Organizer : NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD Future Design Shibuya.
  Supporting partner : Shinkenchiku-sha Co., Ltd.
  Sponsor : Akatsuki Inc.

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August 31, 2018
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Theme Discussion

This is the third Urban Public Space Design Competition jointly hosted by a newly established organization ‘Future Design Shibuya (FDS)’ and Nikken Sekkei Ltd, the main host of the last two competitions as well as a collaborative partner of FDS, and sponsored by Akatsuki, also a collaborative partner of FDS. This year's theme is ‘Shibuya-style Public Space’. We asked the panel of judges their views of ‘Shibuya’. The judges; the chief judge Takayuki Kishii and Ryue Nishizawa are judges for the third consecutive year along with new Shibuya-based members Chiaki Hayashi and Natsuo Sato. [Editor]


What is Shibuya-style all about?

Kishii: I started this competition to encourage young people, starting their career in architecture, to talk more about cities. There was no particular area set for a theme in the last two competitions, but this time Shibuya, in Tokyo, was set for the first time as the focus town. The first topic for the applicants to consider will be how they capture Shibuya.
I imagine some will see Shibuya as a location and propose a desired public space within. Others will see Shibuya as a concept and reflect their image of Shibuya onto public spaces, in other locations. I expect that applicants taking the theme ‘Shibuya’ as a location, to propose not only a space, but consider a design with a goal and a system to implement them in mind for specific target users and their activities. Personally, I am quite interested in what the applicants seeing Shibuya as a concept, would perceive as Shibuya-style.

Nishizawa:In the first competition with a broad theme of "Urban Public Space", it was impressive to see the proposals full of local characteristics. The first prize was won by a proposal targeted in Nagano City. It focused on triangle leftover lands created by the canals running diagonally through the grid system of the old castle town. It was also interesting to see other proposals that focused on different areas of Tokyo and their histories. In the second competition with "Sharing the In-betweens" as the theme, proposed spaces seemed to be limited in big cities in China and Japan, giving a more urban and business-like impression than those in the first competition. In addition, many proposals were related to new business and systems that Mr. Kishii mentioned earlier. In that sense, I found it interesting to see the applicants’ different responses to the theme in the first and second competitions.
I believe that, compared to historic Fukagawa and Asakusa of Eastern Tokyo, Western Tokyo, including Shibuya, is a modern area symbolic of the explosive growth of post-war Japan. During the high economic growth in post-war Japan, Tokyo rapidly swallowed neighboring provincial cities to create the suburbs and has become explosively enormous. A huge commuter train network to the center of Tokyo was constructed for a rising number of long-distance commuters. Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya were the terminal stations of this radially spread train network. These three cities were considered, at the time, to be the central points of the Greater Tokyo Area. As a terminal station from the suburbs, Shibuya was a big city for teenagers living in the suburbs, a little overwhelming to go out for a date or to the cinema. Moreover, compared to the other two terminal cities Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, Shibuya was particularly fashionable and edgy, a city where teenagers in the Showa era had to build up some courage to visit. Of course, tourists from abroad may have seen Shibuya differently, but at least for the teenagers living in the suburbs of Tokyo, Shibuya was seen as a city like that.
One of the city's most attractive features is its geography. As the name Shibuya has a meaning of “valley”, the area has varied geography with places and backstreets where you can fully experience such geographical variety as well as the lives of local residents. I believe it became part of the Shibuya’s unique attraction. Unlike Paris and Rome, there is no landmark or architecture in Shibuya that can be a main tourist attraction. However, there is a wide variety of attractive places in Shibuya that I love.

Hayashi: In this competition, I would like the applicants to focus on ‘people's movements’. As Mr. Nishizawa has mentioned earlier, when you think of scenery in Shibuya, there is no iconic architecture like the Eiffel Tower but there is people's movements, as we see so many people taking photographs of the scramble crossing at the very moment when its pedestrian traffic signals turn green.
I also agree with Mr. Nishizawa that there is something dreadful about Shibuya, not just in the past but even now. It is, for example, a kind of tension you may feel when you turn a corner from a main street and step into a backstreet. The atmosphere changes dramatically as if you walk into a totally different area. I would say that the relationship between the back and front of Shibuya resembles the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves in a human body that switch from one to another to maintain the balance. I know it is difficult to design this switch, but I'm sure it's worth trying.

Left: First place winner of 2016 (Kosuke Omura + Asako Ideta + Akihiro Ueda / Graduate School, Shinshu University)
Right: Left:First place winner of 2017 (Siqi Li / Graduate School, The University of Tokyo + Xiaoting Chen / MVRDV)


The City Where Chaos and Harmony Co-Exist

Sato: In my opinion, Shibuya is a city of "unexpected", or a city full of surprises. That seems to be one of the reasons why so many young people come to Shibuya. I have spent my time in this city since I was a junior high school student, and what I found is unique about Shibuya is that small things can exist here even though the economy and trend have a strong impact on the city itself. For example, there is a business environment in Shibuya that a small bakery or a general store can survive. It seems quite likely that these small shops would end up closing their businesses if it were in a shopping arcade somewhere other than Shibuya, but there is a great opportunity in Shibuya to successfully run a small but strong business if they have unique and distinct character. I often feel that, in competitions held in Japan, ideas that bring harmony tend to be highly evaluated. However, the harmony alone wouldn't be able to enhance the attractiveness of Shibuya. I hope applicants can come up with unique ideas for designing a public space that will bring chaos instead of harmony or peace. I think it is more like Shibuya to have something ultimately irreproducible, a system that cannot be easily reproduced anywhere else.

Nishizawa:In Europe, people often say Tokyo is like an oversized village. It is one of the strange or interesting aspects of Tokyo that there is no master plan to integrate the entire area. Despite of the fact that everything is like patchwork that had enlarged disorderly during the chaotic post-war era, everything works in excellent order. Although it is a chaos in terms of having no master plan, Tokyo functions very well as a city: Mail is correctly delivered every day, garbage is picked up in a very precise manner, trains are never delayed, and the crime rate is low. Shibuya is the area that represents these traits.

Hayashi: What Shibuya-style is all about may be its paradox of having chaos and harmony at the same time. The scramble crossing is a good example of having minimum rules that enables order. However, those rules are something very specific to the area and thus tourists from abroad have never experienced before just like the way commuters are packed in an overcrowded train in Japan.

Shibuya scramble crossing.


Indifference is the Key Ensuring the Diversity of Shibuya

Sato: The basic concept of Shibuya-ku is "the city that turns difference into power", promoting diversity of the entire city.
Shibuya is the city with power to attract people, but the people in Shibuya are all indifferent to each other. I think that is the key to ensure the diversity of the city. For example, in cities such as Kanazawa and Kyoto, many people are emotionally attached to the city and networks of people are regarded as being important. Having a strong sense of community among people, however, may create not only joy but also exclusivism.
Currently, we are asked to get involved with others when we need to show our understanding of diversity. Flaming on the Internet occurs as a result of developing a chain of involvement. From that point of view, we may say that it is, in fact, necessary for us not to be connected to or involved with others. Being intentionally indifferent, or not being involved with others could be a new theme in the coming era.

Hayashi: The indifference that Mr. Sato was talking about is based on the premise of being physically together in one place in the same era, right? In that sense, Shibuya is a place where you can learn passively as you walk along the street that the world is filled with diversity.

Sato: As we live in the age of individualism, we have the choice to reject uncomfortable feelings or nervousness being generated in our everyday lives. I am concerned that it can inhibit diversity. When we think of diversity, it is important that everyone feels a certain level of uncomfort and nervousness. It is essential to form a human society, but nowadays we seem to be losing such feelings. In Shibuya, however, we feel uncomfortable and nervous as we walk along the street. Such discomfort is what "Shibuya" is all about. Getting involved and having a relationship with others makes you feel nervous, even scared.

Nishizawa: In my opinion, being indifferent to and having no involvement with others is very much Shibuya-style, but the same is true to cities in Japan in general to some extent. Japanese cities are formed with indifferent and obedient people who easily accept massive development or major reform of the city without taking part in a demonstration. They may even be impressed to say ‘Look at that!’ by an impulsive building constructed in front of them. I would say that such indifference is partly reflected on urban landscape in Japan.

The images of Shibuya. 1:Takeshita street, Harajuku. 2:Sasazuka Jugozaka Shopping District. 3:Yoyogi Park 4:”Shibuya haruno-ogawa play-park” beside Yoyogi Park. 5: Shibuya Station Area which is currently being redeveloped. 6: Torii(Gateway of a shrine) of Meiji Jingu. 7:Tamagawajousui old waterway green road. 8: A green road which continues from NHK Broadcasting Center to Yoyogi Park.


Looking at the Process of Forming Shibuya

Kishii: By the way, what do you think of the difference between Shibuya and Shinjuku? It seems that the situation is similar in Shinjuku, doesn't it?

Sato: Shinjuku and Shibuya have many aspects in common, but there are more spots in Shibuya which are centers of cultural trends. The street becomes a stage full of the latest fashion. These two cities are both chaotic, but in a different way. I'm one of the children of the baby-boom generation. In the 1980's, when the baby-boom generation was still young, foreign cultures were imported to the city of Shibuya. It was the best timing for the city to attract a lot of young people, and since then, Shibuya has been the city for the young.

Kishii: I think that the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 also contributed to the unique development of Shibuya. The route 246, a major road constructed to connect the National Stadium Japan and the Komazawa Olympic Park, runs through Shibuya so that the area was featured more than Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. In addition, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) was established and built its headquarters in Shibuya, which meant a lot to the city. The shower effect of NHK was no doubt enormous. Moreover, there is also a public square called "Hachiko-mae" in Shibuya that was constructed as a part of war-damage reconstruction. We don't have many squares like Hachiko-mae where various people can gather together in their own right, and the place holds no particular purpose. Having such space seems to affect the following development of the city. Shibuya has been formed by various people doing various things, and the city embraces it all. That is another interesting aspect of Shibuya.

Nishizawa: I find interesting to walk around the city of Shibuya. Various streets, hills, areas, and corners of the city are connected to each other like a mosaic to create an attractive urban space. The scramble crossing, the commercial areas, even the backstreets are really interesting.
Indifference in Shibuya can also be understood as "generosity". People in Shibuya are free and generous enough to accept others walking down the street in their own unique way. Such attitude can be a strength of the city with ever-changing values, and show the richness of the city with residents in various generations and classes. When you think of a Shibuya-style public space, it may be important to consider a public space with free and generous multicultural aspects to meet the needs of modern society.

[Interviewed on July 25, 2018 at Loftwork Shibuya.
The editors of this magazine take full responsibility for the wording of this material.]


Nikken Sekkei

In recent years, Nikken Sekkei has designed public spaces with the desire to provide attractive urban experience. Currently, we are reconstructing the former site of the Malayan Railways in Singapore which severed the north and south areas of the country in the length of 24 km, and creating a public space called "RAIL CORRIDOR" in order to reconnect the country. In addition, we are promoting to use "COOL TREE", a wooden street furniture which creates a comfortable environment by using only natural energy.
This is the third year of "the Urban Public Space Design Competition" and its theme is Shibuya, a very popular city around the globe. This year, "Future Design Shibuya (FDS)" was established and became a co-host of the competition. Nikken Sekkei has been taking part of FDS's experimental activities centered in Shibuya. We look forward to proposals introducing various attractive urban experiences that originated from the image of Shibuya.

[Atsushi Omatsu, Nikken Sekkei]

Left: Rendering images of "RAIL CORRIDOR”. A variety of public spaces connecting town and town are created while preserving existing station buildings and rich greenery.
Right: "COOL TREE”. The mist outlet port and fans are built-in around the bench, and power is supplied by the solar panel on the roof.


Future Design Shibuya

Future Design Shibuya (FDS) is a general incorporated association newly established in April this year. The government of Shibuya-ku became the promoter and FDS was established in order to realize the basic concept of Shibuya-ku since 2016: "the city that turns difference into power". There are various issues to be addressed in the process of urban redevelopment, and what the local government or private sector can do on its own is limited. Moreover, a cooperative system was required to integrate research at a university into the society, or to reflect the residents' voice to the redevelopment.
FDS is operating a variety of projects, including "utilizing the public space project" which is highly related to this year's competition, based on our policies "Future", "City pride", and "Branding". We are promoting these projects with support from the residents, NPOs, companies, universities, and the local government of Shibuya. In addition, we ask for advice from our "Future Designers" such as Chiaki Hayashi and Natsuo Sato, who are top experts in the industry and also members of the judges in this competition.
In this competition, it may be a good idea to turn your eyes on areas other than the area around Shibuya Station. For example, Sasazuka, Hatagaya, and Hatsudai areas where old and new conduits of Tamagawa Josui were constructed in a way to fully utilize its geography or Harajuku, Daikanyama, and Ebisu areas where unique cultures in fashion are in bloom. You may also look at areas full of greenery such as Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu. There are various attractive areas in Shibuya and we hope all applicants will see Shibuya from various points of view.

[Kenro Suto, Executive Director of Future Design Shibuya]

Organization chart of Future Design Shibuya (FDS)



Akatsuki has been promoting projects with a vision "A Heart Driven World" (Creating a society where emotion can be developed into a reward), focusing mainly on the people's emotion. Since its foundation in 2010, we have developed our business mainly in the mobile gaming industry, and after 2016 when the company became listed, we have shifted our business toward the live experience industry, providing the real experience for users. We provide reservation service for outdoor leisure activities, and also produce contents of real entertainments including survival games and party creation.
In this competition, we are looking forward to seeing many global ideas that can go out of Shibuya and be expanded overseas. We truly hope that we can be a part of the team when the idea from the competition will actually be implemented.

[Eibu Sato, Akatsuki]

A venue image of a party creation service "hacocoro" handled by Akatsuki. Space renovated exclusively for private charters.