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(22-23) Kyoto - Tourism, liveability, landscape, heritage Releasing the virtuality captured in the Real

Kyoto – Tourism, liveability, landscape, heritage

Releasing the virtuality captured in the Real

2022-23, sem 3 studio by Martine de Maeseneer
Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent
Engagement: Urban Cultures

In collaboration with : Prof. Tomas Daniell, Department of Architecture and Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University

Kyoto studio archive

Framework of the Kyoto studio

Before the pandemic hit, Kyoto, the century-old city and former seat of Japan’s imperial court – by many still considered the cultural capital of Japan – had been under severe pressure from its rapidly growing tourism industry. Huge tourist numbers, at times outnumbering its population ten times over, created tensions and conflicts, with the city of Kyoto on one hand benefitting economically from tourism, whilst on the other hand suffocating under its pressure. The term kango kogai – tourism pollution – had been making headlines. Locals argued that whilst tourist numbers kept expand- ing, local infrastructures did not see matched investment, putting pressures on local residents to navigate their daily lives, from overcrowded public transport networks, to shops that catered for tourists rather than locals. Whilst Kyoto repeatedly ranked number 1 in its cultural assets, it only ranked in the low 50s on the Liveability index (Japan Power City Reports). The economic importance of tourism as one of Japan’s key growth sectors was increasingly in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. Then came the pandemic. With it came ‘silence’. If in 2019, 8 Mio tourists descended on Kyoto alone, in 2021 the entirety of Japan only received 245,900 foreign visitors, a 99.2% reduction. Suddenly the pressures seemed reversed. Whilst locals embraced the quietness and increased liveability, the tourism and hospitality industries and affiliated industries from shops, museums, boating companies, tea houses and private guest houses, suffered, and (as we write this Brief) are still suffering. Even the city itself is in an increas- ingly precarious position, with high debts incurred from expensive infrastructure projects, loss of tourism revenue and low tax income. Recently, most tourists came from Japan itself, a strategy that seeks to reign benefits from the void that emerged. Time will tell whether over-tourism will return. Many changes are taking place to adapt to the ongoing crisis and to redress some of the certainties that have recently become uncertain; some are brought about by governmental efforts others emerge through ad-toc initiatives by citizens. Whilst the pandemic may have amplified or reversed some pressures, many of the themes and discussions are not new. The dichotomy between business interests and the needs and wants of the civil society and their respective influence on the future development of the city is an ongoing issue; so is the discussion on tourism, public space, live- ability and the relevance of landscape, nature and heritage in a modernising country that faces an uneven pattern of growth, development, expan- sion, depopulation and shrinking amidst a demographic earthquake, with Japan having the oldest population in the world. In these times of uncer- tainty and change many new impulses are currently being set. Can the pandemic provide an opportunity to re-negotiate tensions between over- and under-tourism, liveability, landscape, nature, productivity and heritage? Where might potential synergies lie? Which methodologies can be devel- oped to reappropriate, recalibrate and renegotiate?

With the help of student projects undertaken in the 2021 Master Studio of Martine de Maeseneer on new spatial strategies for the tourism industry in Kyoto (2021) and with the expert assistance of Prof. Daniell and his students from Kyoto University as our on-site experts, we will retake the Kyoto studio that hooks into existing narratives whilst seeking new ones. Using Tourism as a vehicle to examine related urban issues, from liveability, over-ageing and heritage to pressures on landscape, nature and the environment, we will explore where synergies or edits could be undertaken to re- think, tapping into a growing catalogue of ideas for renaturation, recultivation,…

During the Kyoto studio, students will engage with this topic in a research-based and explorative manner. As students you will make use of the September Summer School discoveries and site visits from the summer school participants, who engaged to ‘hunt’ down fissures but also opportun- ities, assembling and charting their discoveries in a collective catalogue, from sites within the city centre to sites on the periphery. Through a critical reappraisal of their findings, students will set impulses to develop alternative scenarios and strategies that serve as starting points for a critical con- temporary debate on Kyoto’s tourism and its future. From adaptive re-use, to a reappraisal of current domestic scenarios, to off-set strategies that consider the role and potentials of adjacent regions and rural communities, you will develop test scenarios that question and propose at the same time. A close online collaboration with the Kyoto University will bolster our knowledge.

Thematic framework of the Kyoto City study studio is embedded in Martine De Maeseneer’s ongoing research into Hypertransforming Cities. Our explorations in Kyoto will therefore link to other urgent and ongoing spatial, socio-economic, political and cultural shifts that impact on our environ- ments and how we inhabit space. With that, the Kyoto studio embeds itself into these ongoing efforts.

The Kyoto studio will tackle these issues from inside out, by unfolding particularities, unseen potentials but also challenges as they present them- selves in the everyday realm. As the global and local scale are inextricably linked, global issues manifest themselves in the urban and spatial pat- terns of everyday life and vice versa. Students who join for the Kyoto studio will be urged to consider the pressures of tourism in relation to these other overriding pressures.


The preparation for this Kyoto Studio was done by a group of international participants of the KU Leuven Kyoto Summer School during Sept, 2022. The studio will be organised in collaboration with Prof. Tomas Daniell and his students from the Department of Architecture and Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University.

The Kyoto studio is part of the Performative Architecture Studio, which been focussing for several master dissertation studios on hyper-transforming cities – these city studies can be consulted via https://www.blog-archkuleuven.be/?s=maeseneer


Department of Architecture and Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University

The Performative Architecture studio – studio strategy & framework

Since the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th century the idea has gradually grown that forms -no longer- come forth out of a ‘mental back-up’ which is inherited since immemorial times, which was thought to be vital for us – enabling us to speak, to see and to produce. The scenario that has come in its place is where these ‘forms’ have fled along our body, into the open space, into thin air.

As a result one can also understand how the western fascination for pure geometry descended over projective geometry to topology, fluidums, net- works. In philosophy one calls that the downpour of platonic solids. It’s a movement that one can witness, happening in the last century. It’s a movement wherefrom generations of modern architects could not escape.

But nevertheless the picture still stands of this carrier space, a canvas, an envelope, a kind of background noise at the very least that works further behind or below the visible and reality. Sui Generi ‘diagrams’, which is the word which was very much in vogue in the second half of the nineties, work at the same time more autonomous and more generalizing.

For the architect/student it is paramount to chase these forms down, to get grip of them if one wants to know in which direction architecture is moving, as well as on a transpatial or spatial local level.

The studio focused on a continuously search for a broader field of ‘patterns’, ‘motives’, ‘logos’, ‘plots’ and ‘timbres’. — Words with an architectural resonance – which are an expression of a social, cultural an political involvement and expertise at large. This kind of (in)directness works.

This kind of architecture will demonstrate itself to us as it will jump from the classical adagio of likelihood (‘to like or not’ …) to an architecture where behaviour stands central (‘to behave or not’ …). Think then in the given context about the iteration ‘to click or not’ …, whereby texts, words, charac- ters become functions in a sort of digital acrostics: just, avoid to stick them together with images in a glossy picturesque of branding of a city.

Timing and organisation of the studio

The Kyoto maig/b34 studio will run in parallel with the Karachi, Serei Sophon and Buenos Aires studio, 4 hyper-transformation cities, and will mostly be organized as joint studios in order to become aware of the different conditions for this 4 locations. Students will need to be prepared to work and meet on Tuesdays on the Ghent SNS campus each week, but on Tuesdays we also will travel regularly to the Brussels campus for collaborative work- shops with the other ‘hyper transformation city’ studios (or visa versa).

The studio places a high emphasis on using drawings and models not as illustrative methods but as design and research tools that test, evolve and resolve ideas in a rigorous manner. The studio demands a very high engagement from each student to challenge their established working methods and to embrace, often unfamiliar ways of working. The study of key theoretical texts, precedents and theories as well as research into cross-discipli- nary fields forms the basis for critical reflection and is key for the formation of a coherent theoretical framework and contextualised position. Re- search will accompany the city project throughout (not just at “the start”). Process driven work and enquiry will form an integral part of the city project. The intellectual decision-making process as well as the investigative design development will be on-going throughout the project.

For more information, contact: Martine De Maeseneer www.mdma.be

Learning from Kyoto: Lotte Engelborghs, Nicolas Van Oyen, Umut Muezzinoglu

More info an results of the Kyoto studio can be found here.


A tea journey: Heleen Goethals, Raf Madou, Chloe Garrido-Ramirez, Yentl Dobbels

More info an results of the Kyoto studio can be found here.


Gone with the water: Xiangning Chen, Jinru Wu, Yibo Luo

More info an results of the Kyoto studio can be found here.


HISASHIBURI: Tung Cao, Veronika Tomickova, Isabel Locquet

More info an results of the Kyoto studio can be found here.