring out their special characteristics.
When thinking about the identity of a city, it may be fun to think about how to form a new community. For example, King’s Cross Station in London and the area around the High Line in New York issue regional cards to encourage people to use cultural facilities, restaurants, and local markets. Coney Island in Brooklyn has a small amusement park and baseball stadium next to the beach, and very local and relaxed small events have become a factor in attracting young people. It is important to think about creating intangible factors together with the city and architecture, and consider how unique a story you can create.

Baba: Coronavirus is making the future uncertain, so now is the best time to express the future without pretention. The crises of large cities like Tokyo and New York has been acknowledged, and the meaning of physical centrality is being questioned. In addition, while promoting doing things remotely, we have realized that we can handle things better than expected even though we are apart. Now we are questioning the whole concept of the place. On the other hand, this also made us want to have things physically close to us, and people are starting to rethink the question of what is essential for life. I guess the strength of architecture and cities is that they can stimulate such physicality.
We also learned from the coronavirus pandemic that evolution is not a gradual process, but comes suddenly. For example, remote working environments had not been spreading despite promotion of work style reform, but now we are seeing rapid expansion of such environments. The timing of this evolution and the timing of updating Momochi are in sync. There will be variations in the answers to what we new things we should add to the modern dream of 30 years ago. Do we want to restore the city we had, or do we want to leave the city behind and return to nature? I think the pandemic is making people question the direction the city should take in this trade-off.

Hayashi: Viruses will continue to evolve, and humans will continue be at risk. The idea of “system biology” is helpful as a countermeasure. This is a study that aims to understand life phenomena as a system. When considering the concept of a city, I think it is helpful to refer to the physiological phenomena that creatures cause when confronting a virus. When a large city is infected by a virus all at once like this, how can we coexist with the virus rather than killing it? I think it is important to think about system biology in cities.
Also, when thinking about the cities of the future, I think importance is now given to the perspective of what we want to do with the future of the city. When Momochi was built 30 years ago, the question was what the future should be, but the perspective of what we want to do means creating each city so that it shines in various ways. I have come up with things I want to try with Momochi myself when I think about it from that perspective. I would like everyone to also think with the perspective of what you want to do with the city.

Matsushima: We did a feature on the Mirror World in WIRED last year. Since the late 1990s, information from all over the world has been digitalized and connected through the Internet, and relationships between people around the world were digitalized and social networking sites were created in the following decade. In the same way, the Mirror World, which is said to be the third digital platform, will create a “digital twin” of the world where all physical objects in the world will be digitalized and shared. It was a feature looking ahead 10 years, but now, the lockdown has made people move online all at once, and creators from all over the world are exploring the unique possibilities of the Mirror World. We cannot think about places and architecture in the future without taking this Mirror World into account. For example, now that the workplace and the home are becoming the same place because of remote working, office buildings will need a function to encourage communication rather than the traditional functions of meetings and deskwork. But then, maybe a café or a pub would work fine. The CEO of an AR company in New York, whom I interviewed before, said that place will become a commodity. Conference rooms are now complete commodities, and one unique place turns into an infinite space that anyone can use, for example, like having a party in the 3D digital space of the Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion. I think interesting ideas will come out of this if the Mirror World is included in what will happen to architecture and cities as receivers in reality.

Enomoto: As Mr. Matsushima said, developers feel a sense of urgency to show the value of real places in a society in which digitalization is advancing. I think potential for thought comes from the sincere proposals of young people about what kind of place they want to live or work in and how they want to live. I would like to be inspired by them by looking at a lot of them, quickly making a next move, and imagining the future of the city in this way.

Thinking in-depth about the future of the city

—Would you give us some ideas to think about the concept of Close to Work & Home and New Value to Working and Living, which is the theme of the competition?

Hayashi: I founded Loftwork in Hong Kong in 2017, and I told a friend of mine that I was aiming to make it one of Asia’s leading creative companies. Then he said to me, “Becoming the best in Asia means becoming the best in the world in the era to come,” and it hit me. But when I was given a tour of Fukuoka the other day, I saw that co-working places house Chinese and Korean startup companies, and it is normal. I felt like I was being told that the center of Asia is here. As Asia develops from now on, we do not want to forget the advantage that Fukuoka has as the most easily accessible city in Japan to Asia. I believe that if you have a global perspective, the work style will change, and it will lead to a change of lifestyle.

Baba: I think we need to think from the definition of “work.” Work was called “labor” in the 19th century, and “work” in the 20th century, but I have heard that it will be called “play” in the next 100 years. The work we have been doing could be done by AI. What we can do then is to play, that is, to enjoy things. I recently realized that when we create new work and industry in a city with area renovation, we are unconsciously trying to find players there. If work is redefined like this, building types created by modernity, such as offices and residence, can completely collapse. Commercial facilities and offices must be  according to the district where they are used in current city planning, but when that happens, it will be necessary to redefine such systems in the future.

Matsushima: How to coexist with the global environment is also important when thinking about “living” from now on. If people’s lives are decentralized in order to avoid the density of cities while maintaining the current urban civilization and living standards in developed countries, it may only increase the environmental burden on the earth. Unless energy and logistics are decentralized at the same time as the decentralization of life, traveling by plane or car will cause even greater impact on the global environment. Now that the movement of people is restricted due to the coronavirus, how big an impact human mobility has on the global environment is shown by the reality that air pollution has been reduced by the greatest amount in the past 70 years. I think that the perspective regarding the environmental burden on the Earth and the Mirror World are the two bases.

Enomoto: In 2016, Fukuoka was ranked seventh in the world’s most livable cities by the British magazine Monocle. It has dropped in the ranking since then, but I hope to make it a city that will be selected as one of the best three cities, chosen by the world, through this Momochi project. The current change to be able to work anywhere, unlike in the past, means that you can live anywhere without being tied to the place you work. In that case, what would cause it to be chosen as a place to live? What we have discussed should provide some clues.

—Finally, Mr. Shigematsu, as the chief judge, could you tell us what you expect from the competition?

Shigematsu: The comment of Fukuoka Jisho is important: “We’re looking for partners who we can build the future of Fukuoka with, together.” As you can see from these versatile judges, there is a sense of urgency where it is almost impossible for only one type of industry to think about the future of a city, and we all need to come up with interesting ideas and think from various angles. We would like this competition to be a platform for everyone to think about new “living” and “working,” including a vision for a post-coronavirus society in a timely manner. We look forward to comprehensive and bold works that do not fall only into the architecture category, but include institutional design, business planning, and branding.

(April 23, 2020, online theme discussion. The responsibility for the wording of this article lies with the editors of Shinkenchiku.)