The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence
Berkeley Prize 2024

[ID:1874] Role of Architecture to Help Solve Problems of Rural Depopulation

United States

Following World War II, Japan developed and became a major economic power but today, the Japanese economy is threatened by the critical social issue of depopulation. Since the 1970s, the Japanese population has increased with the growth of its economy but this situation is changing rapidly. Although the current population is 127,000,000 (provided by national population census), the population in 2050 is estimated by governmental research to be less than 100,000,000. This population loss will cause Japan to lose its labor productivity and the competitive strength of its economy. This problem is especially acute in rural areas. Like other developed countries, most of the population of Japan is concentrated in metropolitan areas causing rural areas to rapidly empty. The population drain from rural to metropolitan areas negatively influences the quality of rural and small town life.

Once the depopulation in rural areas starts, it is hard to stop population loss and few people go back to their hometown from metropolitan areas. Indeed, the depopulation in rural areas has a big impact on the local economy. Less population leads to less manpower. This causes a depression of labor productivity and consumption in the local area so that worsening conditions in the local economies spiral. In addition, the revenue of local governments will decline because the amount of collected taxes will decrease. As young people continue to leave, rural areas eventually become lifeless. Thus this vicious circle of accelerating depopulation in rural areas will make it harder to solve these problems.

Reinventing economies for local governments is the first step to reverse population loss in rural areas. There are several ways for achieving new revenue sources such as creating new industries, innovating new technologies, inviting manufacturing companies, starting franchise sport teams, consolidating with surrounding towns, and so on. The city of Toyota is a good example of solving the depopulation issues by collaborating with an industry. Toyota was a small city in a rural area developed with the TOYOTA Motor Corporation. Before the rapid growth of the Japanese economy in the 1960s, neither the city nor the company was popular in the country. Though the town of Toyota faced the same rural depopulation as other rural areas, it found a way out to stop depopulation by creating a strong relationship with the TOYOTA Motor Corporation. Thanks to this partnership, new revenue sources from these companies benefited the local governments. Instead of paying a large amount of tax to local governments, TOYOTA could own plenty of land for building new factories and developed as a major motor company in the world. With development of the TOYOTA Motor Corporation, the city of Toyota became the 2nd largest city in Aichi prefecture with a population 415,000.

Though both the city and the corporation benefited in this case, it took a long time and a large financial investment to stop depopulation. Creating new tourism destinations is one of the critical solutions to solving depopulation in rural areas which could achieve satisfactory results in a short period. Some cities have succeeded in solving depopulation by creating new sightseeing spots. For example, Naoshima, a small island in the Seto Inland Sea achieved excellent results in this means. The island’s current population of 3,480 faces rural depopulation. New art activities were started in the 1980s by Benesse Corporation, one of the innovative companies for education in Japan, and it works for preserving art. Without new art activities, Naoshima would become desolate.

Two works of architecture played significant roles in developing these art activities in Naoshima. The first one is the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando in 1992. It is the main building of the Benesse House designed for a new type of art facilities to combine exhibition space and hotel guest buildings. Since the Bennese House opened in Naoshima, the number of tourists was increased and art activities of the island became popular. In 2004, Tadao Ando also designed another museum, the Chichu Art Museum, on this island. It houses masterpieces by Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria. It is located on the top of the hill and takes advantage of its commanding views for their art works. These art activities in Naoshima have created a new source of revenue for the local government making it a good example of promoting the city with new tourist destinations in rural areas.

The city of Imabari is a good example of a typical middle-sized city facing depopulation. Unlike the city of Toyota in the 1960s, Imabari is the second largest city in Ehime prefecture and it is the fifth largest city on Shikoku Island. Imabari was known as a suburb city of Imabari Castle in the 17th century. By inventing modern technologies, Imabari developed with the fishing industry and the shipbuilding. After the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s in Japan, the Japanese economy went into a depression. Since then most cities lost industries and struggled with finding new revenue sources for local governments. As a result of this situation, the depopulation of rural areas has become a nationwide problem. In order to maintain revenue sources for the local governments, small cities started to consolidate with surrounding towns. Even though Imabari is a major city of the region and current population is 170,000 in 2007, it also needs a solution to solve depopulation in the 21st century. According to the estimated census data provided by the Basic Resident Register of local government, the Imabari district population of 120,000 is projected to decline annually by about 1,000 until it reaches a skeletal population of 30,000 in 2100. Since 1975, the population of the city has decreased and Imabari government decided to consolidate with the surrounding towns of Onishi-Cho, Namilkat-Cho, and Kikuma-Cho in 2005. Though Imabari became larger after consolidations, people still tended to move to metropolitan areas such as Hiroshima, the 11th largest city in the nation which has 1,160,000 people in 2007, and Osaka, the 3rd largest city in the nation which has 2,640,000 people in 2007. In addition to solving rural depopulation, Imabari is also trying to be a special city which is authorized by the national government and has a delegated subset of the functions of the region. According to the article 252 clause 26, the special city should have at least 200,000 in population. As a result of this law, depopulation is a critical problem for the city of Imabari and Imabari needs a solution to stop population loss.

I would like to make a proposal for the city of Imabari to design a new memorial museum for great Japanese architect, Kenzo Tange, who grew up in this city and passed away in 2005. As the success of Naoshima demonstrates, designing new museums is a proven solution for promoting cities and new revenue sources for local governments. This idea can be adapted to the city of Imabari to help reverse rural depopulation. In the early 1990s, Imabari city had some resorts such as hot springs and amusement parks but they went out of business when the bubble economy was collapsed. Taking advantage of these places, the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange will be built and be a new symbol of the city of Imabari.

Kenzo Tange is one of the most significant Japanese architects in the 20th century and the winner of the Pritzker Prize in 1987. His architecture style is one of combining traditional Japanese styles with modernism. He designed major buildings on five continents. No other Japanese architect has had such a great influence in the 20th century. His major works include the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima, Japan in 1952, National Gymnasium for Summer Olympic in 1964, Tokyo, Japan, Kuwait International Airport in 1979, Kuwait city, Kuwait, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office in 1991, Tokyo, Japan, and BMV Headquarter’s Building of Italy in 1998, Milan, Italy. His architectural style influenced such pupils who are leading the current Japanese architecture as Arata Isozaki receiving RIBA gold medal in 1986, Kisho Kurokawa receiving AIJ gold medal in 1990, Fumihiko Maki receiving Pritzker Prize in 1993, Yoshio Taniguchi designing new addition of MoMA in 2004, and so on.

Kenzo Tange was born in Sakai, Osaka in 1913 and moved to China when he was five years old. In 1920, he returned to Japan and lived in Imabari, Ehime. He grew up in Imabari and left the city in 1935 to attend Tokyo University. Though he passed away in 2005, his architectural works still have an enormous influence on Japanese architecture. Since his death, no major exhibitions of his works have yet been held. The city of Imabari is the ideal place for taking the responsibility of preserving Kenzo Tange’s works in Japan. Like such great architects in the 20th century as Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Kenzo Tange’s masterpieces of architectural works must be preserved and passed down through the ages. As a mark of respect for his works, the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange should be related to his architecture styles and designed as a new symbol for the city.

The main exhibition of the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange consists of three parts following his three different work periods. The first period covers his early works and famous buildings in Japan from 1941 to 1964, for examples, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in 1952, Hiroshima, Japan, a master plan for Tokyo 1960 in 1959, Tokyo, Japan, and National Gymnasium for Summer Olympic in 1964, Tokyo, Japan. The second period covers from 1965 to 1987 when he was honored by the Pritzker Prize and is based on his buildings around the world such as Kuwait International Airport in 1979, Kuwait city, Kuwait and Napoli Administration Centre in 1980, Napoli, Italy. The last period would cover his latest works from 1988 to 2002. Main displays of this exhibition are Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in 1991, Tokyo, Japan, FCG building in 1996, Tokyo, Japan, and BMV Headquarter’s Building of Italy in 1998, Milan, Italy. Visitors can understand how he has established his basic design style and became a world famous architect through these exhibitions.

The exhibition of Kenzo Tange holds the potential to have a great influence on posterity. Designing the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange will be significant proposal not only for preserving his masterpieces but also it will play important roles to promote the city with new sightseeing spots and create a new symbol of Imabari. Success of the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange in Imabari will stimulate local activities and the economy so that the proposal for Imabari city will help solve the depopulation problem.

Designing the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange is a competition opened to students from all over the world which would introduce architecture students to the important of Kenzo Tange, publicize the importance of his works, and build support for the realization project. This competition will be prepared in June 2008. First, a committee of the Kenzo Tange Memorial Museum will spend three months for publicity of this design competition. The competition will be launched in August 2008 and the entry due will be December 2008. After selecting three winners of the competition in January 2009, winners will be announced in February 2009 and exhibitions and an award ceremony will be held in March 2009.

This design competition will be focus on design problems consisting of analysis, concept statements, drawings, and physical models. Hand drawings and computer drawings are acceptable and any materials are available for physical models. Detail requirements of drawings are one 1-0’= 1/64” site plan, 1-0’= 1/16” Floor plans, two 1-0’= 1/16” or 1/32” elevations, two 1-0’= 1/16” or 1/32” sections, one 1-0’= 1/64” site section, 1-0= 1/50” Physical models and model photos, and at least two perspective images; one is exterior and the other is interior shot. These required drawings will be fit on an 11”x 17" sheet and maximum sheet number is twelve. Required drawings will be saved with PDF file format and turned by an electric form. These design developments will be completed by individual except research. First of all, students will start research by groups to share information in one week and spend two weeks for concept developments in individual. After two days interim juries with some professors, they will focus on design development in three weeks. Finally they will spend ten days for rendering and building models. Thus the eight weeks design process will be enough time for designing the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange.

In January 2009, four jurors, Arata Isozaki, Noritaka Tange, Yoshiie Chieko, and Shinobu Ochi, will be invited for selecting winners of this competition. Arata Isozaki is a Japanese famous architect and an apprentice of Kenzo Tange. He is a winner of RIBA Gold Medal in 1986. He is well known as not only an architect but also as a critic. He sat on a jury in many prizes and competitions, for example, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Venice Biennale, the competition for Sendai Mediatheque won by Toyo Ito, and so on. He is a great pupil of Kenzo Tange and the best representative critic for this competition. Noritaka Tange is a son of Kenzo Tange and an architect. After Kenzo Tange passed away, he became a representative of Kenzo Tange Associates. He is the best person knowing Kenzo Tange from personal and professional views. Yoshiie Chieko is a chef editor of Casa magazine, a Japanese well-known architecture and design magazine. Casa often covered Kenzo Tange’s works and she is familiar with his design ideas. Shinobu Ochi is a mayor of the city of Imabari and a representative of the client in this project. Indeed, he is familiar with the site so that he could judge projects with more detail information of the city of Imabari. One of the most important criteria for evaluation will be that the design of the museum should have a potential for being a tourist destination and a symbol of the city of Imabari. In addition, students should understand Kenzo’s architectural characteristics and their designs should be related to his design style. I am sure that these four jurors will play important roles to select winners of this competition.

The goal of the competition of designing a memorial museum for Kenzo Tange is not only preserving his masterpieces but also promoting the city with new tourism destinations and creating a new symbol of Imabari. The Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange will stimulate local activities and its economy so that the proposal for Imabari will be able to solve the rural depopulation. We could expect the city of Imabari to provide some financial support for this project as well as the Japanese ministry of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Like Casa magazine’s promotion that one of our juries will do, we could solicit publicity from such internationally prestigious publication as Global Architecture (GA), Japan Architect (JA), and Architecture and Urbanism (a+u). Therefore, the competition of designing the Memorial Museum for Kenzo Tange will be a great proposal for the city of Imabari and promising architecture students.

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