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Participatory planning - URBAN TYPHOON

URBAN TYPHOONS are events during which local communities from particular neighborhoods get together with urban practitioners from around the world to produce visions and ideas for a collectively authored effort at urban planning and transformation.

Photo of Masha Safina
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URBAN TYPHOON workshops are based on the premise that communities and neighborhoods have the basic skills and talent to participate more effectively in the processes of urban planning or in simply making appropriate choices that affect their future and the future of their cities. During a ten day interactive event, resource-persons work in teams comprising of local residents and practitioners from everywhere to develop specific themes.

2006 Urban Typhoon was centered on Shimokitazawa, a well-known vibrant area of Tokyo, home to many bars, restaurants, and specialty stores, just minutes away from major hubs such as Shibuya and Shinjuku. This area was in danger to be partly destroyed by a new plan of the government for large road right through the neighborhood. The new plan would result in transforming a low-rise, local scale, community orientated neighborhood into a commercial center similar to so many others in Tokyo. The workshop aimed at creating a testimony to the unique urban and cultural value of Shimokitazawa, with its narrow streets, dense pedestrian traffic, and dynamic cultural activity. The workshop was an experiment in global participatory planning, which produced alternative urban plans for Shimokitazawa.

More than 130 Japanese and international urbanists, architects, artists, photographers, and local residents worked together for a week and produced a multicultural, multidisciplinary and multimedia portrait of Shimokitazawa and visions for its future. The Urban Typhoon workshop was directly connected to two of the major community groups active in the neighborhood, Save the Shimokitazawa and Shimokitazawa Forum. These groups were formed in response to a master plan by the Municipality of Setegaya (to which Shimokitazawa belongs) which includes a 26 meter-wide road that would cut through the North part of the neighborhood. Urban Typhoon proposed to experiment with participatory planning schemes in Shimokitazawa, inviting local residents to brainstorm on the future of Shimokitazawa together with students, urban planners, architects, designers, artists, sociologists, media artists, political activists, and other optimists, to produce a multicultural, multidisciplinary and multimedia testimony to the unique spirit of Shimokitazawa, and alternatives to the master plan of the Municipality.

The ultimate goals of the workshop were to establish a communication between the local community and the Municipality, and generating a model for participatory planning. The workshop was completely inclusive, welcoming people of all ages independently of their educational background. This allowed people from all types of fields to learn to look at the neighborhood in an architectural way. In turn, the units benefited from the particular knowledge and skills of each participants. Moreover, each unit could get inspiration from the other units. In some cases, hard working units motivated all other units to work harder. The multiplicity of modes of expression and intervention, produced a multidimensional vision of and for Shimokitazawa. The connection of the workshop with the Ubiquitous City Symposium and the Cultural Typhoon Symposium provided an opportunity to reflect on the implications and possible extensions of the workshop. They also gave visibility to the workshop beyond Shimokitazawa and connected it directly with academia. These events gave legitimacy to the workshop and secured some financial support while letting the team completely free to organize the workshop as they wanted. Behind the specific contexts of the Urban Typhoon workshops lies a theme of great relevance for urban communities around the world: the participation of the residents in the planning of their urban environment.

Over the past decade, participatory planning has gradually gained recognition in the fields of planning and development. Developing cities, such as Curitiba in Brazil, Bogota in Colombia, and Mumbai in India, have experimented with participatory schemes, inspiring other cities, as well as international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Residents’ participation has become an essential element of urban policy in the developing world, as well as in highly developed cities such as Tokyo.


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Photo of Jen

I like this concept :-) It's a nice collective approach

Photo of Masha

Thanks, Jen. - What I like about this type of event is how it takes a local issue to the global scale with participants from all over the world joining forces with local community. The fact that Urban Typhoons run concurrently with structured academic symposiums makes them more visible and legitimate both to local authorities and globally. Communities in hardship from other countries and continents can learn from their example.

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