Kyoto Landscape Policy 2007/ What’s New
京都の景観政策 – Kyoto City Landscape Policy 2007
When The Council on Landscape Formation of Kyoto Shining Forever was established in 2005, they had already proposed a few aspects that the new policy must address. After two years of consultation and planning, the council officially released the Landscape Policy in 2007. As mentioned before, the regulations were not new ideas and so instead this blog entry will more closely at the things that were changed.
1 – Stricter building height limitation
At the main artery roads, the maximum height was reduced from 45 meters to 31 meters. For the residential districts, the limit was reduced by more than 50% from 31 meters to 15 meters. This action was to protect the human scale characteristic of the Kyo-machiya urban space. The traditional Kyo-machiya is 2 stories tall, if a tall building was introduced it would completely destroy the appearance and experience of the city, as we’ve seen previously in the case of Kyoto Tower.
Existing buildings that exceed the building limit, 1800 of them, would be labelled as illegal . However, the developers were not required to take it down immediately. The common apartment building in Japan is built to last only 30 years due to traditions of purchasing brand new homes over second-hand ones. Therefore those structures would be demolished in due time anyway, and replaced by new buildings that conform to the new regulations.
2 – Review of building design standards
Previous standards were divided into 5 types of traditional building design. The new policy sets a list of common standards with additional region specific design standards, allowing local building characteristics to be preserved and enhanced. To facilitate this regulation, the city categorized areas as ‘Landscape Districts’ (風景区). For example, Shimogamo (下鴨) is a ‘mountain-background’ type district, where the pitched roofs form a distinctive landscape with the mountains in the background . Therefore, the district will have strict regulations to control the color and type of roof in order to preserve this consistent city aesthetic.
3 – Preserving ‘borrowed landscape’ and ‘perspective landscape’
Borrowed Landscape is a concept used in Chinese and Japanese Gardens, where a certain view is framed and the background elements are borrowed and used as part of the framed view. While perspective landscape is defined as “the entire visible landscape between the viewer and the target view” .
This regulation was the first in Japan to address the preservation of these views, and the reason given was that “such landscapes have incorporated in people’s daily lives and have been giving them pleasure for a long time”. Indeed it would be a shame for the locals if a view of a distant mountain was to be blocked by a tower, or if a modern building suddenly appeared behind a traditional Shinto shrine.’
The policy categorizes the borrowed and perspective landscapes into 8 types, and basically all buildings within the line of sight will be strictly regulated. The building height, facade design, and roof color are to be carefully controlled as to not interrupt the landscape view.
4 – Stricter regulation of building advertisements
The color and locations of building advertisements were already under control by Kyoto regulation and this new policy further regulates them. Basically rooftop and flashing displays are now banned since they are “regarded as too strong for the urban landscape” . Advertisement boards have become part of the contemporary Japan city aesthetic, for example a street in Shinjuku would be filled with glowing advertisement boards. The city of Kyoto obviously rejects that, in order for Kyoto to retain the traditional city aesthetic.
5 – Preservation and renovation of historical buildings
The Kyo-machiya are the core of the historical landscape of Kyoto, and this last part of the policy aims to preserve those traditional buildings. The local government will select areas with historical street landscapes and develop specific plans for the preservation of those districts. The city also provides a subsidy for locals who own Kyo-machiyas and encourages them to repair/renovate their houses.
 Christoph Brumann, and Evelyn Schulz. Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and Social Perspectives. London: Routledge, 2015. p64-66.
 City of Kyoto. “Kyoto City Landscape Policy”. 2007
 City of Kyoto. “Conservation, Revitalization and Creation of Kyoto Landscape“. http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/tokei/cmsfiles/contents/0000057/57538/3shou.pdf. 2007. Accessed 19th December 2018
 City of Kyoto. “Conservation, Revitalization and Creation of Kyoto Landscape“.