Hiroshima/1946-1955/The Debate on Reconstruction and the Adoption of Kenzo Tange’s Plan – Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

The Debate on Reconstruction and the Swinging Stance of the Hiroshima Reconstruction Committee

“Disaster Capitalism” refers to the opportunity for redevelopment and redistribution of real estate and wealth that favored big business and planning (7). This perfectly describes the situation of post war Hiroshima reconstruction.  Hamai argued the criticism of “disappearance of the old Hiroshima”, he said, “Hiroshima’s pre-war visage had to be transformed. Rather than vainly clinging to the old downtown structure, we should plan for redevelopment.” (8) In fact, at that time, the Hiroshima Reconstruction Committee could not put a stance on the case because the committee included professionals in different fields, for example, urban planning, business circles, as well as the public media, so it was hard to make a consensus within the committee.

Without a concrete stance on whether to leave or to take the old Hiroshima, the Hiroshima Reconstruction Committee announced a competition for reconstruction plan. The aforementioned guest of the committee, Ishikawa Hideaki, who was on the side of redevelopment, proposed the transformation of land-use. He suggested to design shopping arcades for commercial development and turning Hiroshima into Venice (9). However, his proposal was harshly criticized by the general public due to ignoring the number of deaths of the land and placing grand arcade on top of it, and to be too enthusiastic about tourist attractions (10).

Except Ishikawa’s plan, most of the proposals considered commemoration. However, most do not focus on commemoration but only mentioned in terms of transformation narrative like building a memorial museum (11). Furthermore, the submitted plans seemed deeply influenced by the modernist approach at that time, consisted of ideas about grid networks, separating industry and living, zoning, etc.


Adopting the proposal by Kenzo Tange

Eventually, Kenzo Tange’s proposal was adopted and approved by the government. The proposal consisted of three parts:

  1. To preserve the Hundred-meter Street (renamed as Peace Boulevard in this project), which was built at the end of the war to provide fire prevention space and evacuate refugees. After the war, it became a strip running through the city center for major transportation use;
  2. To build the Peace Memorial Park in the hypocenter, and preserve some of the remaining buildings. Importantly, to commemorate the war damage in a place that had witnessed the disaster in first hand;
  3. To create riverbank green areas. In Kenzo Tange’s park plan, he integrated the Children’s center into the riverside green landscape. (12)

Kenzo Tange’s plan was considerate of the need for commemoration; at the same time, the opportunity for redevelopment was not ignored. It seemed to be the best solution to settle the social disputes about the balance between preserve and redevelop. It was believed that the success of this plan proved the mental therapeutic effectiveness for the post war horror of greenery space, and also promoted support for the campaign of greenery movement in parallel to the Peace Memorial City Construction Plan later in 1952. (Details of the Peace Park Plan and the Children’s Center will be discussed in the next entries.)

7.   Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, (Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2008).

8. Hamai Shinzo, A-Bomb Mayor, p.59

9. City of Hiroshima, Contemporary History of Hiroshima, (Hiroshima Shinshi), (City of Hiroshima, 1981), P.54

10.  Zwigenberg, Ran. Hiroshima: the origins of global memory culture, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. p.55.

11. Ishimaru Norioki, The Reconstruction Hypothesis of Hiroshima (Hiroshima no fukko katei), (City of Hiroshima, 1984), P. 15.

12. Hein, Carola, Jeffry M. Diefendorf, and Yorifusa Ishida. Rebuilding urban Japan after 1945. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. P.96.

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