Fragment I: Urban Landscapes
Everything transforms and moves. An odd atmosphere, and diversified forms catch the eye, touch the skin and revive the memories. People have grown accustomed to torrents of incessant stimuli, and ignore them as meaningless. The chaos in the city is dramatic and spectacular.
Exciting cities always have a semblance of ruins. There are no coherent links, Signs or symbols that are the relics of history to fm the space, and there emerges an environment which surpasses" daily routine and which is infinitely stimulating.
Today, there are them urban-dwellers who are tough in mind and body. The excessive stimuli and distorted order which they create leave us incapable of subjectively assessing the relationship between the urban environment and ourselv6. Yet, we must explore discarded spaces and exploit the energy left there. We must seek a standpoint for restoring the spiritual and emotional des that should link man with the environment.
Fragment 2: Views as Sensitivity
Cities have long had autonomous elements that form the so-called urban infrastructure: elevated highways, monorails, tunnels, and footbridges. The urban systems which have evolved provide the circuit where man, objects, visions, information and energy are distributed.
A city comes into the limelight as a dynamic space when it involves a large number of unspecified people - a public that tends to be measured in terns of quantity. There we find an explicit aim, irrespective of ideologies, to restore order to the chaos and confusion. In addition, a city is increasingly tinted with bureaucracy as it becomes more complex and confused.
In urban life today, we observe a marked shift from the printed media which is highly conceptual to the audio-visual media which relies more on images, and images and symbols have gained significance in a new way.
Because of the shift, the visual sensation alone has risen above the others, and our society is full of intuitive people who grasp things in terms of images and symbols through an empathetic viewpoint rather than through logic or an objective and rational stance on concepts.
Human spontaneity has matured through liberation of the senses to discovery of purer insights into the self. However, rapid changes that take place in cities have greatly disturbed the regular rhythm of human life and numbed the cognitive capacity of the senses with which we are intrinsically endowed. We have lost the basic means of communication which are rooted in the senses and rhythms spontaneously leaned and acquired through contact with nature and culture over a long period.
In urban life this loss has a tremendous effect on us: alienated parent-children relationships; public education reduced to a mere shell; non-humanistic approaches predominant in the medical services; increased numbers of psychosomatic patents; and a lack of imagination creative power in the sciences and humanities.
We now face the need to uncover the biorhythms and sensitivity buried in urban life and do away with the “unseen order” that prevents them from manifesting and maturing.
Fragment 3:Conflict of Sensitivity with Reality
Urban dwellers have accumulated various memories in an environment which allows them to simulate highly realistic illusions.
Cities offer us dynamic memories of light, warm breezes, speed, texture and feel of surfaces, and nostalgia for the twilight, to name a few.
All the memories, together with our own consciousness, are the components of “reality”. We retain them as they were formed and arranged in an orderly manner. And yet today, we are indifferent to any attempt to unburden the load of these memories. We no longer have any sensations. This phenomenon suggests that, in the process of forging a “reality”, we are faced with a problem which requires review. How do we retain the memory of the city and on what sensations do we base our memory of reality?
The visual images we regularly see in our daily life have been stored through nonchalant perceptions which are free from judgements that are based on the senses, and free from judgements based on logic. If these images are the mere “material” perceptions without any intelligent or introspective implications, then they are simply illusions.
We tend to think that memories restore things we have long known. Actually, memories do not restore things to their original state; instead, they merely reproduce the state of our mind in fragments which we have experienced before every time various senses are stimulated.
Because our perceptions revive our memories so quickly, we often fall to distinguish what we actually saw from what we are reminded of by them. The subjective difference between seeing and remembering is controlled each time by our mechanism of memory. One mechanism of our memory stores sometimes sensual only for several seconds while another mechanism of memory stores such items as habits, customs, targets and thinking style for several days or weeks.
Memories which are related to individual emotional attachments are stored in our memory for a much longer period: months and even years.
Fragment 4: Environment of Perception
Perception connects us directly with the urban environment. Also, the world itself appears before us as a realm of coherence only through an orderly perception. This comprehensive activity of our m has always been what makes us human.
Our sensitivity is formulated and fostered within the framework of history and society and not beyond it. Our sensitivity is constantly exposed to and obliged to cope with the overwhelming changes that are taking place in the urban environment.
Fragment 5: Urban Environment as a Responsive Space
The “space” necessary to hold the contemporary urban environment is a space capable of sophisticated functions. It adapts to a multitude of activities and events. In activities today have mobility and speed and properties that are inseparable from technology.
For example, a plaza in a city is maintained as an essential space to accommodate large numbers of people coming together and sodal1y interacting. In rural areas and closed societies, the plaza still remains an important public space. Yet even there, its significance as a place of communication has been forced to undergo transformation. The “urban environment” required in modem cities is a physical place which is functional and yet flexible and responsive to different occasions.
A responsive space should be capable of eliciting a different type of aesthetics by refining its functions, in the way that beauty is elicited by materialism or ready-made objects. Then we may find a new landscape in the urban environment.
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1992/8