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Japanese hotel

The Culture That Influenced Cities Townscape

In the book, The Aesthetic Townscape, by Japanese architect Yoshinobu Ashihara, the writer expresses the cross-culture perspective in urban design and urban spaces. Based on his experiences in Japan, North America, and Europe, he provides a very unique insight. This blog post will summarize some of his discoveries.

Home Layout

In his book, Ashihara suggests that if Western European buildings are “wall buildings”, then Japanese buildings would be “floor buildings”. Although open-floor concepts are becoming more popular, most European-style homes are often separated by into distinct, fixed rooms.  Combining rooms is a major home improvement project requiring tearing down walls.  the Japanese do not have a strong concept of walls. The Japanese, on the other hand, tend to separate rooms with bamboo curtains, wood sliding doors, or a picture screen. As a result, it is easy to combine or split space, depending on what is needed for that moment.

Japanese hotel

Typical Japanese Living Room

https://www.spinjapan.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/10-Useful-Japanese-Expressions-to-Book-a-Hotel-in-Japan-e1453888074426.jpg

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A common walled living room

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/21/63/b1/2163b1bedb6272016a419404f90bc22d.jpg

Inside vs. Outside

In traditional Japanese families, people tend to take off their shoes before coming into the house. This habit is shaped by Japanese culture, which strongly separates “inside” (formal) from “outside” (informal). Shoes should only be worn “outside” and once you’re “inside”, they should always be removed. Home is a place where one should feel comfortable and relaxed, and should therefore be distinguished from the harshness of being outside in a public space. On the other hand, in Europe, people often leave their shoes on when coming into their home. Those who practice this don’t view it as bringing the outside in with them and do this out of convenience.

The Japanese even take their shoes off from the moment they walk in the hotel. They can wear their robes to walk around or just with socks. Basically, wearing a tie or shoes walking around inside would be awkward. In the West, hotel patrons wouldn’t even think about taking off their shoes until they get in their hotel room.

Japanese have a very clear line to isolate “inside” (shoes off) and “outside” (shoes on):

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http://onemileatatime.img.boardingarea.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_4602.jpg

shoes-in-front-of-Japanese-temple

(Do not enter a Japanese temple or home with the shoes on)

http://www.thetravelmagazine.net/wp-content/uploads/shoes-in-front-of-Japanese-temple.jpg

 

City Aesthetics

Based on this Japanese culture, people are usually indifferent about the beautification of public space. As we can see from pictures, most of Japanese streets tend to look uniform without much decoration or landscaping. Moreover, sometimes they built a wall between the house and street. In contrast, Western cities usually pay careful attention to urban design and take pride in making their communities aesthetically pleasing.

In Japan:

2

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/61/72/06/617206e17c5678aab94c7264c964e356.jpg

Japan streetscape1http://i0.wp.com/japanese-museum.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/hiroshima_2.jpg?fit=900%2C506

In Europe:colorful_apartment_building_in_burano_venice_italy_0https://www.zicasso.com/sites/default/files/styles/original_scaled_down/public/photos/tour/colorful_apartment_building_in_burano_venice_italy_0.jpg

piazza-san-marco-long

http://www.reidsitaly.com/images/veneto/venice/sights/piazza-san-marco-long.jpg

After all, it is hard to see decorations like status or fountains in Japan, whereas Europe already have their catholic and Rococo style, full of decoration on buildings. I think this is a great example of the cities built based on “internal” and “external” culture.  Every design in the city somehow got influenced by the culture, that’s why we should pay attention to the way a city design/plan when we travel, you will find interesting stories.

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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The Future of Transportation Part II

As an alumnus and a member of the Advisory Council for the Civil Engineering Department at Cornell University, I was asked to lead a workshop during the summer CATALYST Academy. The purpose of the summer program was to bring high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to Cornell to spark an interest in engineering and the university. My workshop entitled “Transportation: How you can be part of the Future” included a 30-minute presentation and a 60-minute group activity. Part I was the summary of the presentation portion of my workshop. 

 

Group Activity

I created a 60-minute group activity to give the students a high-level experience designing the transportation for the future. For the assignment, they had to solve a transportation problem for a specific type of community by developing at least two goals and using technology, while meeting the needs of at least two social equity communities. How hard could that be?

One aspect of the activity was to see the students work in teams. My workshop was on the first day of the program, so the students had just met each other. I divided them into six groups at random. The amazing part was watching them interact with each other and more importantly how they made sure everyone participated. Although I only asked for one person to present for the group, each group chose to present as a team.

The Ideas

The six groups and immediately started thinking and creating. Here’s what the groups created:

  • Group 1: Their community setting was space. Their goals were to establish connectivity between earth and mars, and create mining jobs. Their technology was autonomous spaceships. Their social equity groups were homeless and historically underserved communities by providing jobs.
  • Group 2: They selected a suburban setting, because more generations are living together and cities already have public transportation. Their two goals were to establish connectivity and the reduce air emissions. Their technology was autonomous vehicles that have Wi-Fi. Their social equity groups were seniors, persons with disabilities, and single parents.
  • Group 3: This group designed an autonomous bus with a mobile application to improve safety and reduce congestion in historically underserved communities and seniors. Their community setting was urban such as West Palm Beach Florida.
  • Group 4: They wanted to build a hyper (beyond just high) speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles to move people and goods within 30 minutes. The train would be autonomous, have free Wi-Fi on board, and tickets would be electronic and affordable. Their social equity group was historically underserved communities and persons with disabilities. Without being prompted they also discussed the need to have housing policies so that people won’t be displaced.
  • Group 5: Similar to group 4, they focused on megaregional travel. Their goals were to maximize moving people and vehicles faster. They selected high speed rate that is autonomous, has free Wi-Fi, and uses applications to track travel. They would focus on single parents and historically underserved communities by keeping the new system affordable.
  • Group 6: They created a SkyHub, which is a mobile transportation system that connects people via the air. Their goals were to reclaim street space for people and reducing congestion by moving transportation vertically. To ensure equity they have at least once stop in every neighborhood.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

Image from the TV show Game of Thrones with Milesandre, the red witch, looking into fire with the caption "The internet is dark and full of spoilers"

Thronesian Livability

Note: Please note there are spoilers here from Game of Thrones season 7, so if you aren’t caught up by now, beware! Also note that this information is solely based on the HBO show and not the books.

In the game of thrones, you win or you die… but what’s the quality of life like for a resident of the seven kingdoms? Sure, there’s the queen’s justice, but is there environmental justice? (spoiler- no) Walkability? Connectivity? Economic Opportunities? What’s the land use like of the capitals of the seven kingdoms? What are their food systems? How does each capital fare against domestic threats?

Cumulatively, I’ve done weeks and weeks of “research” (read: watching #DemThrones) and I’ve broken down the urban form of each of the most viewed castles of Westros in the series. I’m sticking to Westros for the sake of brevity, but maybe the kingdoms of Essos will be a future part two. All of these are feudal societies that include a hierarchy of power and ownership of lands.

The Scoring

  • Defense:
    • game-thrones-loot-train-attackHigh score— Dragon spitting fire on Lannister troops
      These are incredibly defensible, strategically-built castles or cities that can fairly easily withstand any attack. This scene is from season 7, the most recent season, where Dany flies her dragons nearest to Kings Landing to attack the Lannister troops for their attacks on her allies.
    • 200w_d (9)Medium— Jon Snow facing the cavalry
      These have pretty well-established defense mechanisms or positions. The castle or city is able to be defended from most attacks. This scene is from Season 6 when Jon Snow and other fellow northerners try to take Winterfell back from the horrible, awful, no good, very bad Boltons, who caused terror in the north when they occupied the castle.
    • 200w_d (3)Low Score— Baby dragon in chains
      These areas do not score well on defense because of their vulnerabilities to attack from the ground or sea. I used a baby dragon in chains to describe these places because while they may have some fortification, there is one huge weakness that allows them to be attacked.

 

  • Environment:
    • 200w_d 2High Score— Ellaria Sand strolling through gardens
      These are lush cities or castles with plenty of access to open space, decent stormwater management (for the time), and sanitary systems. I use this image to show how the beauty and access to nature as well as the deftly placed water features with implied impeccable stormwater best management practices (BMPs).
    • main-qimg-de9e30e2fd713e17224bfaf96fbce3f6Medium— Robb Stark in the Rain
      These cities are not quite as lush, but still have access to open space and greenery. They may have challenges with stormwater management because of the amount of impervious surface and/or their sanitary sewer system. I chose Robb Stark in the rain because, rain = stormwater and he represents the places that seem unbothered by the precipitation.
    • gallery-1500298978-sam-gagLow Score— Samwell Tarly dry heaving at his cleaning duties
      These are areas that are mostly bleak mud pits or stone without much in terms of greenery, stormwater management, or sanitary systems. Samwell is how I feel like all the residents of these places must feel on a sweltering day of Summer as the mud pit off-gases its odors into the village. Yeah, you get it.
  • Food System:
    • Cutting_pigeon_pie_at_Purple_WeddingHigh score— Joffrey Baratheon cutting his wedding pie
      These areas have a wealth of food security stemming from either self-grown or payments/yields from their hinterlands, or surrounding agricultural areas. In the case of most feudal systems, some portion of the farmers’ or other craftsperson’s’ yield goes to the lord. What better “let them eat cake” moment than the gluttony of a palace feast to exhibit food security.
    • 200w_d (7)Medium— Dany eating a heart
      These areas do not have as much access or security in food resources, but there always seems to be something they can scrape together, that is to say, it may not be the most choice cut of meat.
    • 200w_d (8)Low Score— Crowds in Essos reaching for a single slice of pizza
      These areas see a shortage of food and have high food insecurity leading to many of their poorest citizens being unsure of where their next meal will come from. This gem was not of my making, but found on giphy, but it’s awesome.
  • Transportation and Connectivity:
    • MV5BMTU1ODAyMzg1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODUxOTIxOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1502,1000_AL_High score—Ominous strolls of Tyrion and Varys
      These areas are well connected both interior to their streets and areas as well as to the rest of Westros. In these places, one can make ominous plans for creating chaos no matter if it’s a game of pits or ladders.
    • 200w_dMedium— Septan leading the walk of Shame
      These areas are somewhat connected internally and to the surrounding areas and the rest of Westros, but may face challenges like rough terrain or unestablished roads if they need to reach a place in a small amount of time. I use this image because while the transportation infrastructure may be there, the journey may not be easy.
    • Targaryen-Fleet-6x10-7Low Score— Targaryen fleet sailing to Dragonstone
      These areas are relatively disconnected. They may be very insular and difficult to access by different modes of transportation. I use the Targaryen fleet sailing to show the lengths to which you may need to go to access these places, which are often not on mainland Westros.
  • Economy:
    • main-qimg-03579a1d2697cb0cc3ff435836c0bb73High score—Tyrell loot from the sacking of Highgarden
      These areas are rich in economic industry either directly paid (gold) or indirectly paid (goods and services). They are economically independent and can afford nice things.
    • Game-of-Thrones-season-4-premiere-Jaime-Lannisters-gold-handMedium— Jamie’s gold hand
      These areas are somewhat diverse in their economic offerings, but may be limited by climate or location. They are still able to get what they need but maybe won’t have the nicest dresses from the tailors of Kings Landing.
    • 1 HBO's  "Game of Thrones" season 2 Dany- Emilia Clarke Jorah- Ian Glen Kavaro-  Steven Cole Doreah-  Roxanne Mc Kee Xaro Xhaon Daxos-  Nonso AnonzieLow — The Empty Vault of Xaro Xhoan Doxas
    • These areas are out of money or do not have much, if any, economic power to be seen. This is especially the case after the castle or city has been overthrown or a feudal lord/lady has been killed.

 

 

Summary of Livability
In part 2 of this blog, I’ll provide more information, context, and nerddom to explain each scoring.

A comparison of each most-seen place in the television series, Game of Thrones, based on their defense, environment, transportation and connectivity, food system, and economy. The comparison and scoring is done using different images from the show that are explained within the scoring text.

 

(all Photos, except the pizza gif are from the HBO series)

Christine E. Mayeur, AICP is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and hobbies, interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grassroots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems and environmental solutions that meet the needs of all users.





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