Scholarly article on topic 'Preserving Alleyways to Increase Walkability of Historical Japanese Cities'

Preserving Alleyways to Increase Walkability of Historical Japanese Cities Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Yu Yoshii

Abstract Old cities in Japan are generally planned according to grid pattern and centralised spaces like the public square are not common (Jinnai, 1995; Kurokawa, 1983) Social activities would normally take place in micro-scale spaces like the alleyways, or in privately owned open spaces where people were protected from wheeled traffic. As alleyways ensured pedestrian safety and provided people with walk-able environment allowing people to socialise, they contributed in building tight-knit communities around them over time. However, many roads have been widened over the past six decades. They either lack or have very narrow sidewalks. Without a public square, Japanese cities have far less walk-able areas. In some of the historical cities, the changes have been gradual and there are some alleyways that still remain. This paper uses the case study of old historical centre of Kyoto to introduce the ways in which the remaining alleyways can be used to increase walk-ability of historical Japanese cities while maintaining the historical townscape and original spatial configurations.

Academic research paper on topic "Preserving Alleyways to Increase Walkability of Historical Japanese Cities"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 216 (2016) 603 - 609

Urban Planning and Architecture Design for Sustainable Development, UPADSD 14- 16 October

Preserving Alleyways to Increase Walkability of Historical Japanese

Cities

Yu Yoshii

The University of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom

Abstract

Old cities in Japan are generally planned according to grid pattern and centralised spaces like the public square are not common (Jinnai, 1995; Kurokawa, 1983) Social activities would normally take place in micro-scale spaces like the alleyways, or in privately owned open spaces where people were protected from wheeled traffic. As alleyways ensured pedestrian safety and provided people with walk-able environment allowing people to socialise, they contributed in building tight-knit communities around them over time. However, many roads have been widened over the past six decades. They either lack or have very narrow sidewalks. Without a public square, Japanese cities have far less walk-able areas. In some of the historical cities, the changes have been gradual and there are some alleyways that still remain. This paper uses the case study of old historical centre of Kyoto to introduce the ways in which the remaining alleyways can be used to increase walk-ability of historical Japanese cities while maintaining the historical townscape and original spatial configurations.

© 2016Publishedby ElsevierLtd. Thisisan openaccess article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of IEREK, International experts for Research Enrichment and Knowledge Exchange

Keywords: alleyways; walk-able neighbourhoods; pedestrian safety; preservation of historical urban space

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: yu.yoshii@manchester.ac.uk

1877-0428 © 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of IEREK, International experts for Research Enrichment and Knowledge Exchange doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.12.034

1. Introduction

Walkability has become one of the important concepts for sustainable urban development in the past few decades. A walkable neighbourhood is known to be beneficial to health, environment and economy. An increased human activities outdoors also increase the chance of encounters among people in the neighbourhood. Even repeated experience of bumping into people, or greeting each other on the street will help people feel connected to other people and the places. In this sense, walkability can be seen as an important aspect for building a better community. Jane Jacobs (1961) in her influential work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities suggested to rethink the single use, car oriented modernist way of planning (Jacobs, 1961). Groups such as New Urbanists supported this idea and promoted mixed-use and walkable neighbourhood (Christopher B. Leinberger, 2009). Scholars such as Jan Gehl have done multiple study on street life and emphasized the importance of human scale and social activities between buildings (Gehl and Gemzoe, 2004; Gehl and Rogers, 2010; Jan Gehl, 2011].

Mixed use and walkable streets are inherent features of old cities, including those in Japan, many parts of which were lost during the modern development. In historical city centres like that of Kyoto, the changes have been gradual compared to other large cities, but many developments have taken place along wider streets and walkable areas in Kyoto are now fragmented.

2. Structure of Historical Japanese Cities and Problems Related to Pedestrian Safety

Traditional Japanese cities are structured according to a strict grid system. The old city plans typically do not include public squares or large open spaces (Jinnai, 1995). The size of each grid is relatively large, for example, in the case of Kyoto the grid was approximately 120 x 120m. This was too large for individual buildings. Therefore, smaller streets and alleyways developed rather irregularly to provide access to the inner plots. It can be said that public open spaces in the traditional Japanese neighbourhoods are structured only with streets. Therefore, the separation between human and wheeled traffic becomes fundamental. However, since the 1950s, the spread of cars have become more and more evident throughout Japan. Wider streets became populated with cars. This was further accelerated by Japan's economic growth from 1960 to 1970s, where wider roads were much needed for transports of goods and people. As a result, the flow of pedestrians were often de-prioritised in the modern street design in Japan.

According to the Building Standards Act amended in 1950, minimum width of a road is determined as 4 metres (I will call this the 4-metre rule), which is the width that two cars can barely pass by each other. When a road is built fulfilling the minimum requirement, there is not enough space left for the pedestrians. As a result, many roads in urban areas of Japan are built with little to no pedestrian facilities. Some have very narrow sidewalks, and others have only white lines separating the pedestrian space from the rest of the road. According to several sources of municipalities, they consider it important to keep the width of the road wide enough so that emergency vehicles can go through in case of disaster (Narita City, 2010; The City of Suzuka, 2014). This is reasonable as when the Great Hanshin Awaji earthquake happened in 1995, it was reported that ambulances and fire engines could not go through the densely built areas with narrow streets to rescue people (City of Kobe, 2011). Furthermore, there is also a concern that if buildings are built too close to each other there is higher risk of spread of fire.

1 i 2.7m r 2m 2m ---central line

r \

Figure 1 Two Metre Setback Diagram Source: Author

Despite the good intentions, there is another problem that arises from following this regulation. The law requires new buildings (including major refurbishment and additions) to be built at a setback of 2 metres from the central line of the road. When buildings on both sides of the road are built at the said setback, this makes the total width of the road 4 metres. However, because this law only applies to the buildings built or modified after 1950, roads cannot be widened in one-go unless all of the buildings along the road were to be newly constructed or redeveloped at the same time. As a result, every time a new building is built along a narrow street, it creates a "dent" in the otherwise perfectly aligned facades (figure 1). This is problematic from the perspective of building preservation in historical cities like Kyoto, where continuity of the facades is one of the important features of its distinctive townscape. Old townhouses in historical cities are renown for their alignment of horizontal rooflines and facades. In order to keep the old spatial configuration under the current regulation, it would be necessary to maintain the old building structure without rebuilding or performing major refurbishment. This is very difficult to achieve. Moreover, it isjust as difficult to have a setback of 2 metres for rebuilding or restoring the already very small townhouses (standard plot size is 148.76m2, but 76 percent of the townhouses in Kyoto are smaller than this standard (The City of Kyoto, 2000)), as it gives them even smaller floor areas resulting in an obvious decrease in living quality. It has been criticised that the law is preventing the renewal of dilapidated housings along narrow streets.

3. The Recent City Planning attempts in Kyoto

What can we do to increase pedestrian safety without neglecting disaster prevention and building preservation? Do we superimpose western-style public spaces into this context? Or do we further widen the streets to secure enough space for sidewalks? When it comes to the discussion of walkability in urban design, the topic is quite often related to how sidewalks should be provided and designed. This may be due to the fact that many of the discussions focus on American cities where use of cars is far more common compared to Asian or European cities. Many of the historical cities in Japan have existing streets and alleyways that are too narrow for cars, as they existed before the invention of cars. Providing sidewalks for all the streets is to scrape off majority of buildings along the alleyways in the city centre. Contextually, what would be more reasonable is to separate wheeled traffic from the pedestrian only or pedestrian priority zones using existing urban fabric. In what follows, I will introduce a few examples of the recent town planning attempts in the historical city centre of Kyoto.

Gion South District is located in Higashiyama Ward, heart of Kyoto. It is known as a traditional red-light district with several ochaya (tea houses) and okiya (lodging houses) that have been hosting Geisha for years. There are 9 alleyways that are narrower than 4 metres in this district. Traditional town houses in this district are relatively well preserved to date. For this reason, in 1995, Gion South District became one of the candidates for the city's Historical Landscape Preservation and Improvement District. In the following year, Gion South District Association for Town Planning was founded by the residents, land owners, land-lease holders, and building owners. This was

partially due to the fact that the designation process was initially carried out without residents' knowledge. By forming the Association, they wanted to make sure that they were involved in the decision-making process concerning their neighbourhood.

The existence of the 4-metre rule was one of the major concerns for the association members, as they needed to maintain their buildings without renewing or undergoing major refurbishing. In 2000, the association presented the petition urging the city to designate the alleyways under paragraph 3 of article 42 of the Building Standards Act (I will call this paragraph-3). This regulation allows them to keep the minimum road width as 2.7 metres instead of 4 in "unavoidable situation ("Building Standard Act (Article 42 Clause 3)," 1950)." However, this was not immediately possible. It was because at the time of the petition submission, there was a tacit understanding among city officials and professionals that the definition of "unavoidable situation" was restricted to the cases where the road could not be widened due to physical circumstances (for instance when a road is located on a slope or by a cliff). In 2004, however, the situation turned in favour of the Association. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport circulated an official notice stating that "For the sake of succeeding the historical culture and for protecting and regenerating the aesthetic alleyways and narrow streets, as well as for promoting the renewal of dilapidated housings in densely inhabited areas, there is nothing to hinder the specific administrative agency to consider designating these road as paragraph-three (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, 2004)." Thus, the definition of "unavoidable situation" expanded to preservation and renewal of historical buildings.

Since the foundation of the Association, the residents together with the city officials have gone through discussions on how to deal with the disaster prevention issues. They were determined to keep the road width and the traditional style architecture. Therefore, they needed an alternative way to protect their buildings from the risk of natural and man-made disasters. Fire prevention and mitigation measures were particularly important, as traditional town houses are made out of timber. 24 fire hydrants were installed by the association by 2005, when the alleyways in the district was finally designated under paragraph-3.

Figure 2 Roads Designated Under Paragraph 3 in Gion South District Source: The City of Kyoto (translated by author)

Above is the map of Gion South District (fig. 2). Those marked in blue are the alleyways designated under paragraph-3. Although paragraph-3 does allow keeping the street width as narrow as 2.7 metres, it does not prevent

the cars to enter the alleyways. However, during the participant observations conducted by the author between May and July 2014, the traffic flows observed in these alleyways were evidently low compared to the main car oriented streets. I have noted pedestrian behaviours during the observation and noticed that there was a great tendency of pedestrians walking in the middle of these alleyways. Due to the narrowness of the alleyways, cars cannot avoid the pedestrians walking in the middle of the path. They need to stop and slow down every now and then. As a result, the cars tend to yield to human traffic.

Gion South District Association for Town Planning have also been working on improving the paving treatment of the streets and alleyways in the district. From 2002 to 2011, the asphalt that covered the road surface was replaced by stone pavements under the direction of the Association (figure 3). As most of the road surface in Japan is covered with asphalt today, stone pavements do a greatjob in differentiating the area with the surrounding. They also give the impression of pedestrian priority. The overall street connectivity in Gion South District is considerably high. However, a street known as Hanami-koji runs in the middle through north to south. This street is evidently wider and more populated with cars and pedestrians. Although the whole area is unified with the pavement design, the traffic flow in this street acts as a barrier separating east and west part of the district.

planning concerning the alleyway is the project of Rokuhara School District. This district is located right in the south of Gion South District. It is a residential area located near to major touristic destinations and cultural heritages. In the district, there are many old wooden houses and cul-de-sac type alleyways. While the area keeps the traditional spatial configuration it has been pointed out that the area is at risk of disaster. In 2012, Rokuhara School District Disaster Prevention and Town Planning Council was founded under the direction of City of Kyoto. From 2012 to 2013 the council has drawn out a detailed map called "Town Planning Map for Disaster Prevention." In 2014, they have created a more detailed plan as an outcome of residents survey, walks and meetings. In the plan, one could recognize a series of cul-de-sac type alleyways along the main streets (figure 4). In order for the emergency vehicles to pass though, the Council and City have designated wide through-streets as the main escape and rescue routes (marked in light blue on the map). As for the narrower alleyways, they encourage people to use non-combustible or fire retardant materials and to reinforce the building structure to ensure safer escape routes. To encourage the renewal of dilapidated housings, they also promote the use of paragraph-3 regulation. Since the application of paragraph-3 in Gion South District in 2005, there has not been a case in Kyoto that utilized this regulation. The reason why is because it requires all of the residents' approval before a road could be designated under paragraph-3. Since the plan of Rokuhara School District is yet to be realized, Gion South District remains to be the only case in Kyoto.

Figure 3 Stone Pavement in Hanami-koji Source: Author

Another recent example of town

[characteristics] narrow and long alleys running in parallel arc

concentrated (Kitagomon-cho) ^^^^^^^ [tasks] increase the disaster preventing ability of the whole area [approach¡removing the old unoccupied houses, sccurcing cscapc routes by conncciing the prallcl alleyways or the back of alleyways, sccurcing open space for disaster refuge, consolidation and joint utilization of Ihc land and roads in appropreale scale for Rokuhara, fire and earthquake resistance of the buildings at the entrance of cul-de-sac type alley, utilization of new road designation system for the renewal of buildings

Kamogawakai. Yamatokai (block 2) Action Plan

Kamogawakai (Kitagomocho, Yamashirosho. Daikokucho.Otohacho) Vainatokai (Yakushiclio. Kitayamazakicho. Nakayama/akicho. Minamiyama/akicho)

Dilapidated empty houses

Complex alley network

^possible to cscapct ^o the parking lot^

n Iront ni parking «nhc'soutif m Je ni Hainadaya (KtUigi«

Ytnuto-oji , P«4 office] ushil |

Manv eldcry people, needs handrail lor (Ik* stairs

Alleyway that need to He preserved

| characteristic s] Kyoto lownhouscs arc relatively

concentrated (as a whole) [task] improving the safety of residential buildings

as tlterc arc many old houses | approach | fire and earthquake resistance of residential buildings

|task] managing dilapidated and unoccupied houses j approach! utilization of unoccupied houses, preventing the houses from becoming empty, removing dclapidatcd empty houses, creating open space for disaster refuge, sccurcing bi-dircctional évacuation routes (establishing evacuation passages) |task| preserving and inheriting the classical alleyway [approach] utilization of new road designation system for preserving and inheriting the alleyways, promoting renewal of buildings (increasing disaster preventing ability)

Most ¡Kittple in Yanui/akicho are elderly people living alone

I Bi-directional evacuation | * used to Ik- possible need verification

Duikokutht) Sire

11k houses in j South and North \ used to be * | connected

,»18" I itw

r Yamalo-oji Sircc > and Kaki-mnchi en seel iooNonh-W«!

Complex alley network

installation of evacuation door , with the construction of Rokuhara Campus

Souih-.Wesl

Dilapidated . emptv house*/ at the b

lliere are man; appartmcut houses and there are concerns about

Only two households are in their 30s* 1 he rest is in their 50s' or above

Pafltotocho Sliwl Oi Sirvel enis> iseelionv (Otoha)

BfflT / W

m ujj p 1 r 1 ' ■

r-j|—'il

F= 1 '1

| characteristics jcomplcx network of alleys (Yakushiclio) ¡task] increasing disaster preventing ability of the whole

|approach] removing delapidated empty houses, creating open space for disaster refuge, sccurcing bi-dircctional evacuation routes, considering comprehensive measures such as re-combining plots, road development etc. developing the parts that need setback under paragarph 2

[characteristics] there arc many empty townltouscs at the

back of the alleyway (task] appropreale management of dilapidated empty houses

(approach| utilization of empty houses, removal of old dilapidated houses and creating open space for disaster refuge, sccurcing bi-dircctional evacuation routes for the cul-de-sac type alleyway (establishing evacuation passages)

I Buildings in I Minami-vanui/aki-cho and along | Yamato-oj i street

earthquake I resistant

. Trallie due to the ' eoaMctivit) from Gojo to Sarijo-slreci

Roads wider than 4.0m Roads wider than I .Kin and less ' than 4.0m

■ Roads narrower than I .X metres[~Q~] Fire-hydrant Cul-de-sacs narrower than

Shelter

Meeting point of the district

[characteristics] Yamato-oj i Street runs through the block | task| keeping and improving the road that act as a skelton

[approach] fire and earthquake resistance of the buildings along the road (especially the entrance of the alleyways), appropreale management of the road, considering the rule for the district, improving the safety as a cscapc route

_I l.Slll aikl longei lli.m "oin

_ Cul-de-sac (with a building u .. at the end) ^ Cul-de-sac (with a wall w at the end) f) Cul-de-sac (with a door at ^ the end)

Area w ith relatively high _: concentrationof cul-de-sacs

\iea with relatively high numba | of Kyoto style lownhouscs

I_J Solid buildings

□ | Tunnel alleyways

[ # | Water Tank

j Park Conunon space Public building Temple

| Empty parking lot ^ ■ J Boarder of the school district i Boarder of the town

Passage only accessible in ease of disaster

■k An important road for the school district used for the cscapc route from"thc meeting point of the ► district" to "the shelter." and transporting sefely the relief supply and the like. * Keeping the road w ider than 4 metres and promoting the fire and earthquake resistance of the buildings_

* Area where there is a concentration of cul-de-sac alleys, w here it w ould become difficult io safely evacuate

in ease of disaster.

* Proceeding w ith the town planning for disaster prevention by promoting to secure the bi-directional cscapc routes and comprehensively re-constructing the whole area.

★Area where there is a hi concentration of Kyoto sty lownhouscs. Area w here tl is a concern of collapsed buildings in case of disastc * Promoting the fire and earthquake resistance of tli buidings by appealing to tl residents

Figure 4 Town Planning Map of Rokuhara District Source: City of Kyoto (translated by author)

Because the purpose for drawing out the town-planning map was to improve the disaster prevention and management plan, little consideration towards the walkability can be seen from the map. Just as the case of Gion South District, wider and more auto-oriented roads run through the district, creating barriers and interrupting the street connectivity in the district. Nonetheless, it is important that the separation between wheeled and human traffic is clearly mapped out in the plan. Cul-de-sac type alleyways due to its spatial configuration create more enclosed and private space. They work almost like a courtyard or a corridor between a series of buildings where many social activities—from regular bumping-into to child's play—take place. Due to the fact that there are an increasing number of unoccupied houses in the area, some of them no longer work as a common space for the residents along the alleyway. However, where those spaces are still needed, providing the option to keep them will certainly help the resident feel secure and in control of the design of their own neighbourhood. Moreover, keeping the car-free areas will maintain the pedestrian safety and improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood.

4. Conclusion

In the two projects we've seen in this paper, the alleyways are recognized to be important for the community and for the historical value. While the separation of wheeled and human traffic has clearly been thought out, both projects lack street connectivity. In the case of cul-de-sac type alleyways, it is not as important to connect each alleyway. However, in order to improve the walkability of the overall area, it would still be necessary to improve the pedestrian facilities on wide roads where people need better protection from cars. By doing so, it will help provide safer routes for pedestrians and will improve the neighbourhood quality. As traditional Japanese cities are structured without public squares, the contextually appropriate way to improve the quality of urban space is by improving the streets. By separating the wheeled traffic from the human traffic, it will certainly contribute in improving the neighbourhood quality.

References:

Building Standard Act (Article 42 Clause 3) [WWW Document], 1950. URL http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S25/S25HO201.html (accessed 5.4.13).

Christopher B. Leinberger, 2009. The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream, 2 edition. ed. Island Press, Washington, DC.

City of Kobe, 2011. The Outline of Hanshin Awaji Earthquake and Revival.

Gehl, J., Gemzoe, L., 2004. Public Spaces, Public Life. The Danish Architectural Press.

Gehl, J., Rogers, L.R., 2010. Cities for People, 1 edition. ed. Island Press, Washington, DC.

Jacobs, J., 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books.

Jan Gehl, 2011. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space. Island Press.

Jinnai, H., 1995. Tokyo, a Spatial Anthropology. University of California Press.

Kurokawa, K., 1983. Architecture of Streets. Maruzen.

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, 2004. Offical Notice on Operation of Paragraph 3 of Article 42.

Narita City, 2010. About the Definition of Roads under the Building Standards Act [WWW Document]. URL

http://www.city.narita.chiba.jp/sisei/sosiki/kenchiku/std0006.html (accessed 8.20.15). The City of Kyoto, 2000. Kyoto Town Houses Town Planning Survey.

The City of Suzuka, 2014. Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Information Centre-About Setback [WWW Document]. URL http://www.city.suzuka.lg.jp/safe/bousai/index1_4.html (accessed 8.20.15).