Heian Kento 1200: Tightened Height Restriction Regulations

Heian Kento 1200: Tightened Height Restriction Regulations

As elaborated in the other posts, the regulations of the height restriction were relaxed during the decades between the late 1980s and the early 1990s [1]. The alternation favored the boom of high-rises, with skyscrapers over 60 meters erected in the central traditional district. The deregulation brought a rapid erosion of Kyoto’s urban landscape and aroused intense opposition from citizens. Under such circumstances, the administration constantly reevaluated the development theme and proposed more and more intensified height restriction regulations in 1993, 1996 and 2003 [1].

The 1993 modification was a first trial to resist the “manshon boom”. It involved three aspects of measurements which were revisions of regulations, Strict control of the adjustment range of upper limit and refinements of detailed requirements. The first dealt with the loophole of the previous policies which only determined the goal to be betterment of townscape, yet was too tolerant of the architectural expressions. Meanwhile, a clearer division of urban functional zoning and respective restrictions of the height range were regulated. The center of Kyoto was planned to be a multi-functional one, while the western and southern districts were for industry [2]. The plain on the east was saved for high-density residential blocks and there existed fragmented piedmont area of mixed use. As for the height restriction respectively, it was 31-meter for buildings of the central traditional area and 60-meter for the commercial area. The commercial and Industrial districts were free from regulations by then.

Furtherly, the 1996 regulation introduced a more detailed height division system and established several 15-metre residential districts, among which the piedmont area for residence was of the foremost importance [1]. The natural scenery of the mountain would be free of blocks and be appreciated as a distant view for the citizens.

With all the good intention towards the preservation of the townscape, the regulations mentioned above were still not strong enough to immediately transform the economy and efficiency driven society. The multi-functional district at the main area turned out to be a failure. The machiyas there still suffered from the disharmony with those 31-meter apartment buildings. The issues of lighting, ventilation and borrowed scenery remained unsolved. Taking Pontocho which was a famous geisha quarter for example, it could only be viewed with disturbance of rows of modern concrete blocks at the background.

In that context, the government put forward a set of furtherly developed regulations in 2003 [1]. To resolve the issues of the town center, the focus was altered to the harmony of adjacent district. The height restriction of the central was furtherly limited to 15 meters to adjust to the intimate scale of machiyas and optimize the lighting condition.

The Heian Kento 1200 Plan, as a catalyst, reminded Kyoto of its unique history. Afterwards, the gradual tightening of the height restriction regulations presented that Kyoto become more and more determined to develop as a culture-directed city. Though in the process, there come shortages of the policies and sacrifice of economic benefits, with the refinement of the details and regional respective regulations, Kyoto become closer to a state that the preservation of traditional culture and the growth of modern industry co-develop without disturbing each other.



[1] 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, no. 3 (2010): p181-210.

[2] “Kyoto City Landscape Policy.” Kyoto City Web. September 2007. Accessed December 13, 2017. http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/tokei/cmsfiles/contents/0000061/61889/HP-English.pdf.

1 Comment on “Heian Kento 1200: Tightened Height Restriction Regulations

  1. After reading your post, I have briefly got an overall idea of the height restriction of the buildings in Kyoto. Due to the unique history in Kyoto, the Japanese government tries to preserve the townscape. I would like to know more about the other measures that the Japanese government does to help heritage conservation. Also, you have mentioned that there are some sacrifices on the economic benefits. How did the Japanese government balance these two aspects?

Leave a Reply

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