Kyoto (1960-1964) / Uzo Nishiyama’s Plan for Kyoto 1964

In the previous blog post, ‘Kyoto Tower and modernists at that time’, I have elaborated on the influence of Nishiyama in the field of modernization of Kyoto during the post-war period. In the following, I will go deeper into his Plan for Kyoto 1964.

The main objective of Nishiyama’s Plan for Kyoto is to preserve the natural environment and cultural properties of Kyoto, while creating high-dense living complexes; major changes are also applied to the existing traffic system.

Nishiyama’s Plan for Kyoto 1964 mainly consisted of a belt-shaped mega-structure that is five street blocks wide and thirteen kilometers long, running parallel to Kyoto’s north-south axis and flanked by several primary historic sites including the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, and Nishi Honganji Temple. The entire belt would sit on an enormous ‘artificial land’ elevated above the ground, divided into five linear sections of equal width. The central band was reserved for a pedestrian street, open space, and low-rise residential buildings. On either side there were two strips of high-rise residential buildings, all 100 meters high and arranged in a checkerboard pattern. Each building was conceived as a self-contained neighborhood and occupied an entire block.

partial section of the 'laminated housing' from Nishiyama published in a magazine in1964
partial section of the ‘laminated housing’ from Nishiyama published in a magazine in1964

The term ‘laminated housing’ was coined for these residential buildings because different layers have different functions. Every few stories in a the building there would be a public level, or so-called ‘Neighboring Space.’ A primary school and a green garden would be located on the rooftop. Skyways, containing a few residential units, connected residential buildings in the air. Highways and monorails would run right beside the artificial land, linking the new linear district to national expressways and railways on either end of it. The space under the artificial land but above the street grid would be used for parking. By doing so, Nishiyama looked for a clear separation of citizen circulation and automobile circulation, ultimately taking back the central space of the city for walking on foot while sparing the sideways for cars. This important objective rooted from Nishiyama’s observation on the fact that automobile has dominated the road traffic in modernized cities, over seeing the importance of walkways fro human.

On the whole, Nishiyama was interested in understanding urban development and believed in the application of scientific principles to identify the qualities of a ‘good’ town in existing organic urban forms. However, he had difficulties in putting his idea into practice even though his influence spurred his professional career, such that he delivered important projects and became a powerful member of professional institutions.

overall master plan of the Plan for Kyoto 1964 by Nishiyama
overall master plan of the Plan for Kyoto 1964 by Nishiyama


Hyogo Ashiya, A study on Uzo Nishiyama – Architecture as a Policy. (Osaka City University, 2013)

John Pendlebury, Erdem Erten, and Peter J. Larkham, Alternative Visions of Post-War Reconstruction: Creating the modern townscape. (New York: Routledge, 2014)

Yoshihiko Baba, ‘Modern or Unmodern?’ Understanding the landscape dispute of Kyoto Tower and Kyoto Station (2010)

Zhongjie Lin, Kenzo Tange and the Metabolist Movement: Urban Utopias of Modern Japan. (New York: Routledge, 2010)

2 Comments on “Kyoto (1960-1964) / Uzo Nishiyama’s Plan for Kyoto 1964

  1. Looking at the overall master plan of the Plan for Kyoto 1964 by Nishiyama, I was instantly reminded of the Sewoon Arcade in Seoul, a multi-programme complex comprised of 4 mega-blocks that ran through a 1km corridor. Both projects have the aim to separate the pedestrian and automobile traffic around the site, while Nishiyama’s plan have a grander vision for Kyoto (“taking back the central space of the city for walking on foot while sparing the sideways for cars”). In spite of the apparent difference in scale between the two projects, it is interesting to see how architects in the 1960s are using the strategy of an elevated ground to tackle existing urban issues (whether it is the refugee settlement issue in Seoul or the need to provide high-density housing in Kyoto). There is also a common attention to the traditional urban fabric and the characteristics of the city in both projects.

  2. I find it interesting that UZO NISHIYAMA’S PLAN FOR KYOTO 1964 address the similar phenomenon at the time as Kenzo Tange’ Plan for Tokyo 1960 and 1968 which is the rise of automobile. However, they treated it differently, the former one is more humane that yearn for human-oriented walkway while the later one stress on effectiveness and system, more about separate circulation and hierarchy of different kind of circulation. However, I doubt whether “taking back the central space of the city for walking on foot while sparing the sideways for cars” would work. First, the demand of space for automobile might be underestimated. Second, despite strengthening the central axis for walkways, the connection of the center part and the rest of the city is disrupted by the sideways for car.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.