Sep. 17, 1996 (a) Nov. 12, 1996 (a)

Column Index - Sep. 17, 1996

a) Being present at the site of action -Dedicated to the late Kuniharu Akiyama-

b) Dojyunkai Daikanyama Apartment House
- the problem of conservation in the city

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"Resurrecting Memories"
August 8-12, 1996
Doujunkai Daikanyama Apartment House
Exhibition "Doujunkai Daikanyama Aprtment House 1927"
1August 8-12, 1996
Art Front Gallery
Art Front Gallery
Tel. 03-3476-4868
Fax. 03-3476-4874

(Doujunkai Apartment)

Frank Lloyd Wright WWW Links


Dojyunkai Daikanyama Apartment House
- the problem of conservation in the city


The geographical aspect of the conservation movement

The demolition of the Dojun-kai Daikanyama Apartment has begun. After more than 15 years since the "redevelopment" was suggested, the famous Daikanyama site will disappear, and after 4 years, an urban complex facility with about 12 times as much area and height than the current apartment will appear. Immediately prior to the demolition, various media introduced comments that regretted the loss of the Daikanyama Apartment, and there were even some individuals who criticized the redevelopment. Besides the inhabitants of the apartment, many people who directly did not have rights and interests related to the building, such as people working in Daikanyama, and those who came here for shopping, also advocated opposition. In the case of historical buildings and traditional streets, there are times when the intelligentsia such as historians take the lead of a conservation movement which develops into a civic movement. However, for the Daikanyama Apartment, it seems that the opposition grew spontaneously, the key advocacy coming from a different place than architectural or historical evaluation. In other words, rather than "conservation", the standpoint is "opposition against demolition". For example, the architectural conservation measure taken for the Imperial Hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1923) in 1968, where the facade was transferred and conserved in the Museum Meiji-Mura, will not have any meaning for the Dojun-kai. The fact that it exists in Daikanyama in its original form after the high economic growth period, the oil shock, and the bubble economy, has become the reason for the regret. The issue of the "opposition against demolition" is something that has to do with the Daikanyama Apartment's spatial character rather than its history.

The Dojun-kai and the "Daikanyama Apartment House"

Still, since the Dojun-kai Daikanyama Apartment has an important meaning in the history of architecture and society, I would like to mention its brief history. Dojun-kai was first established as a fringe organization of the Social Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs, out of the donations collected after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1924. The objective, then, was to clear the slums where the sanitary condition was inferior. For the architecture, Yishikazu Uchida and Toshikata Sano, both professors at the Tokyo Imperial University, were the core architects. Uchida is the designer of the Hongo campus of the current Tokyo University. Sano was the world pioneer of earthquake-resistant structure, and also a pioneer of reinforced-concrete architecture in Japan. With these two men as the core, Japan's history of collective housing made of reinforced-concrete started.

The Daikanyama Apartment House was completed in 1927, after Nakanosato and Aoyama, and renting of the apartment began immediately. There were 232 apartments for families, 95 for single people, and 10 for commercial use, and the application at the time is said to have had a competition of 9.3 times. Also, it was designed not merely as an apartment, but also as a complex for a total community life. It had new ideas incorporated such as a dining room, a public bath, an entertainment room and others.

In the same year, [similar facilities] in Ochanomizu and Hijiribashi (a bridge over the River Kanda) (design: Mamoru Yamada) were completed. It is also interesting to note that in the same year, an experimental exhibitioniWeissenhof Siedlungjfor new housing forms involving 17 leading architects of modern architecture such as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and others, was held at Weissenhof near Stuttgart, Germany.

In a housing establishment, trials and errors in the planning for a new housing style are done in various ways, from the plan to the interior finish. However, with the high economic growth and the improvement of the middle class lifestyle, the required residential space has become larger, and since the Daikanyama Apartment became disposed of to the inhabitants, in many apartments, extensions and renovations were done unsystematically.
Therefore, the Daikanyama Apartment left today is not in the orderly form it first started out with, but it has taken on a different form representing the community, created by the individualism and ego of the inhabitants that overflowed onto the exterior of the building over time. According to a member of the redevelopment union, the residents of the area have the impression that the Daikanyama Apartment has turned into a slum, thus they feel that the redevelopment project is a type of "slum clearance" for creating a safe and hygienic environment. It is a cynical reality that the Dojun-kai Apartment born with the objective of "slum clearance" is now the object of clearance after 70 years.

What should be conserved?

Let us go back to the subject of space. The reason why this apartment's demolition is regretted in the place called Daikanyama should be considered within its relationship with an exterior element, such as the city, Tokyo, rather than with an internal community problem. In the '70's and the '80's, as the center of the young generation's activities shifted from Shinjuku to Shibuya, Daikanyama developed as a shopping area, and at about the same time, the Daikanyama Hillside Terrace (design: Fumihiko Maki) was built, becoming the center of the area as the new urban collective housing. Later, with the bubble economy, commercial buildings were built one after another, and the Daikanyama Apartment with its lush vegetation, started to function as a center of the other extreme, in other words, as a hide-out like patio within a managed city. The visual impact of the gaudy buildings, the noise from the cars, and the heat from the asphalt were absorbed by the green wall, and inside, people were able to obtain peace and rest, and communication on a human scale. That is why this space surpassed the realm of a housing, becoming a valuable space. Then, what should be conserved in the Dojun-kai Daikanyama Apartment House? I feel that the system of this urban spatial instrument, more than the memory of the struggle of modern architecture, should be conserved. However, although we can decipher this type of space created out of coincidence, unfortunately, there is no theory in the current study of architectural planning to reproduce this system. We can only pray that the newly built facility and the dispersive behavior of the environment will create this kind of space once again through chance. The theory for conserving a <form of a comfortable space> in a city is also a theory for planning a <comfort able space>, and those who must struggle with that are none other than ourselves.

[Osamu TSUKIHASHI/Study of Architectural Planning]

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a) Being present at the site of action -Dedicated to the late Kuniharu Akiyama-

Sep. 17, 1996 (a) Nov. 12, 1996 (a)

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