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Public-private interaction in low-rise, high-density Tokyo

A morphological and functional study of contemporary residential row-houses


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.

Pages:63 to 88
Section: Society
How to Cite
Sano, S., Filipović, I. and Radović, D. (2020) “Public-private interaction in low-rise, high-density Tokyo”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(2), pp. 63-88. doi:

Author Biographies

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.

Keio University
Japan Japan

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 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.


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