Tonight I would like to talk about "hyoso" - it is Japanese and my own terminology. It refers to the boundary between the public and private realms. Another English translation might be to call it the "public edge of architecture". In Western urban architecture this public edge of a building is usually its facade. Because the public and private realms meet at the facade, it has the function of controlling how much these zones relate to each other. The openings in a facade have great significance for this control function. It is easy, I think, to understand this function of the facade. The Australian anthropologist Amos Rapoport, in his book "House Form and Culture", discussed this same issue and classified the territoriality of houses from different cultures in terms of their thresholds, a notion which is equivalent to hyoso. In the typical suburban American house, the open lawn forms a threshold, so we could say the wall of the house and its lawn makes up its hyoso.
Beside being a threshold, hyoso has another function. To understand this second function, let's think about the townscape. Many people deride the Japanese townscape for its chaotic character. Maybe this is valid. The townscape of Tokyo, as you know, consists of various types and styles of building. The heights of buildings differ from each other. Taking any attribute of building form in Tokyo, for example colour, material or open space, they all appear confused. It seems quite difficult to locate any kind of order among them. However, can you imagine a built environment without any order? Could you find a budget restaurant for lunch today by looking at its outside appearance? For most Japanese the answer is "yes", but for the workshop participants from Germany and Turkey the answer may be "no". Japanese do not have any difficulty recognising from its appearance what a shop sells, what type of restaurant might cost five times the usual price or that some specific bar should be avoided. But for those who are not accustomed to Japanese cities, this must be very difficult. Behind the apparent disorder there is an order - an order which is conditioned by culture. We call this function of hyoso its representational function. It represents the owner of the house, the building's function, and so on. Hyoso conveys a lot of meaning, in addition to that of territoriality, to laymen as well as to architects and scholars. The form of a building's hyoso communicates the use of a building, as well as alluding to the class or the taste of the building's owner. If you have some idea of semiology, this will be easy to understand. We read many meanings from the appearances of buildings, that is, their hyoso. Hyoso create a system of symbols which can be the object of semiotic study.
You probably understand what I am talking about, yet you might still have the question as to why I introduced a new term instead of using "facade." My answer stems from the observation of the Japanese townscape. Let us look at some examples of houses in Tokyo. I imagine that you have already found out that most of the houses in Tokyo have a gate and a fence around the boundary of their property, even in downtown areas and even on small properties. For most Japanese, a front garden, fence and gate forms an inseparable complex or set piece. This set piece has a representational role in Japanese cities, much like that the facade has in Western cities. In order to cover the entire range from facade to this fence-garden-gate system I use the term "hyoso". Hyoso is combined from two Chinese characters. •\ which means front and ‘w which means layers, consequently •\‘w literally means frontal layers. The hyoso of most of Western mediaeval town houses is made from one layer. A classical facade with colonnade and portico consists of two or more layers. We should note that non-architectural elements, such as billboards, garden planting, bicycles, toys and so on, are often important elements of hyoso.
Instead of further theoretical discussion, I would now like to give you some more concrete knowledge on this issue. I believe this will help you to read Mukojima's townscape. First of all, here is a diagram which includes the hyoso of four types of houses. These are representative of Japanese house types. The upper right quadrant is the machiya, or townhouse, which was a very popular type in every town in Japan until the '60s. The upper right quadrant is what we call oyashiki, or big estate, which originated from the samurai house of the Edo era. The lower right quadrant is the most popular suburban house type in contemporary Japanese cities. You can easily see that this type is a reduced form of the oyashiki type. This type was handed down from the samurai class to government officials and military officers after the Meiji Restoration. It has been the type of house which was the dream of many ordinary people. Generally speaking, until WW2 people thought this type of hyoso needed a property of at least 300sqm. These days, however, that expectation has reduced to less than 100sqm. Although its territorial system is analogous to that of the oyashiki, the lesser distance between fence and house creates a different kind of streetscape. Finally, the lower left is the nagaya, which literally means long house - a sort of row house with small apartments for rent. The character of these four types is described by two axis crossing at 90 degrees. The vertical axis shows the character of the street created by the hyoso. The horizontal axis shows which of the two layers is the outer layer. Looking first at the horizontal axis, a fence forms the outer layer in the two right quadrants, whereas the wall of the houses forms the outer layer in the left quadrants. On the vertical axis, in the upper two quadrants the street has a clear outline - in the terminology of gestalt psychology it has a "figure character". In these upper two quadrants the outer layer of the hyoso is either the fence or the house facade (which usually stands on the border between the street and private property). Consequently the outer layer stands along a continuous, smooth line. In contrast, in the lower two quadrants the gestalt character of the street is residual. In the lower left quadrant the facades, which are the outer layer of the hyoso, do not standing along a line. As nagaya were usually built in the backyard of a machiya to earn income, both the building site and the narrow access alleys were private property. There were no border lines which the buildings had to follow. In the lower right quadrant, although the fences stand in a line in the same way as with the oyashiki, the distance between the house and the fence is so short that the free standing house behind the fence is exposed to the street. Consequently, the gestalt quality of the street in the lower quadrants is residual. This diagram is not merely a simple classification of the hyoso of Tokyo houses. It represents a social symbol system as well. There is a third, invisible axis in this diagram which runs from the lower left to the upper right. To move up along this axis is to rise in social status. It is easy to see here a living reflection of the feudal class system which died politically more than 150 years ago. At that time the fence-garden-gate system was monopolised by the samurai class, and this type of hyoso was regarded as one of the symbols of the ruling class. As already mentioned, it is still the type of residence which is the dream for many ordinary people, even if the space between the fence and the house is too narrow to be a garden. Architects are usually irritated by such an irrational situation and are tempted to propose a row house with a party wall instead of this unreasonable (so they think) fence-garden-gate-system. These kinds of proposal have been supported by architects and scholars, but they have found no interested from realtors. The fence-garden-gate-system is still a kind of icon signifying the "true" house. A house without them looks imperfect to most Japanese. I conducted some field research two years ago and I found that almost 70% of houses in Tokyo have a fence. However, it is also very interesting to see that the quantity of communication on the street decreases along the diagonal axis inverse proportion to social status. Thinking of shitamachi (Mukojima is also shitamachi), many people imagine life in the alleys of nagaya as having a close-knit but warm community. Small houses, which are open to the alleys in front of them, and which have limited trespassing from outside promote a family-like community.
If you have read the book titled "Miegakure-Suru-Toshi", you will remember my discussion on the hyoso of houses. Let's leave, then, the issue of residences for that of commercial hyoso. I believe this issue will be new to you. Similar observations to those described above are possible for shops. I have made the same kind of diagram, and I used the same axis system. Two quadrants are filled while the other two are vacant because it is nonsense for shops, which depend on streets, to set back from the street. I have called one the "bazaar type" (hereafter abbreviated as BT) and the other the "prestige store type" (PST). See the table which compares these two types - the right column is for the bazaar type and the left for the prestige store type. There are several criteria for comparison: the character of the street frontage, hyoso, the display of goods, and behavior patterns. First of all, let's compare the two types in terms of how they face the street. A street of BT shops is generally narrower than that of PST. PST shops prefer trees in the street, but the BT does not like trees. Avenues carry a kind of prestige for the PST, but trees are nothing more than obstacle to business for BT shops. In a shopping strip of BT you will find a gate arch at the entrance to the strip. The hyoso of BT are often decorated with cheap, brightly-coloured decorations, usually made from plastic. In addition to this, signboards and billboards of various sizes are attached to the front of BT shops. Consequently, BT shops do not employ the usual notion of facade - the building is just a shed. The theme of the plastic decorations is always the seasons. For example, they begin with the traditional New Year decorations, then have cherry blossoms in spring, sometimes fresh green in early summer, traditional decorations on bamboo for the star festival in summer, then red maples in autumn and finally Christmas decorations. As you know, one of characteristics of the seasons is circulation. When most people were farmers, they waited for the spring to come. They believed everything was reincarnated and that spring gave everything new life. Consequently, the decoration of the four seasons is a representation of this notion of reincarnation. To put it more simply, they represent the freshness of the shop's goods by means of cheap but meaningful decorations. This means that the notion of reincarnation is equivalent to the lack of a notion of history. In contrast, the hyoso of PST have a facade-like appearance. It is very rare that the hyoso of PST include vulgar decoration. They are usually designed by architects and proudly show off their orthodox facade as well as their long history with such signs as "Established in 1800". They seem to strive to create a sort of mythology. We will now compare how these two types display their goods. In BT you will find they have abundant displays of their goods. They pile up their goods so as to make the passageway into their shop narrow. Moreover, they put a lot of price cards with bright colours and huge letters onto these piles. Besides this noisy display, you can not avoid hearing advertisements broadcast by the shopping street association. In food stores, you can observe how they cook their goods, and elsewhere how they sometimes call loudly to the people walking along the shopping street. You may smell the smoke from a grilling eel or rice dumpling. In BT areas you use every sense organ. In comparison, in PST they prefer to display a minimum of goods in a smart manner.Their price tag is too small to actually recognise the price. Everything is very elegant, neat and well-designed. You hesitate to touch their goods and the smell is controlled by deodorants. In PST the visual sense is exaggerated. How about behavior patterns in both types? Shop personnel in BT shops treat their customers as their neighbours. They engage in friendly talk with customers and may chat with them about their kids, the weather, or sometimes about rumours. Shop personnel in PST shops treat their customers like lords, speaking very politely. People go to BT in everyday clothes, whereas they go to PST in relatively formal attire. With BT people select shops mainly by the price and freshness of their goods, whereas they go to some specific PST because of its orthodoxy. The criteria of selection and evaluation are based on their mythology, that is, on the power of their brand.
As these examples show, hyoso has not only a formal dimension but also a social demising. It addresses meaning but also affects peoples behaviour. I have here just introduced the issue of hyoso. I believe further discussion is not necessary for your design projects, but I hope this might be sufficient to help you to understand the character of the Mukojima district.
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