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Ark Umeda: Urban Metabolism In Osaka

Part 2 Project 2003
Nathan Jones
University of Cambridge | UK
ARK Umeda proposes a reinterpretation of the Japanese department store as a typology, and of the megastructure as a form of urbanism. It seeks to establish a topographic order, with a particular interest (in the context of hyper-density) in creating an urban metabolism which works vertically. The resulting scale and infrastructural permanence suggest the need to rethink the concept of megastructure - allowing for adaptability, obsolescence and deconstruction, but avoiding the systematic structural solutions of previous examples. The alternative proposed is a hierarchy of structural dependency which establishes institutional spaces within inhabited structural depth - thus overlaying urban and structural permanence.
Nathan Jones

Urban design seeks to establish the moral and political conditions for civic praxis. Public space is not simply the squares and streets – or the ‘flowspace’ of malls and concourses – but rather the structured differentiation of the urban topography as a whole. The development of a credible intermediary order provides for a richness and diversity that is the basis of a fabric that supports historical change. Jones’ proposal, part of a larger intervention into the extremely dense and often chaotic context of Osaka, Japan, seeks to develop a vertical metabolism by re-thinking the nature of the mega-structure. Typically, these configurations suffer the defect of being monstrous abstractions, in which urban life is forced to obey the logic of constructional and distribution systems. By drawing upon the existing institutional richness of the department store (depato), often called ‘a city in a building’, Jones shows how such a configuration can have several layers of order, and therefore several layers of potential development in history without losing the primary urban hierarchy.

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