Learning from the Japanese City
DOI link for Learning from the Japanese City
Learning from the Japanese City book
Fifty years ago, the dominant metaphor for the city amongst designers and planners was the machine. The house, according to the gospel of St. Corb, was a machine for living in; similarly, the city was a series of functions (classifications of activities and traffic flows), each to be accommodated in its own purpose-designed element. By 1960, however, this had started to change and over subsequent years, cities came to be conceived more in terms of their meanings than functions. The ‘text’ metaphor was on the ascendancy at the expense of that of the ‘machine’. The city came to be seen as an expression of and, like language itself, inextricably bound to the wider culture. In the process, ‘professionals turned to literary criticism in an effort to interpret the city and culture as literary critics do a text’ (Ellin, 1996, p. 253). Since that time, terms once reserved almost exclusively for the written text such as ‘legibility’, ‘punctuation’, ‘syntax’, ‘grammar’, ‘reading’, ‘discourse’, ‘narrative’ and even ‘language’ itself have permeated urban and design literature. ‘The city’, wrote Rolande Barthes, is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language’ (Barthes, 1975, p. 92, quoted in Harvey, 1989, p. 67). In fact, cities, buildings and landscapes joined with other dimensions of visual culture such as paintings, prints, magazines, maps, clothes and ritual (Barthes wrote about most of them) as texts to be read.