Heian kendo 1200 background – the destructed townscape of historical kyo-machiya in early 1990s

Heian kendo 1200 background – the destructed townscape of historical kyo-machiya in early 1990s

Heian kendo 1200 anniversary background – the destructed townscape of historical kyo-machiya

Before the early 1990s, kyo-machiya did not attract people’s interests very much, which could be proved by the number of articles mentioning the word “kyo-machiya” in “Asahi Shmbun” – one of the most famous newspapers in Japan. Before the early 1990s, the word was only mentioned below 20 times per year (While in the late 1990s, the number rapidly racked up to more than 300 times per year.) Worse yet, kyo-machiya war considered as old and dirty by a significant proportion of public. An investigation conducted in early 1990s about the interests of the public suggested that, only 32 percent of the interviewee recognized the necessity of preserving the kyo-machiya and up to 39 percent preferred to destruct the kyo-machiya directly for the construction of modern condominiums – which were also called manshon.[1]

The largely constructed manshon was supported by the government in order to stimulate the domestic demands during the asset bubble period (as mentioned in another post). The contemporary land policy – the fourth comprehensive land development project (第四次全国総合開発計画) – proposed that providing suitable residential and building high-quality housing are essential for improving the laggard living conditions and in-situ settlement in metropolis. The average housing area per family was supposed to increase to 100 sqm by 2000 (compared to the 86 sqm in 1986) and about 19 million condominium units were planned to build. [2]The demand for modern and clean mashon buildings in Kyoto further squeezed the living space of kyo-machiya, which were largely outshined compared to the clean, bright and modern manshons. The percentage of condominiums among the newly built housings reach its peak (66%) in 1981-1990.[3]

Kyoto had established a set of strict regulations for preserving the historical districts since 1970s, which included the height restrictions for the new buildings. However, with the expansion of real estate boom during the bubble period, the Kyoto government also modified the height restrictions in the historical district preservation regulations for the legality of the new high-rise structure condominiums.

In around 1990s, the Kyoto government promoted the Comprehensive Design System (総合設計制度) to advocate the construction of high-quality high-rise manshons.  The system allowed the possible exceeding of height restrictions when certain conditions were met, which included the ground area, the width of the street, the area of public space, the set back of the wall, the shading to surrounding buildings, the proportion of the green area and the installation of fire control facilities. [4]According to the regulation, the land are classified in to six types based on the historical value. Except the type one height-restricted district, the height restrictions of the other five types are loosened to 1.5 times than the initial regulations, with the maximum height reached up to 60 meters. The system and the loosening of the height restrictions resulted in controversies about the historical heritage preservation, for example, the opening of Kyoto Hotel, which will be further illustrated in another post.

Because of underestimation of the historical value of kyo-machiya and the legal support of high-rise manshons , the historical townscape of Kyoto was severely damaged in 1990s. After the bubble burst, local residents and government started the reflection of the traditional townscape of Kyoto, which was embodied in the construction of 1200 heian kendo celebration.

[1] Brumann, Christoph. Tradition, democracy and the townscape of Kyoto: claiming a right to the past. Routledge, 2012.

[2] 國土厅. 第四次全国総合開発計画. Japan, 1987.

[3] 久保加津代, 田中勝, & 金川久子. 住宅マスタープランにみる住情報と住教育: 都道府県住宅マスタープランについて. 日本建築学会計画系論文集, 66(543), 231-238, 2001

[4] 大澤昭彦. 京都市における高度地区を用いた絶対高さ制限の変遷‐1970 年当初決定から 2007 年新景観政策による高さ規制の再構築まで. 土地総合研究, 18(3), p181-210. 2010

1 Comment on “Heian kendo 1200 background – the destructed townscape of historical kyo-machiya in early 1990s

  1. This reminds me of Beijing and how I.M. Pei suggested that no highrise should be built around the forbidden city and how Yung Ho Chang talked about the objects and the fabric being the two important parts of the city’s heritage. In Beijing, now they are protecting the objects but not the fabric. On top of that, I would like to know how specifically did the development of manshons damage the city’s townscape and what did the Kyoto government do after that to protect the city’s heritage.

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