The Japanese are accustomed to climatic disasters. Tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, floods and volcanic eruptions are all regular events and we have invested in hardware (infrastructure) and software (training) to ensure the safety of the citizens. High flood defense walls protect cities like Osaka from the risk of flooding but at the same time disconnect citizens from their living waterfront. The scale of the walls eliminates any communication with the water, and the citizens lose their awareness of the sea, forgetting both their fear of and their delight in the water.
Ryoko Iwase’s project ‘tocotocodandan’ is the waterfront promenade + public space with the function of the flood defense. The architect was selected after a progressive open competition searching for a new design idea for the contradicting flood defense in 2012 and the project has been completed in 2017.
It reclaims the flood defense wall, converting the hard, engineered infrastructure into public space, a terraced landscape, with room for varied interpretation, inhabitation and appropriation by the users. There’s a continuous footpath along the water’s edge to encourage people to walk by the water and there are big steps of the right size for sitting, inviting people to stay and watch the water. There is also a system of planters which not only soften the concrete structure with vegetation, but also are designed to invite citizens to actively tend the greenery. By re-imagining infrastructure as public space, people now have the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, connecting to the forces of nature both passively and actively.
Credits: - RYOKO IWASE - Principal Architect - Ryoko Iwase