When Hajime Ishikawa isn’t working as a landscape architect in Akasaka, he follows his passion for Tokyo’s topography. Sometimes you’ll find him developing concepts for a future city in an altered landscape (think of the rising sea levels) for the Fibre City project, and other times he’ll be depicting Tokyo in all kinds of visualisations: He calls himself a map evangelist and GPS is just one of his tools. Hajime spoke to PingMag about his unique interests.
Written by Verena
So, you’re into mapping…
My general interest is in maps, and how to map things. And I use maps in my official work and also it’s my favourite hobby. When you use a map, it adds some depth to the real experience in the city. For example, when you see the slope in the Akasaka area, it’s just slope land. And when you walk through it, it becomes part of the big topographic land. But you cannot see the whole dimension of the land form. But when you study the map, you see that slope as part of the whole topographic area and a part of the valley and river form. You use the map to locate yourself in the area and you use this sort of image to identify your place.
It’s a representation.
Yes, a kind of language — you understand where you are in this sort of diagram. Though no map can picture the real space and the real experience, you still understand where you are…
… depending on the level of abstractness.
Yes, so a map is an abstraction with you seeing the double kind of layer at the same time. This is the essence of a map: The map is very abstract and this is very real and your imagination goes back and forth and somehow you connect this abstract diagram to the real world.
So this is about how your brain makes the connection between the physical environment and its image! Let’s begin then with our perspective of Tokyo, please:
Rivers and Valleys
The slope on the right side of Yoyogi park shows that Cat Street used to be a river. Also, the subway Ginza Line is very shallow. So at Shibuya Station, it arrives on the third floor, not the underground because the ground level is low.
Ancient (and New) Landfills
This is the most current landfill area and they dumped the garbage and also the construction soil. The highest point there is 30 meters above sea level — higher than Ueno or Hongo already. So when you want to see Tokyo Bay and the ocean, you actually have to go up the road.
Several hundred years ago the Asakusa area consisted of temples and shrines… The National Geographic department did a very intensive survey using lasers and airplanes. This digital topographic data can show the difference between land and street of less than one meter. Here, you see the old land use remains on the ground, like scratches.
The Terraced Cityscape
This is footage of buildings: The development makes the land flat — but it works on each site but it’s like a mosaic-ed topography. The whole area remains…
… the blocks and the districts?
When they build buildings, you would assume that you cannot see the topographic land form. However, the roof has slopes so the topography remains on the roof:
The terraced construction imitates…
… the topography of the landscape.
The essence of urbanization is to create the flat and dry floor on the ground for the water to flow down. So they shift the land form onto the roof and keep the habitation area dry and flat. Still, we need water…
Actually, 80 percent of Tokyo’s water comes from the mountains, those dams. It’s 6 millions tons per day. And the volume of the water consumed by Tokyo is nearly twice as much than the rainfall in the city.
So, Tokyo relies on mountain water and this is a map of the tap water pipelines. It’s very interesting because they send the supply water with pressure so it looks like a road system, or like a web. But for the sewage system, they actually have to use the natural, topographic slope for the flow down.
Interestingly, every house would be the edge of the water supply system, where the water supply system ends and the sewage system begins. It’s just 20 centimetres but the water changes its mode: It was very drinkable and clean water and in just one second it’s dirty and you want it to disappear soon. A toilet would be the shortcut device. So when you sit on this device it’s like an awareness of the city, and unawareness of the city.
A Toto toilet as the symbol of the city? [laughs]
Yes. It’s in between, it’s like the joint.
Ha! Please show us also your GPS tracings!
Personal Topography: GPS Tracing
On the left, this is my home. And on the right, this is Akasaka. In a real map the Akasaka area is 40 meters lower than my home. But from my experience, because of the steps I walk from the station, Akasaka is higher than my home.
The urban land is full of signs and texts and all those letters. When I come across texts I record them, so it’s like my urban poem from my home to my work.
This is the satellite image of my home and nearest station. Though interesting to look at, you don’t know where you are on this big image, leaving you isolated. However, seeing this with the GPS tracings, you instantly find where you are. So it connects your personal experience and this big map. That’s the beauty of a GPS device!
I think my favourite thing about GPS is that you have to take it and go outside and walk to get your data. You have to take your bicycle and spend a day to draw this thing. Though it’s a cutting-edge technology and you see location with sub-meter accuracy, it forces you to experience the real land in an analogue way.
Interesting! Thank you, Hajime Ishikawa for your lesson about Tokyo today!