This paper aims to discuss an experience in teaching and learning urban design-research studio at The international Program in Architecture and Urban Design, Meiji University, Japan, in 2018. The studio attempted to address a specific context of the advanced aging and shrinking of the city in Japanese society through urban design thinking. By applying a research-led teaching method which requires students to search and respond to the resource approach to sustainable urban regeneration, the studio seeks creative and responsive ideas which could create an alternative to the decline of urban fringe in a specific context of an old new town suffering from the advanced aging demography.
With our main interest in the research on requalification, the studio was seeking to explore this concept in urban design scale. This design-research studio tried to identify and later applied the keywords with prefix “RE-s” as statement and conceptual thinking in the production of space. The area of investigation is Tama New Town located in Tokyo’s western suburb. It is the largest new town ever developed in Japan during the period of rapid economic growth in the 1970’s. Its design, which adopted the modernist planning concept, has become problematic in today’s situation. Half a century has passed, the new town, which never achieved its goal, has aged and is facing several socio-economic challenges.
The aim of this urban design-research studio is to reach beyond just technical problem solving by spatial design and instead exercise the responsive strategic thinking to address the current alarming issues of the aging and shrinking society which, we believe, important to the New Urban Agenda proposed by the UN-Habitat. Here we tried to address specific questions; how should urban design respond to the shrinking society? How can urban design thinking address the situation where there is no “growth” and oppressed with super-aging neighbourhoods? And how can we re-shape the environment that will be less and less inhabitable? Within this studio, students are encouraged to respond critically and creatively in overall strategic planning, urban and architectural design including the design of public space for a sustainable future.
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