Why high-rises pose a risk to life and limb


Why high-rises pose a risk to life and limb


What was a typical scene in any neighborhood a half-century ago now seems lost to history. But poet Tatsuji Miyoshi's depiction of children's voices in his neighborhood in 1950s and 60s makes me wonder if such scenes could still be around somewhere.

In ``Tsuki no Toka'' (Ten days of the month), a Kodansha Bungei Bunko paperback, Miyoshi writes:



``Every morning, I hear children's lively voices from the house opposite mine. I hear them shout after breakfast, `We're off. See you later.'''

Come noon, and Miyoshi heard their, ``We're home'' just as clearly. With only a narrow alley separating his home from his neighbor's, Miyoshi could pretty much tell what was going on next door, even though he did not have a particularly close relationship with his neighbors.

This is the sort of thing one does not experience living in magnificent residence. ``I would never want to live in a big, towering house,'' Miyoshi adds.


Today's high-rise housing complexes fit that bill. In Osaka, two rattan shelves for potted plants came hurtling down from the balcony of a 27th-floor apartment 77 meters above ground. They were tossed by the apartment's 78-year-old resident, who was arrested by Osaka prefectural police and charged with attempted murder.


The resident reportedly told police that she threw the shelves in anger because she had tripped on them while cleaning the balcony.

One of the shelves barely missed a woman who was passing below on a bicycle.

The shelf was cracked and bent out of shape. Nobody needs a close brush with death of this kind.


When you look down from a towering high-rise, all you get is a distant view of street life. You can't see nearby scenes. You see trees, but you can't see their branches. You see people, but not their faces, nor can you hear their voices.


I can imagine many people actually relish this ``isolation'' from the world below and enjoy the open view they would not get from the ground level.

High-rise housing complexes have brought a new lifestyle to Japan today, but they can also instantaneously turn a perfectly harmless object into an instrument of destruction.


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 22(IHT/Asahi: April 23,2005)

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Tange set himself huge task in difficult times


Tange set himself huge task in difficult times


Foro Romano in central Rome is a cluster of ruins dating back to the old Republic. The nearby City Hall is said to have been built over the Tabularium, the ancient hall of records.



When the current Tokyo metropolitan government buildings were going up, I mentioned to the head of Rome's municipal museum department that the Tokyo government was abandoning its 30-year-old buildings for new premises that would cost more than 100 billion yen.

He remarked, ``It is fun, and a good thing too, to be able to fix and maintain a building built by your grandfather and his grandfather.''

Japan, however, has a tradition of constantly replacing old buildings. In fact, the new Tokyo metropolitan government headquarters came to symbolize that attitude.


Kenzo Tange, who designed both the old and new Tokyo government buildings, died Tuesday. In ``Tange Kenzo'' published by Shinkenchiku-sha, author Terunobu Fujimori, also an architect, described the architect as ``someone who gave form to the Showa Era (1926-1989).'' Indeed, Tange's works symbolized particular times in post-World War II Japan.


Fujimori once asked him: ``You have studied the works of many architects of all periods around the world. Who do you think is the greatest?'' Tange answered, ``Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris) and Michelangelo.''


Tange was a high school student under the old school system in Hiroshima when he came across the work of Le Corbusier, acclaimed as one of the fathers of modern architecture, featured in a magazine in a library. The architect left such a tremendous impact on the young Tange that he decided to go into the profession himself.

He later recalled in ``Ippon-no Enpitsu-kara'' (From one pencil), published by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, ``I was completely taken by his style that was devoid of any decorative element but decidedly beautiful in a severe way.''


Perhaps Tange always sought that kind of beauty even when designing massive contemporary structures. And perhaps he understood better than anyone what a tremendously difficult quest that was in our times.


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 24(IHT/Asahi: March 25,2005)

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