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Kyoto - Towards an alternative Tourism Strategy

Kyoto – Towards an alternative Tourism Strategy

Releasing the virtuality captured in the Real

2021-22 maig34 studio by Martine de Maeseneer

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

Kyoto Studio programme

Kyoto, the century old city and former seat of Japan’s imperial court – by many still considered the cultural capital of Japan – is under severe pressure from its rapidly growing tourism industry. Nestled in the Yamashiro Basin surrounded by the Taba Highlands, its renowned heritage sites are attracting millions of visitors and tourists, who are putting the precious city landscape of Kyoto under jeopardy. Increased tourist numbers, at times outnumbering its population ten times over, have created tensions and conflicts. On one hand, the city of Kyoto benefits economically from tourism, at the same time it is suffering and suffocating under its pressure. The term kanko kogai – tourism pollution – has been making headlines. Much like in many other key tourism hotspots globally, locals argue that whilst tourist numbers keep expanding, local infrastructures have not seen matched investment, putting enormous pressures on local residents, from overcrowded public bus networks, to shops that cater for tourists rather than locals. The economic importance of tourism as one of Japan’s key growth sectors is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success, with both locals and now increasingly also tourists suffering from its success, with voices getting louder that the situation has become unsustainable. The question arises how Kyoto’s Tourism infrastructure will develop in the future? Will the city of Kyoto become submerged by the construction of generic hotels, or can a more intelligent strategy be developed? Could the existing building stock offer respite? Or, could Japan’s advanced train network give opportunities to bolster adjacent communities and regions?

An informative video can be seen here : https://mymedia.bu.edu/media/ProughInterview_Edited5April2020_544PM/1_e7h7w4w6

During the Kyoto studio, students will engage with this topic hands-on. By being remote tourists and researchers, we will on one hand become ‘part of the problem’ but at the same time we will seek to outgrow our own tourist status. Students will map the tourism infrastructure, its spaces, practices and networks. Through a critical reappraisal of the status quo, students will develop alternative scenarios and strategies that serve as starting points for a critical contemporary debate on Kyoto’s tourism and its future. From adaptive re-use of industrial buildings spread throughout the city, to a reappraisal of its current domestic settlements, through 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. Collaborations with Kyoto University will bolster our knowledge.

Whilst the Kyoto studio takes the form of a ‘remote’ case study, its thematic framework is also embedded into the overriding framework of ‘Pressures on the Urban Field’, a lecture series and think tank set up by Anuschka Kutz which touches on three important issues which will have a significant impact on our current and future urban (rural) landscapes: Ageing, Migration and Injustice. Over the last decades we have experienced unparalleled shifts in the demographic and migratory patterns of our communities, seen an unprecedented acceleration in the growth of our cities, alongside an increase in urban and rural injustice. These socio-economic, political and cultural shifts impact on our environments and how we inhabit space.

Kyoto with its particular influx of tourists within the also ageing Japanese society makes these pressures acute.

The Kyoto studio will tackle these issues from inside out, by unfolding particularities, unseen potentials but also challenges as they present themselves in the everyday realm.  As the global and local scale are inextricably linked, global issues manifest themselves in the urban and spatial patterns of everyday life and vice versa. In this discussion, Ageing, Migration and Injustice are not merely terms to discuss and juggle as intellectual academic entities, but as constituents that are attached to actual lives. They are, so to speak,  “lived-out” in real time. As such they become realities and practices at the same time. They prompt and probe the status quo of our urban structures, often resisting traditional categorisations of space. They can reset codes and behave in unpredictable and unexpected ways. They offset what we think we know. They undulate between volatile, convivial, viable, drastic, quiet, inventive, emancipatory, suffering, oppressive and gentile modes, creating conflict and communality, sometimes at the same time. As we look more closely at the structures we create on a daily basis, examining particularities of the interrelationships between space and spatial practice, expect the unexpected.

Students who join us for the Kyoto studio will be urged to consider the pressures of tourism in relation to these other overriding pressures.

The basic preparation for this Kyoto Studio was done by a group of international students during the KU Leuven Kyoto summer school from Sept 6-10, 2021.

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 (due to the Japan travel ban, organised in remote way). Although all the participants of the Kyoto studio are invited to join the Sept 2022 on-site summer school.

Above, the Performative Architecture Studio has been focussing for several master dissertation studios on hyper-transforming cities, where also a lot of material can be consulted via https://www.blog-archkuleuven.be/?s=maeseneer

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, networks. 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, characters 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 maig34 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 workshops with the other ‘hyper transformation city’ studios.

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-disciplinary fields forms the basis for critical reflection and is key for the formation of a coherent theoretical framework and contextualised position. Research 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 Demaeseneer

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