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Small Is the Key: Fumihiko Maki on the Urbanism of Tokyo

The architect of the successful Hillside Terrace explains why it’s difficult for Tokyo developers to follow that model.
Fumihiko Maki interviewed by Mohsen Mostafavi
  • 1.

    Fumihiko Maki et al., City with a Hidden Past (Tokyo: Kajima Institute Publishing, 2018). This is the English translation of the book originally written in Japanese and published by Kajima in 1990. The book is an anthology of explorations by Maki and the staff members of his studio into how the urban composition of Tokyo has been formulated and transformed since the Edo period. Maki’s discourse on inner space (oku), Takatani’s analysis of the enduring impact of the street structure underlying the city, and Ohno’s insight into the layers of space mediating houses and the city, among other chapters, continue to inspire readers today.

  • 2.

    Maki belonged to the lab when he was a student at the University of Tokyo.

  • 3.

    Maki’s position statement was first published in the August 2013 issue of the JIA Magazine, a monthly of the Japan Institute of Architects, under the title “Thoughts on the New National Stadium Proposal in the Historical Context of Jingu Gaien.” It immediately created a polemic, which spread across the country.

  • 4.

    At the time of the interview (December 2019), the stadium based on Kengo Kuma’s proposal was under construction. His proposal won the second competition, which was held after the first design, by Zaha Hadid, had been canceled.

  • 5.

    Since its construction in 1935, Tsukiji Market played a significant role not only in supplying quality fresh food but also in enhancing the particular food culture of the country. But because traffic was congested and the buildings were becoming too small, the market was relocated farther east, to Toyosu, in 2018. Before the relocation, the market was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo.

  • 6.

    In 2002, the Japanese government enacted the deregulation policy for urban development in Tokyo and other large cities, and in doing so, they delegated planning and managing development to consortiums of major developers.

  • 7.

    Maki invented the concept of “city room,” which he included in his “Movement Systems in the City,” proposed for the city of Boston as a traffic network plan in 1965. The “city room” was conceived as an urban space unit that works as a node of channels of transport and activities.

  • 8.

    The Senju campus of Tokyo Denki University, built in 2017, was designed by Maki in such a way as to help regenerate an old town surrounding the campus and the Kita-Senju station in the east of Tokyo. In an effort to share the space with the neighbors as much as possible, the campus includes wide open space, a nursery, fab labs, and learning support facilities, all of which can be accessed by local residents.

  • Fumihiko Maki is an architect and urban planner based in Tokyo, working extensively in and outside Japan. While running a small practice designing large-scale buildings, he has been taking the initiative in encouraging debates over public space and buildings. After studying with Kenzo Tange at the University of Tokyo, Maki completed a master’s degree at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where he also taught before setting up his own practice in Tokyo in 1965. Maki is a laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the UIA Gold Medal.