Every year since 2005, the Machinami Foundation (Foundation for the Promotion of Housing Production) has held the Townscape Concours as a public recognition initiative of the Parks and Green Space project of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The organizers of the event foresaw a need to accumulate techniques for managing housing units and residential districts, which would require space to allow developers and designers, as well as residents, to demonstrate their skills. During the planning stages, it was suggested that rather than holding a typical design contest where entrants compete for technical first place, it would be more appropriate to employ a concours format, where many people with experience and knowledge can share their arts and skills and recognize those of others.
The Townscape Concours evaluates the activities of and townscapes built by residents’ associations that have long been involved in townscaping, predominantly those in detached housing districts. Each year, one association wins an award from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, four more win Townscape awards, and all five organizations receive financial aid for three years. The 14th annual edition was held in 2018.
In addition, in order to create a fair platform to exchange their experiences and knowledge residents’ associations from all over Japan involved in townscaping have formed networks of the winners from past editions, dubbed Townscape Networks. Every year, they hold a general assembly that coincides with the award ceremony for that year’s new organizations. Of course, the post-meeting social event also has an important role.
Thus, while it is certainly good news that the Townscape Concours has led to the formation of Townscape Networks—spaces where award-winning organizations can exchange knowledge, from the beginning, what has been worrisome is the question of how such knowledge will reach other organizations working on place-making and townscaping in the future. If you visit these organizations after they have won the award and see them in action, you will hear about many truly brilliant ideas and gain a lot of knowledge. However, it would be a shame not to spread these ideas beyond an audience of one, especially considering that when you become the head of the residents’ association or become involved in managing a residential district, there is no textbook you can refer to. That is all the more reason to compile the knowledge that the Townscape Exhibition award-winning organizations have gained through their experiences into a book. We have interviewed the 50 award winners from the last ten editions of the concours in the hope of creating a textbook that anyone can read and feel up to the task if they are suddenly entrusted the position of chairperson of their residents’ association. This book is the result.
(Written by Toshio Otsuki, Professor, School of Engineering / 2019)