Heian Kento 1200: Kyoto Hotel, an example of controversy over height restriction regulation
Constructed in 1888, The 31-meter Kyoto Hotel was a western-style building serving only aristocrats at first. It is located at Nakagyo ward, which is the central district filled with historical heritage. In 1988, as a celebration of its 100th birthday, the president of the hotel decided to renovate it to a height of 60 meter. As the first project being built after the height restriction regulation being relaxed in the same year, it was unavoidably the focus of controversy alongside with the new Kyoto Station.
Various social groups attended the protest activities, among which The Kyoto Buddhist Society took the lead since the scenery of many temples were deeply influenced. On December 12th,1991, a meeting to discuss landscape issues was held at the Kiyomizu Temple University. 136 groups, including economic organizations, tourism related groups, citizens, educational institutes gathered to support the resistance of the loosened height restriction, and the representing Kyoto Hotel project . Later, from December 1st, 1992, guests of all branches of the hotel were refused by Shichitakaji temples of Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, Aoben sen, Renkaji, Sokokuji, and Koronji temple . Though it was impossible to check all visitors ‘information, the tough attitude of opposition was expressed clearly and aroused enormous public response. The signboard of refusal was not withdrawn until 1999, six years after Kyoto Hotel’s renovation .
Nevertheless, the hotel insisted that it was designed according to the need of modern tourism. The perspective was supported by mayor Tanabe, who announced that tourists should be free to enjoy the cultural facilities freely and the Buddhist society should terminate the refusal immediately . In 1991, the hotel once reluctantly promised to revise the design proposal to a version of lower height under the social pressure, yet it announced on May 5, 1992 that it would still be constructed as originally planned . Though the president of the hotel resigned, taking responsible for the issue, the revised 60-meter Kyoto Hotel constructed by 1993 marked citizens’ failure of protection of traditional landscape.
As Yoshiki, the president of Kyoto Buddhist Society, suggested in his speech, the unique urban spaces of Kyoto could never reappear if once destroyed . High rises might be a recipe to overcrowded metropolitans such as Tokyo and Osaka, yet it will never match Kyoto. An example of Washington D.C. was taken to suggest the necessity of controlling the height of new architecture to be lower than the historical ones. Moreover, Yoshiki criticized on the issue of greed after the Warcraft. The trend of intaking western modern concepts without a second thought led replicas such as the Kyoto tower, the Pont des arts bridge to be proposed or even built. The precious sense of emptiness, which could only be evoked by the natural scenery and religious townscape of Kyoto, was fading day by day.
Though the protests toward the giant Kyoto Hotel turned out to be a failure, it presented a gradually formed common sense of preservation of cultural heritage among citizens. It was the consensus of residents that was decisive in Kyoto’s development. The common wish led to the Heian Kento 1200 ceremony being taken seriously and the height restriction regulation being reevaluated and tightened in the following decade.
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