Tag Archives: environment


Periodical: Japan Architecture+ Urbanism

Thesis: With the limited land space in Japan and cities, reaching their capacities, Japanese architecture should focus on innovating designs that can create an environment that would allow the people to benefit from its agricultural and urban function.

After being isolated from the world during the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, Japan’s isolation ended. Since then, Japanese architecture and culture was paused in time. The opening of the country forced Japan into a westernization movement. This movement made architecture one of the focuses on Japan. At this point in time, Japan’s sole purpose was to focus on creating newer cities where people could manifest a western lifestyle. Even though the architecture was made to increase the aesthetic of Japan, the new cities were built on land where population was greater in numbers than any other location in the country. Since the end of the of the westernization movement in the early 1900’s, Japanese cities have grown exponentially. Many cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka have developed such that much of the land has been converted into urbanized areas that rely on innovative architecture. With over 127 million people living in the country, people have exhausted the land usage and have no choice but to rely on high-rise buildings. Many modern Japanese architects and landscape architects focus their careers on trying to create sustainable cities, but are still limited by the maximum space they can work with. As limited land space in Japan, reaching their capacities, Japanese architecture should focus on innovating designs that can create an environment that would allow the people to benefit from its agricultural and urban function.

Land in Japan is based on mountainous and volcanic structure, which leaves no alternative for people to build in an environment where easy access is possible. Some of the land has been developed to increase the accommodation of agriculture that allows people to harvest food and crops to provide to the cities. Japan’s agriculture fields extend farther due to the fertile possibility of the land. As a result, the focus on agriculture is prioritize compared to the significance of construction. About 20% of the land is suitable for agriculture and 68% belongs to forestry (Barnes). Many of the mountainsides and the plains are used for farming and terraces for cultivating farmland. The division between agriculture and urban is enforced by government officials to prevent contamination and pollution of the crop fields by cities. This restriction limits what is built and forces the majority of the population in one area.

While the land is developed as farmland, and forestry is protected, the increase of population continues to eradicate many areas around the land. Some lands are razed to accommodate the population and increase the housing for the people. The population in land accounts for 12% in all of Japan. Many cities have become overpopulated, leading to people to live in high-rise complexes. Minimal spacious rooms are designed to accommodate single families that reside in many urban cities. Families in Japan containing three or four members dwell in rooms where the size is compared to those of a single living space in the United States. With many people living in urban areas, the cities tend to depend on the transportation of food and the export of material. As a result, the environment is inflicted with issues caused by the urban living. The infliction towards the surrounding affects how much of the environment can be changed.

As innovative development in cities cease, buildings are stacked or miniaturized to accommodate as much people as possible. High-rise structures in many cities tend to house major commercial spaces, restricting where people can live. Commercial spaces tend to be prioritized over residential. This diminishes the possible locations of residences. High-rise buildings should be designed to allow people to interact and use their surrounding environment. Architecture should involve the agriculture usage as a means of vitalizing the lifestyle of the people. Buildings should adequately place above ground to allow for natural ventilation and sun to reach the crops being grown below. Ideally, the building should be lifted off the ground and placed on columns where the structural support is being helped by the other building. This creates a continuous connection between buildings. In 1966, renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange proposed a concept that would allow the Japanese people to live in high-rise buildings by extending the buildings from a core system that would allow future development of the site (figure A).


Figure A
Figure A

This project was developed to renew the Tsukiji District in Japan that would optimize the usage of houses. By using the concept of the Tsukiji Project, architecture and agriculture can be combined into one system. By using the core system, one can free the landscape to allow the accommodation of crop fields and agricultural usage. As the architecture and structure are raised from the ground, the building does not conflict with surrounding nature, thus allowing the environment to flourish and produce clean, organic and natural atmosphere. The structure allows the people to live in areas where the ground is uneven and construction is not allowed. As a result, the land tends to be cleaner and healthier for people to live in. The use of roads is minimized and the surrounding begins to intertwine as a whole community.

Another Japanese architecture proposed a parallel project that allows individual dwellings to hang from a single megastructure. Kiyonori Kikutake designed the Marine City that utilizes a core system (figure B). While the Marine City resembles the Tsukiji Project, Kikukate’s proposal dedicates two zones of the main core to two housing system. Each system is composed of eight compacted above ground, relieving the landscape of major construction. The use of individual house allows the dwellers to live in their own property while still sharing the main structure. The individualization of the each unit creates a personal space for each family in which allows the member to occupy their own spaces.


Figure B
Figure B

A modern concept can be seen in Singapore. The Interlace designed by Ore Scheeren and OMA allows the connection between dwellers and the landscape (Figure c).This complex takes advantage of every single square footage by stacking the individual units on top of each other, creating a sense of spatial interaction (Arch Daily). The dwelling units double the capability of residence without interfering with the surrounding environment. Due to the small confliction between the building and the surroundings, the complex actualizes the potential increase of the land by amplifying the greenery on the surfaces of the units (Figure D). By following the same example illustrated by Scheeren, cities should be able to accommodate large families with their space needs in their homes. As the architectural dwelling increases, cities are able to expand spaces, yet, relieving the stress in nature. By increasing the land to better the people, architecture inflicts less damage to the surrounding after construction. The landscape creates special areas where people can utilize the land to raise crops.

Figure C
Figure C
Figure D
Figure D

Due to many oppositions in construction and budget, projects like this are likely to be built because of the major impact it has towards the city before construction. Before a city can manifest in redevelopment, cities locations must be razed to accommodate the new development. At times, this causes the city to backlash in the development. The movement of current dwellers in an old residence affects how the city function and many residences are not able to afford the changes in lifestyle. In some cases, the project itself becomes unsatisfactory within the city limits. Some cities become unaware that housing becomes part of local taxation and thus conflicts with living expenses, thus the area becomes gentrified. This diminish the possibility of how many dwellings can actually be built. The structural possibility is at a disadvantage as the size of the core system would be dramatically impossible. The size of the core system would be so large that it would take more than the given land. On the other hand, the raising of crops benefits the dwellers; it lowers the profits of some other consumers. In some areas the growth of crops and food are a source of finance, as such, the cities depend on the commercial use. With the relocation of agriculture fields into personal use, agriculture field can become unusable and neglected.

By using architectural design, it is possible to merge agricultural and urban land. Many architects like Kenzo Tange, Ore Scheeren have innovated the way people and nature interact with one another. Their work manifests the ideals of this unison. While the prevention of pollution is controllable, many Japanese cities have become urbanized to a point that have created many of the major environmental issues seen in Japan. Incorporating hybrid buildings where people are able to grow their own crops would increase the sustainability of the cities in Japan. This increases the availability of land, people uses in their daily life. By relying in cities where sustainability is part of a mechanical system, cities become unsuitable by nature. Thus, by allowing nature to be part of the daily life of the people and its surrounding, cities flourish in better habitats, cleaner cities, and suitable lifestyles. The increase of ruralization in cities helps the rate of ecological and expansion of land for people. This creates better self-sustain cities that would flourish for centuries.


Works Cited

Barnes, Gina L. Origins of the Japanese Islands: The New “Big Picture”. Durham, England, n.d.

Japan, Web. Environmental Issues, Japan. n.d. 25 10 2015.

Johnston, Bruce F. Agricultural Development and Economic Transformation: A Comparative Study of the Japanese Experience. n.d.

Sawada, Shujiro. Agriculture and Economic Growth: Japan’s Experience. Princeton University Press, 1969.

Schalk, Meike. The Architecture of Metabolism. MDPI, Basel, 2014.

Yoshiyasu, Ida, et al. Geography Education in Japan. Springer, 2015.

“The Interlace / OMA” 06 May 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 13 Dec 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/627887/the-interlace-oma-2/>

Adaptive Reuse is Better than New Construction

Adaptive Reuse is Better than New Construction.

With so many unused, abandoned, and historically significant buildings, why do we insist on demolishing them to build new ones? Today, there is an abundance of buildings including factories, houses, incomplete construction sites, stores, and ghost towns available to be re-adapted. Adaptive reuse is better than new construction because it is better for the environment, is an answer for poor living conditions, preserves the cultural energy of the place, and is an interesting design challenge for architects.


Environmental Benefits

Today, it is cheaper to demolish a building and create an entirely new project than it is to reuse a building that already exists. It may be monetarily less expensive, but at what cost to our living environment?

Demolition contributes heavily to industrial waste. Currently, waste generated from the construction and demolition industry is about 1.25 million tonnes per year (1 tonne is approximately 2,204.6 pounds) (Bergsdal 27). In past years, attempts have been made to start waste treatment, but these efforts are not enough. Approximately 44% of construction and demolition waste was sent to sorting, and of that 44%, 33% was recycled, 22% was energy recovered, and 34% was sent to landfill (Bergsdal 28). Even with the waste sent for treatment, 40% of that was unspecified. Some waste was sent directly to recycling companies while some of it was disposed of illegally (Bergsdal 28).

In addition to  the waste produced through construction and demolition waste, we must also remember that when constructing an entire building, materials do not magically appear. Materials need to be transported to the site and through the transportation, greenhouse gases are released into the air, harming our planet. In fact,  greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for about 27% of total greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second largest contributor in the United States right after electricity in 2013 (“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions”).  While, renovation does not completely eliminate the need for material, it can reduce it which in turn reduces the overall need to transport those materials.

In 2014, San Francisco based DPR Construction achieved the renovation of an office building that has reached net positive energy. This office produces as much, if not more energy than it consumes while also being a renovation project. The team researched, designed, permitted, and built the highly efficient 24,000 square foot space within 5 months. The building includes sustainable technologies such as 118kw photovoltaic system to produce renewable energy and provide power throughout the office, a rooftop thermal water heating system, solar powered automatic operable skylights, and nine eight-foot Essence and four “Big Ass Fans” that efficiently flow air within the office. Along with the addition of efficient technologies, the office completed a structural renovation to support the new photovoltaic array on the roof, three living walls throughout the building and a living wine bar, and many of the materials used in the project were reclaimed wood from nearby projects that had recently been deconstructed. DPR Construction in San Francisco is one of only twelve buildings in the United States that have been certified as net zero energy.

  • General Lobby with one of three living walls.


Low Income Housing Solution

Because it is less profitable, developers ignore the low income housing market and focus on the high end segment. Combine this with the fact that 200,000 rental housing units are destroyed annually. This adds up to a shortage in low income rental housing.

This is unfortunate because renting remains one of the most viable options for low income residents and many are stuck in older, lower-quality apartments close to the urban core (Joint Center for Housing Studies). This puts them farther away from well-paying jobs and other opportunities for advancement. Without more production of affordable rentals in the suburbs and community development in city centers, the economic prospects of the nation’s most disadvantaged are only going to get worse.

Albeit challenging, adaptive reuse is an option for this shortage because it provides financial incentives for developers and solves some issues for the residents (Joint Center for Housing Studies). Adaptive reuse projects usually are able to receive “historic rehabilitation tax credit” which would help offset the cost of reuse projects. If geared toward low income housing, they may also qualify for  “low income housing tax credit” and could double the tax savings (Schalmo 10).

Along with the benefits for developers, adaptive reuse projects, because they are often sited in older neighborhoods or even historic districts, can situate residents much closer to centers of employment (Schalmo 9). This would shorten residents’ commute to work and allow them to walk or take public transit to work which harkens back to the sustainable benefits of adaptive reuse. A good example of low income residential adaptive reuse is Grainger Place, by the Landmark Group completed in 2000. It was an old school that was converted into housing for the elderly that won awards for historical preservation and development. Compared to other new construction of a similar scale, the cost was about the same (Schalmo 10). This goes to show that successful projects like these are economically possible.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 6.47.34 PM


Cultural Recycling

The very nature of adaptive reuse lends itself to creating an environment that has a sense of place and history. Demolition and construction waste “injures cities images and memories” and literally changes the way we see our world, wiping history clean and starting again (Cerkez 94).“When a building of historic merit is preserved or restored for adaptive reuse, its cultural energy is also recycled. Old buildings preserve the local culture and identity and create a sense of belonging. In a way, we recycle embodied human resource energy along with material energy. We bring alive the past to be a part of the future, creating valuable connections through time.” (Cerkez 94) When designing a building, architects have to consider the cultural and historical context. The identity of the place is then affirmed through the design. Unlike new construction, reuse projects don’t have to try and fit in- they are already part of the community.

There are times where renovations would have been a better option than new construction For example, the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City (1910) was demolished in 1963 and replaced with the modern underground structure that stands today. Much backlash was felt  when the building was demolished because it had stood as a historical monument. What is frustrating now is the difference in atmosphere and experience. The old building stood tall, above ground, and grand while the new one is underground, low, and oppressive.  

  • Interior view of Pennsylvania Station

Architectural Design Challenge

Using abandoned or already existing buildings creates interesting, compelling design challenges for architects. The constraint of an already existing building allows designers to become innovative and solve problems, while also respecting the history of the site. Architects give these buildings new life, new meaning, and a new function while respecting what had occurred before their project. This recycles the “cultural energy” of what was there before. This allows design to blend into the language of its surroundings, while still doing something new. This kind of work would not merely be a renovation, but the entire purpose of the building would be redefined to become whatever our society needs most.


Branded Buildings:

Branded buildings, such as McDonalds or CVS Pharmacy depend heavily on the shape and design of their building to reiterate the branding. Companies such as McDonald’s will demolish and rebuild for small reasons as simple as they are trying to update the look of their brand. Why do we allow for the pointless changes that create demolition and construction waste and so much more? Branded buildings can still be created and gain from adaptive reuse and renovation. Renovating, rather than demolishing, would allow for the business to stay open while renovations are being completed. It would also take less time to construct because there would not be demolition or construction from scratch.

Located in the Palisades, Washington, D.C. there is a CVS that defies the idea that branded buildings have to demolish and rebuild for their locations. This CVS is a converted old movie theater. The design keeps the integrity of the old movie theater while also having a recognizable brand.

CVS|Pharmacy, Palisades, Washington, D.C.
CVS|Pharmacy, Palisades, Washington, D.C.

Another, larger, example is the Bastard Store, located in Milan. Designed by Studiometrico, the shopfront, officers, warehouse, and skate bowl are located within a 1900’s cinema. It stays true to as much of the cinema as was possible, but also reflects the brand’s gnarly attitude toward snowboarding. The juxtaposition of the prior program and the current program is an idea that can be appreciated and is much more complex than if they had torn down the cinema and built a new, sleek, snowboarding headquarters.

  • Original Milan Theater


In Conclusion:

As sustainability is becoming a requirement rather than an option, we as designers have to ask ourselves if it is really worth building new. With a site that already has a building on it, there is no need for a new building because we can effectively reuse the building that is already there. Even without considering the environmental side of things, adaptive reuse presents many more benefits that new construction simply cannot imitate.



Baer, William C. “Empty Housing Space: An Overlooked Resource.”Policy Studies Journal 8.2 (1979): 220-27. Web.

Bergsdal, Håvard, Rolf André Bohne, and Helge Brattebø. “Projection of Construction and Demolition Waste in Norway.”Journal of Industrial Ecology 11.3 (2007): 27-39. Web.

Bullen, Peter A. “Adaptive Reuse and Sustainability of Commercial Buildings.” Facilities 25.1/2 (2007): 20-31. Web.

Power, A. “Housing and Sustainability: Demolition or Refurbishment?”Proceedings of the ICE – Urban Design and Planning163.4 (2010): 205-16. Web.

“47-2061 Construction Laborers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Joint Center for Housing Studies. “America’s Rental Housing: Homes for a Diverse Nation.” (Publication of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University). HARVARD JOINT CENTER FOR HOUSING STUDIES, 8 Mar. 2006. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Kellert, S. R. 2005. Chapter 4: Biophilic design in Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection.Washington, DC: Island Press. pp. 123-177.

Power, Anne. “Does Demolition or Refurbishment of Old and Inefficient Homes Help to Increase Our Environmental, Social and Economic Viability?” Energy Policy 36.12 (2008): 4487-501. Web.

SCHALMO, Barbara Elwood. “COVERING THE COST OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Exploring the Adequacy of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit to Cover the Increased Development Cost of Adaptive Reuse

“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Transportation Sector Emissions. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Projects for Affordable Housing.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, May 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Tränkler, Josef O.v., Isa Walker, and Max Dohmann. “Environmental Impact of Demolition Waste — An Overview on 10 Years of Research and Experience.” Waste Management 16.1-3 (1996): 21-26. Web.

A Change in Architecture Theses

Thesis #1: Urban cities have created environmental issues that make them vulnerable to uncontrolled circumstances.

Pelling, M. (1967). The vulnerability of cities: natural disasters and social resilience. London: Earthscan Publications. (2003)

Smith, D. L. (2011). Environmental issues for architecture . John Wiley & Sons,.

Downton, Paul F. (2009). Ecopolis: Architecture and Cities for a Changing Climate. Springer Netherlands, 2009

Professor Ian War (2004). Energy and Environmental Issues for the Practising Architect. Thomas Telford Publishing

Stamatine Th. Rassia, Panos M. Pardalos(2014) Cities for Smart Environmental and Energy Futures “Impacts on Architecture and Technology”, Springer; 2014 edition (August 13, 2013)

Gasparini, Paolo, Manfredi, Gaetano, Asprone, Domenico (2014). Resilience and Sustainability in Relation to Natural Disasters: A Challenge for Future Cities. Springer 2014

Kammerbauer, M. (2013), “Schismo-urbanism’: cities, natural disaster, and urban sociology”. Disasters, 37: 401–419. Wiley Libary

Thesis #2: Japanese architecture has been restricted due to the limited land space.

Lazarin, Michael. “Phenomenology Of Japanese Architecture: En (Edge, Connection, Destiny).” Studia Phaenomenologica 14.(2014): 133-159. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Sept. 2015.

Inoue, Mitsuo, 1918-. Space In Japanese Architecture. New York: Weatherhill, 1985.

Kokusai Kōryū Kikin, et al.. Japan 2000: Architecture And Design for the Japanese Public. Munich: Prestel Verlag , 1998.

Shinozawa, Kenta (2006). “Structure of Natural Environment and Topography envisioned in the Development Process of Senri New Town”. Journal of The Japanese Institute of Landscape Architecture (1340-8984), 69 (5), p. 817.

Nemoto, Tetsuo (2008). “Transitions of Factors in Planning and Design Process in the Realization of Tama New Town Development Plan Based upon the Natural Topography”. Journal of The Japanese Institute of Landscape Architecture (1340-8984), 71 (5), p. 801.

Lippit, Seiji M. Topographies of Japanese Modernism. New York, NY: Columbia UP, 2002.

Thesis #3: Over the years, architecture design has stopped evolving to a point where it creates a sense of restriction and replication.

Adam Robert. (2012) The Globalisation of Modern Architecture: The Impact of Politics, Economics and Social Change on Architecture and Urban Design since 1990. Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Kenneth, Frampton. (2007) The Evolution of 20th Century Architecture: A Synoptic Account. Springer Vienna Architecture; 1 edition

Prudon, Theodore H.M.( 2008) Preservation of Modern Architecture. Wiley 2008

Siegel, Curt (1962). Structure and Form in Modern Architecture. Crosby Lockwood & Son; 1st US Edition 1st Printing edition (1962)

Blundell Jones, Peter; Canniffe, Eamonn (2007).Modern architecture through case studies, 1945-1990. Elsevier/Architectural Press

Derek, Avery (2003). Modern architecture. London, Chaucer Press