Satoshi Sano
Ivan Filipović
Darko Radović


The focus of this paper is liveable, low-rise high-density urban morphologies of residential architecture and urban planning practices in Tokyo. Over the last several decades, historically established qualities in cities worldwide are increasingly sacrificed in favour of globalization–led ‘universal’ typologies. Tokyo is not an exception: it is gradually changing to a high-rise, high-density built city environment.
From a morphological point of view, the paper demonstrates bioclimatic and cultural disadvantages of such developmental paradigm shift in Tokyo. Presented case studies elaborate upon the ways in which low-rise high-density environments and subsequent urban forms better facilitate human interaction and, consequently, can aid in reducing social isolation and contribute to mental well-being.
Presented case studies, observed over the period of six years depict how residential environments created by row-houses can be seen as a collection of adjoining private spaces. The emphasis is on the interconnected set of phenomena: low-rise high-density morphologies, climate-responsive semi-exterior spaces, facilitating human and public-private interaction.
The conducted morphological and functional analysis shows how design requirements of bioclimatic responsive semi-exterior space fully coincide with those of desirable public-private interface and human interaction. However, site-specific constraints critically affect spatial configurations of low-rise high-density developments in contemporary Tokyo, emphasizing the requirement for case-by-case attention in design and management of such places. Only design processes conscious of spatial management aware of the potential embedded in the design process can enhance socio-cultural interplay and bioclimatic performance.


How to Cite
Sano, S., Filipović, I. and Radović, D. (2020) “Public-private interaction in low-rise, high-density Tokyo: A morphological and functional study of contemporary residential row-houses”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(2), pp. 63–88. doi: 10.32891/jps.v5i2.1285.
Author Biographies

Satoshi Sano, Keio University

Sano Satoshi (1980), architect. Holding a degree of Master of Architecture from the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, Japan (2006). Collaborator of Renzo Piano Building Workshop (2004). Worked at Kengo Kuma & Associates (2006-2009). Co-founder and Principal Architect at Eureka Architectural Design and Engineering (2009-present). Part-time lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Japan (2014-present). Research Associate at Public Collaboration Center, Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan (2015-2016). PhD candidate at Keio University, School of Science for Open and Environmental Systems (2016 - present). Member of the Architectural Institute of Japan, Society of Architects & Building Engineers and the Japan Institute of Architects. Architecture Institute of Japan Selected Architectural Designs Young Architects Award 2016. Finalist, 30th The Japan Institute of Architects Young Architect Award. Grand Prize, The Japan Institute of Architects Tokai Architectural Prize for Housing Projects 2014. Highly Commended, The Architectural Review AR House Awards 2014.

Ivan Filipović, Keio University

Ivan Filipović (1987), architect. Holding a degree of Master of Engineering from the Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade, Serbia (2011). Employed as a graduate teaching assistant for architectural design in the studio of professor Dragana Vasiljević Tomić, PhD (2011-2013). Employed at the Embassy of Japan in the Republic of Serbia (January 2013 – April 2015) as coordinator for construction and maintenance of the new Japanese embassy building in Belgrade. Holder of MEXT Scholarship for postgraduate studies, awarded by the Japanese Government (2016 – present). PhD candidate at Keio University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of System Design Engineering (2017 - 2020). Member of the Association of Serbian Architects, The Applied Artists and Designers Association of Serbia and the Architectural Institute of Japan. Exploring and pioneering interdisciplinary academic research of a novel term of “soft power architecture”. Lives and works between Tokyo, Japan and Belgrade, Serbia.

Darko Radović, Keio University

Darko Radović is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Keio University, Tokyo, and Visiting Professor at United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, Politecnico di Milano, DASTU (2018-19) and University of Ljubljana (2019-20). He has taught, researched and practised architecture and urbanism in Europe, Australia and Asia in the fields of sustainable architecture, urban design, planning and strategic thinking. At Keio University, Darko currently leads architecture and urban design research laboratory co+labo radović, strategic Comprehensive Design Workshop and coordinates Keio Architecture Initiative. His work was published in English, Serbo-Croatian, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Thai languages.


Ahlfeldt, G., Pietrostefani, E. (2019). The economic effects of density: A synthesis. Journal of Urban Economics. 111, pp. 93–107. doi:10.1016/j.jue.2019.04.006.

Almusaed, A. (2014). Biophilic and Bioclimatic Architecture: Analytical Therapy for the Next Generation of Passive Sustainable Architecture. Berlin: Springer.

Aoki, M. (1985). A study on the change and development of housing style after the Meiji era. Jūtakukenchikukenkyūjohō, 12, pp. 13-61.

Aoki, Y. & Yuasa, Y. (1993). Private Use and Territory in Alley-Space: Hypotheses and tests of planning concepts through the field surveys on alley-space Part 1. Transactions of AIJ. Journal of architecture and planning. 449(0), pp. 47-55.

Aoki, Y., Yuasa, Y. and Osaragi, T. (1994). Private Use and Territory in Alley-Space: Hypotheses and tests of planning concepts through the field surveys on alley-space Part 2. Transactions of AIJ. Journal of architecture and planning. 59(457), pp. 125-132.

Brumann, C. (2015). Urban Spaces in Japan. Abingdon: Routledge.

Clifford, S. (2018). Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness. Available at: https://www.aginglifecarejournal.org/health-effects-of-social-isolation-and-loneliness/ [Accessed 5 May. 2019].

Diener E, Suh E, Oishi S. (1997). Recent findings on subjective well-being. Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology. 24, pp. 25–41.

Exenberger, A., Strobl, P., Bischof, G., & Mokhiber, J. (Eds.) (2013). Globalization and the City: Two Connected Phenomena in Past and Present. Innsbruck University Press. Retrieved from http://books.openedition.org/iup/1352.

Grondin, D. (1959). “Architecture and climate”, Moscow: Mir Publishers, pp. 79-86.

Japan Property Central KK. (2011). Building regulations in Japan. Japan Property Central.

Jinnai, H. (1995). “Tokyo: A Spatial Anthropology”. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kamimoto, T. and Saiseikenchiku Laboratory. (2018). Minagawa Village. Shinkenchiku. 93(8), pp. 98-107.

Kara, B. (2019). The Impact Of Globalization On Cities. Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, 3(2), 108-113. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.25034/ijcua.2018.4707.

Keene, D, tr. (1998). Essays in Idleness: The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō. New York: Columbia University Press.

Khazaee, M., Darabi, S., Abdi, J. (2015). Globalization and its Ambivalent Effects on Cities. Journal of Applied Environmental and Biological Sciences. 5(9S), pp. 821-829.

Kitayama, K., Tsukamoto, Y. & Nishizawa, R. (2010). TOKYO METABOLIZING. Tokyo: TOTO Publishing.

Kusanagi,H. (2015) Regional characterization of US and Japanese climates from altitude reduction rate graph of temperature and temperature maps. Available at:https://www.metsoc.jp/tenki/pdf/2015/2015_06_0037.pdf [Accessed 5 May. 2019].

Mikami, H. and Suzuki, S. (1998). Movements and Issues on Openness and Closedness of Contemporary Japanese Housing. Housing Research Foundation annual report. 24, pp. 187-196.

Maki, F. and Makabe, T. (Eds.) (2019). Another Utopia. NTT Publishing.

Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. (2008). Community making promotion meeting where elderly people can live in peace even if they are alone (Aiming at "isolated death" zero) report.Available at:https://www.mhlw.go.jp/houdou/2008/03/h0328-8.html [Accessed 5 May. 2019].

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. (2019). Building Standards Act. Available at: https://elaws.e-gov.go.jp/search/elawsSearch/elaws_search/lsg0500/detail?lawId=325AC0000000201.

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. (2019). Enforcement Regulations of Building Standards Act. Available at: https://elaws.e-gov.go.jp/search/elawsSearch/elaws_search/lsg0500/detail?lawId=325M50004000040.

Petermans, A. (2019). Subjective wellbeing and interior architecture: why and how the design of interior spaces can enable activities contributing to people's subjective wellbeing. Journal of Design Research. 17(1).

Radović, D., Boontharm, D. (Eds.) (2012). Small Tokyo. Tokyo: Flick Studio.

Rice, L. (2019). A health map for architecture: The determinants of health and wellbeing in buildings. In book Designing for Health & Wellbeing: Home, City, Society. Publisher: Vernon.

Sasao, K. (2019). Public Hack. Tokyo: Gakugei Shuppansha.

Sorensen, A. (2004). The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century. Abingdon: Routledge.

Statistics Bureau of Japan. (2019). Statistical Handbook of Japan 2019. Statistical Handbook of Japan 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2020, from https://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook/c0117.html.

Suzuki, R. (2014). Rethinking the floor area ratio easing legal system that creates Kokai-Kuchi. Tokyo Metropolitan University.

Tan, K.G., Woo, W.T., Tan, K.Y., Low, L., & Aw, G.E.L. (2012). Ranking the Liveability of the World’s Major Cities: The Global Liveable Cities Index. Singapore; Hackensack, N.J: World Scientific Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1142/8553.

Tardits, M. (2014). Tôkyô, Portraits & Fictions. Tokyo: Kajima Publishing.

The National Association of Regional Councils (2012). Livability literature review: a synthesis of current practice. Washington. Retrieved from http://narc.org/wp-content/uploads/Livability-Report-FINAL.pdf.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government. (2016). Land Use in Tokyo. Available at: http://www.toshiseibi.metro.tokyo.jp/seisaku/tochi_c/tochi_5.html [Accessed 5 May. 2019].

Tokyo Metropolitan Government. (2019). Statistics of Tokyo.Available at: http://www.toukei.metro.tokyo.jp/ [Accessed 5 May. 2019].

Velasquez, O. M. (2009). Bioclimatic Architecture. Barcelona: Monsa.

Veenhoven, R. (2006). The four qualities of life. Ordering concepts and measures of the good life. In M. McGillivray, & M. Clarke (Eds.) Understanding Human Well-being (pp. 74-100). Tokyo-New York-Paris: United Nations University Press.

Veenhoven R. (2008). Sociological theories of subjective well-being. In: M Eid , RJ Larsen (eds). The science of subjective well-being. New York: Guilford Press; 2008:44–61.

Watanabe, K. (1989). Psychological Problems in High-rise Housing. Noise Control, 13(1), pp. 4-8.

World Health Organization. (2020). Japan. Countries. https://www.who.int/countries/jpn/en/.