Sunday, November 26, 2006

Beautifying Kyoto

Today's Daily Yomiuri contains evidence of the visual blight of Japan that Alex Kerr talks about in his fantastic book Dogs and Demons. A front page article says that Kyoto will ban flashing neon signs atop buildings, starting next year and going into effect over the next six years. Kerr has watched the decay of Kyoto's beauty since the 1960s, and must be saying that this move is far overdue. The city should, by all rights, be a charming, quiet place, good for strolling narrow streets with old houses and traditional restaurants. Instead, except for the neighborhoods of Pontocho and the Philosopher's Walk, most of it is rather garish, especially at night, combined with some world-class ugly buildings. The Japan advertising association naturally says it's not the only ones to blame, as if that's a good enough reason not to fix one of the worst problems. Kyoto will also lower the maximum allowable height of new buildings, especially around Kyoto's world heritage sites.

Then, on page 3 of the DY, there is a picture of the proposed New Tokyo Tower, to be the world's tallest transmission tower when it is finished in 2011. Designed by Tadao Ando (arguably Japan's best and most famous architect, and deservedly so -- he does some beautiful things with curved concrete that work wonderfully in their environment, rather than simply destroying it) and sculptor Kiichi Sumikawa. The tower will be triangular at the bottom, round at the top. Personally, I'm not sure it's needed.

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