In Search for the Ordinary and Sense of Place: The Case from Tokyo

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The traces of dwelling, ordinary, everyday life are more evident in some spaces than in the other. It could be argued that those elements are testimonies of space transformations towards the place. When they become part of the urban public realm, they contribute to the quality and experience of the place, generating the sense of closeness, domestic, liveable and safe spaces. In Japanese culture those small traces of everyday could be considered to have unique aesthetic value. On the other hand, in architecture and urban design ordinary has rarely been part of the design process. Extraordinary is what every design aims to achieve. In addition, capturing the ordinary seems to be a difficult task. Thus the paper aims to set the framework for defining and illustrating the traces of dwelling through ordinary gestures in the streetscape and asks the questions: How do we incorporate ordinary into the design process? What can we learn from the ordinary? How do we even begin to capture that ordinary, the poetry and domestic sense of everyday life? This paper explores results from the workshop conducted in Tokyo in search for ordinary. The results are deriving from two-week workshop, ten students from the University of Canberra and five different locations in Tokyo. The locations were selected based on the diversity and aimed for the spaces that are part of the ordinary everyday life and dominantly residential. The selected areas were: Jiyugaoka, Yanesen, Kikuzaka, Sumidagawa and Kichijoji. The students were asked to spend two hours drifting through each location and trying to capture the ordinary in the space. There were no boundaries set for the spaces to be explored. All the participants were architecture students with no previous
experience of Japanese spaces. The process was organized with the level of spontaneity of derive. All the data were captured as journal entries on the blog.
The results show that the traces of human habitation and activity could be grouped around: elements in space (e.g. moveable elements in space, small greenery) and characteristics of spaces (e.g. materials, repetition, sounds and time). The spaces defined as thresholds and publicprivate interfaces were found to be significant spaces as they amplify the experience of ordinary. The most important features of those spaces were multisensory experiences, those in correspondence with the body, endorsing the slowness
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrossroads: Asian Street in the Dynamics of Change. GASS 2016 Great Asian Streets Symposium Proceedings
EditorsHeng Chye Kiang, Zhang Ye
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherNational University of Singapore
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9789811118128
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventGreat Asian Streets Symposium (GASS 2016) - Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 12 Nov 201613 Dec 2016


ConferenceGreat Asian Streets Symposium (GASS 2016)
Abbreviated titleGASS 2016
Internet address


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