Tokyo, Japan

The city, in its immeasurable extension, preserves a series of discontinuities and contradictions that are natural consequence of a continuous change: from the postwar period to our days, Tokyo has been the theatre of a continuous phenomenon of urban migration and densification, which imposed drastic changes to the lifestyle of the inhabitants. In the 50s Tokyo started a wide program of social housing construction to react to the growing demand of housing for new immigrated workers arriving from the whole country. These complexes called Danchi were often connected to great industries and had the ambition to be like modern “villages”. After 60 years these great neighborhoods are deteriorated and suffer a continuous depopulation. Even though their “communities” represent one of the most important phenomena of Japanese popular culture, the Danchi are today underdeveloped and problematic areas. The increasing abandon of these residences often connected to the excessive cost of buildings maintenance is badly conjugated with the booming building speculation. A contradictory reality that clearly shows the necessity of an urgent solution.

Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Project 4 Project 5 Project 6 Project 7 Project 8 Project 9 Project 10 Project 11 Project 12 Project 13 Project 14

Kita-Aoyama San-chome
Shigaichi Jutaku
Pan Hui

The project area is located along one of the main street of central Tokyo: the high value of the land and the strategic location, have resulted in a few years to a total remodelling of the front street. Tall buildings and skyscrapers, mainly offices and shopping malls, are alternated with low residential buildings and small factories, last heritage of a changed urban context.
The project area is located along this line, between the main street and a social housing neighbourhood managed by the city of Tokyo. As often happens in the city, tall buildings are concentrated along the main streets and hide, behind them, a fine tissue made of compact houses of two or three floors. A clear limit that leaves the visitor with the feeling of two juxtaposed realities.
The project is located on this limit, putting itself not as an insurmountable border, but as a meeting place and as a urban passage. The ambition of the project is also to ensure that dwellings continue to face the main street; without them, it would remain a mere functional zoning. The ground floor, in fact, is a large canopy-like space and represents a fluid and natural transition between the street and the neighbourhood behind; here there are the entrances to the apartments, rationally distributed on the two sides next to adjacent buildings, and the escalator, the only architectural event that animates the transition and that leads to the entrance of the shopping mall. The shopping area is divided into a vertical sequence of platforms free from structural elements and connected by escalators: these are alternated with the apartments, rhythmically arranged on the southeast side, overlooking the street, and on the northwest side, overlooking the city. There are various types of proposals, to respond to the economic needs and to the different orientations: small apartments, alternated with narrow and tall duplex on the northwest side, while more generous apartments characterize the street facade. Residential and shopping coexist in the same building, not excluding one each other, but rather looking a visual dialogue and a stable spatial relationship: it is still guaranteed the autonomy between the two functions. Commercial spaces and living spaces are in connection with the sequence of cafes, bookshops, gyms and areas dedicated to children that are repeated regularly throughout the height of the building, finishing in an impressive panoramic restaurant.

site area 1849 m²
housing units 40 apartments
16 studios
18 duplex
inhabitants 190
density 0.1 inhabitants/m²
program housing
shopping mall

Takahatadai Danchi
Darragh Farrell

The project area is a narrow strip of land, squeezed between a Danchi that covers a large portion of the hill and a neighbourhood full of small two or three storeys high houses. The area, gently placed along an easy slope, is a natural filter between the reality of Danchi and that of the existing neighbourhoods. The social housing neighbourhood is divided into a sequence of semicircles that overlook the city, taking advantage of the natural slope of the land and encloses groups of buildings freely arranged overlooking the forest that occupy the top of the hill. The quality of the green and the variety of meeting space, make this Danchi a quiet and confortable place to live in spite of a monotonous and repetitive architecture.
The project aims to create a dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhoods, trying to strengthen the quality of the environment and, at the same time, to fill some existing gaps. A 400m pedestrian street that connects a sequence of three public buildings, the largest of which is placed at the centre of the four large neighbourhoods that represent the context of the intervention, is organized along the main axis of the site, following the irregularities of the lot: commercial spaces, common areas and places for kids enliven the pedestrian axis on which fifteen five storeys high square towers are regularly arranged. The cars remain on the perimeter, where a series of paths that continue in the neighbouring districts creating a network of shared footpaths, leads to the new district. All around is proposed an intensive afforestation to create a filter of plants that also acts as a background to the new buildings.

site area 24'000 m²
housing units 180 apartments
inhabitants 760
density 0.03 inhabitants/m²
program housing
shopping mall
communal centre
public facilities

Kitasuna Go-chome Danchi
Yoko Niwa

The project area consists of a series of large residential buildings built in the late seventies. These high volumes, part of a huge residential complex, stand out above the tissue of low houses of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Among the buildings, large empty areas: spaces intended more as necessary distance than opportunities to meet and socialize. A small park, the memory of an old important factory, covers most of the eastern part and represents an interesting pre-existence.
The project tries to redefine the context of the neighbourhood, manipulating both the public spaces and the buildings that compose it. A series of ramps lead to a sequence of overlapping walkways that make a circular route that connects all the different buildings and clearly defines a large central public space in which remains one of the existing buildings: this, emptied of its residential function, and brought back to the bare structure, becomes a public building, where the new district library, sports, community spaces are located. The building, in its new position, assumed a prominent public role that goes beyond its original residential appearance.
New hexagonal towers serve as cornerstones between the buildings and the walkways and contain, in addition the stairs and the elevators, a series of small common spaces. The old buildings are partially emptied to allow a natural lighting of the central corridors: double height loggias provide direct access to the apartments and redefine the rhythm of the façade, no longer characterized by the obsessive sequence of the balconies.

site area 122'500 m²
program pedestrian paths
sport facilities
collective spaces

Townhouse Suwa
Mitsuyoshi Shingu

The neighbourhood, located in the far outskirts of the city of Tokyo, is a small example of a garden city, where family houses of two or three storeys lie near to each other, forming small homogeneous groups of houses. The houses reflect a lifestyle devoted to the respect of privacy, which is translated into an almost completely absent relationship with the surrounding context. The entrances to the houses are on the backyard and the inhabitants walk along a path, far from the streets of the neighbourhood, to get to them. Despite the pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, the district suffers of a slow steady depopulation, influenced by the age of the owners, the extreme distance from the city centre and the lack of interest of the younger generation for this kind of houses.
The project tries to radically change the relationship between public and private space through a careful redefinition of exterior spaces: indeed, the path towards the houses is totally rethought. The entrance of the houses faces the main road and the sidewalk so that it doesn’t overlook anymore the communal garden behind: a covered space is a first open room thought as an extension of the houses and redefines the street front. A sequence of platforms is designed to rethink the approach and the arrival at the house of which only the entrance is changed. The common garden becomes a meeting place. The garden becomes a community place without a real path that separates it in various properties, where few mineral surfaces lay down on the vegetation as carpets. The house becomes a rich and varied spatial sequence, in which there is a continuous and ever-changing relationship with the surrounding environment.

site area 12'240 m²
program public space
collective space
renovation of the existing

Shinonome Canal Court
Shun Hayasaka

Shinonome Danchi, is one of the latest examples of social housing in the city of Tokyo. Completed in 2003, the Danchi is a rich collection of world-renowned architects projects. Despite the absolutely positive intentions to create raised pedestrian floor to connect all the various interventions, the current situation shows how this space is almost completely unused. In addition, the pedestrian shopping street that shapes a long S, remains a quite introverted space and is unable to respond to the Programtic intention of bringing people into the neighbourhood. A strange reading of the accesses to this commercial street complicates the current situation: while they ideally continue between the towers that surround the neighbourhood, the secondary streets remain isolated from the main by a system of safety barriers.
The project proposes a radical reinterpretation of the road system for cars and pedestrian: two of the main concerns were the excessive pedestrianization of the internal areas of the Danchi and the lack of real connections with the surrounding neighbourhoods. The long S becomes a one-way driveway, while the surrounding ring that divided the neighbourhood from the rest of the district is eliminated and replaced by a series of common green spaces, shared by the Danchi and the surrounding towers. The new streets are connected to the existing road layout; finally, the walkway along the canal is redefined, becoming part of this new arrangement. Small shops, cafes and other public spaces are located along the main crossroads, with the specific intent of strengthen the potential use of public spaces.

site area 68'400 m²
program public space
collective space
new driveways

Ojima Yon-chome Danchi
Eri Nakamura

Ojima is one of the most densely populated Danchi in the city; its construction began around 1965 and is part of a wider plan of recovery and revitalization of brownfields. The buildings strongly emerge from the tissue of low houses and small industries and manufactories mainly located along the canal. 15 storeys high buildings are arranged along the north-south axis, following the precepts of functionalism: a long thin court, which is overlooked by the galleries, the stairs and the elevators, provides light and air to the building, otherwise too deep. The massive concrete structure of beams and pillars houses a sequence of small and medium-sized apartments. This type is repeated in other parts of the city; the efficiency of this type offered an immediate response at a time when the lack and the need for housing were the first concern.
The project aims to open a new way in the reuse of these buildings, focusing more on the building itself than on the surrounding context: the construction analysed represents in fact a possible prototype for the recovery of this particular type. Non-bearing walls and carpentry are demolished while the load bearing structure is preserved; the ground floor is rethought to house small shops, parking for bikes, meeting rooms and a kindergarten that are community activities essential to the life of the neighbourhood; the internal circulation of the building is renewed, adding to the existing structure a new one made by beams and pillars that houses private terraces and circulation. Large common terraces lighten the body of the building, making it more permeable and offering the opportunity for horizontal connections between the terraces located at different levels; a new system of elevators and stairs enriches the building, which abandons its closed and purely residential appearance to accommodate also small offices, workshops and common areas that offer a new possible scenario.

site area 7'800 m²
housing units 468 two rooms apartaments
52 three rooms apartaments
inhabitants 1'612
density 0.2 inhabitants/m²
program public space
collective space
renovation of the existing

Fujimidai Danchi
Takuya Ito

Fujimidai Danchi is a typical case of social housing in Tokyo. Longitudinally oriented along the east west axis, it offers the maximum exposure to the south while concentrates all the services and the circulation on the north side. Large public green belts separate the buildings and act as spacers for privacy, while a linear sequence of streets leads to the entrances and the parking for bikes and cars; the ground floor apartments are raised from the street level. The district, in its absolute anonymity, provides the opportunity for a study on the meaning of public and common space.
The project proposes a possible revaluation of those green areas that are increasingly rare and valuable in a congested urban fabric: right now, the green space in fact, although nice, is not a place inhabited by local residents. The project aims to rethink the whole ground level of the buildings and the relationship with the green: it excludes vehicular traffic within the neighbourhood, creating a raised floor above street level, reachable by stairs and ramps and dedicated to the bikes and the pedestrians. These different paths define a series of fields where the green is divided between the various inhabitants of the neighbourhood, so that each building has small private gardens and public spaces dedicated. All the apartments on the ground floor, dedicated mainly to older people, enjoy a more generous green space. At the center of the district lies a large rectangular public space; all existing trees are also preserved and integrated with new lines along the northern and southern edges of the district.

site area 27'520 m²
program public space
collective space
renovation of the existing

Kohoku Roku-chome Danchi
Alice Francesconi

Kohoku Danchi is a residential district, with buildings almost perfectly north south oriented and protected from the noise of the main street and of the elevated railroad by a long building that creates a barrier running parallel to the traffic routes and that draws back on the north eastern part of the district to accommodate several small shops. A central green area flanked by a small community centre is the hearth of the intervention, while a series of small streets east west oriented defines a repetitive sequence of accesses, parking and green areas used as mere filter division among buildings.
The project offers a radical reinterpretation of the public space by proposing a substantial allotment development and privatization of the entire district: starting from some small urban gardens located close to the site in the surrounding areas, the entire area is divided into small lots to rent or to sell not only to local residents, but also to all those who wish to have a small green space in the city. Activities are not prescribed within individual lots, so that the landscape is very varied and changeable. In this way, new possible relations and form of interaction are established, creating a rich and varied microcosm consigned to the individuals although driven by a fundamental desire of community. The whole neighbourhood is therefore reorganized through a network of pedestrian paths that gives access to allotments and buildings; along the main north south axes, in the centre of the area, is inserted a large shed that serves as the local market and as the new communal centre. It is also redesigned the entire eastern side of the district, by inserting a low building that includes the parking lots and redefines the street front with a new sequence of small shops and the access to the elevated railway.

site area 66'270 m²
program public space
renovation of the existing

Kibakoen Miyoshi Jutaku
Camilla Moresi

Kibakoen Miyoshi Jutaku is one of the most popular social housing projects and one of the most integrated in the city of Tokyo. Started in 1969 by architect Kunio Maekawa, the complex is thought as an organic sequence of volumes in which the special care is spent in the organization of the common spaces: narrow and well cared passages connect small courts where the atmosphere is domestic and serene. All this, surrounded by four storeys high buildings, is enriched with balconies and small terraces. The neighbourhood was created within a block and its homogeneous character contrasts with the belt of small private buildings that surrounds the social housing complex.
Along this edge, between the road and the existing complex, the project proposes a small intervention with the intention of offering a new definition of the eastern side of the block. The building is long and narrow with a slender wooden construction and runs parallel to the road defining a new courtyard with the existing buildings: it is tied to the neighbourhood through a bridge that takes advantage of the existing stairs to give access to the upper floors. It becomes also a gateway to the new court, maintaining the private and introverted nature of the neighbourhood. The building consists of houses for the elderly and for young families on the ground floor, with small garden areas placed along the path that faces the existing buildings; on the contrary, the other floors house a kind of co-housing open to young people, students and singles. The project, supporting the minimum space of the rooms with an articulated common space, looks for a rich and complex experience that can ensure necessary privacy and confidentiality even in common spaces.

site area 66'270 m²
housing units 8 apartments
24 co-housing rooms
inhabitants 48
density 0.32 inhabitants/m²
program housing

Toshima Go-chome Danchi
Charlotte Nierlé

Toshima Go-chome Danchi, with its 5.000 units, is one of the largest and dense settlements built in the city. Large buildings of 15 stories high are arranged longitudinally along the north south axis and are separated by generous empty areas now mostly occupied by parking garage of one or more levels. V-shaped buildings flank the long massive buildings and complete in a quite random way the area that overlooks the river.
The project wants to offer a step reading of the site by proposing a controlled and planned integration of the existing urban fabric with a new one, lower and refined, hypothesizing a progressive replacement. The continuing decreasing of the city population allows to think about a possible reduction of the architectural heritage consisting of the large collective buildings built at the turn of the ‘60 and ‘70: in addition, the cyclical demolition that affects the entire building heritage of the city, mainly due to the extreme conditions that the city has often to face, gives a chance to create a gradual plan of replacement, consisting of collective buildings of medium height and individual residential units of two or three floors. The new urban grid preserves the existing road layout of the old neighbourhood and integrates it with a series of pedestrian paths and vehicular streets where small collective spaces enrich the new buildings: the outer edges of the intervention together with a central green axis that goes from east to west, are the places where public and commercial buildings are concentrated, while a long thin linear park draws the riverbank.

site area 194'068 m²
housing units 3'030
inhabitants 12'120
density 0.06 inhabitants/m²
program public space
public facilities

Takashimadaira Danchi
Giulia Rapizza

Takashimadaira Danchi is, with its 10.000 units, the largest residential complex of the entire Japan. Repetitive and monotonous high-rise buildings with long corridor line up along the east west axis, parallel to the main street and the subway line. Wide spaces that distance the buildings are currently occupied almost entirely by parking garage of one or more floors creating an infrastructural landscape that impoverish the entire complex, relegating it to the mere function of dormitory area. Due to the aging population of the district, are in place some experiments of revaluation of individual apartments, with the specific intent to attract young people and families.
The project aims to integrate this work based on the interior renovation of the apartments, intervening in the redefinition of the public spaces. It is thought a system of green belt that can accommodate sports infrastructure, urban gardens, play areas for kids and collective spaces for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood: a variegated environment connected by a sequence of walking and cycling routes that enrich the entire area. Parking lots and commercial activities are collected in one area close to the existing metro station. Rethinking one of the most used mechanized parking system, it is design a structured and efficient parking system that covers all the needs of the entire neighbourhood: a complex of towers is built around a central square and houses different commercial activities and public functions at the ground floor. Supporting this new infrastructure, the project assumes the creation of new public transport lines that serve the entire neighbourhood so that an inhabitant can reach his house with a path of no more than 2 minutes.

site area 364'100 m²
18770 m² (built)
program public space
2304 parking spots

Akabanedai Danchi
Laura Micheli

The district of Akabanedai dates back to the sixties; is located on a hill that forms a kind of acropolis. Occupied until the fifties by a clothing factory, the area lays down from north-east to south-west, from the railway line to a large area occupied by sports infrastructure and tall buildings. The buildings of the sixties are gradually replaced by massive residential complexes, which are built around large courtyards in which parking garage of one or two floors are.
The project wants to propose an alternative development to the one realized, trying to find a balance among population density, built spaces and public spaces and looking for a sustainable and reasonable answer. The project defines a plan in which lot sizes, possible footprint and maximum size of the buildings are defined, delegating the design of the houses to the single architects: the intention is to propose the construction of a real piece of city, where complex relationships are established among the different parts. The project leaves the idea of dividing and concentrating functions in specific designated areas, in favour of a more articulated and composite urban fabric that holds inside multiple possibilities of use, from residential to commercial, from kindergarten to the private office. Have been identified two fundamental aggregative types arranged around a small square, which is the minimum common place of the neighbourhood that is connected to the other squares through a system of pedestrian and cycle paths. A series of mechanized car parks guarantees to all the apartments its own parking space; these are flanked by car parks for visitors and a system bus stations that serve the entire district. Along the southern border of the site, where the acropolis ends, the project creates a long linear park: a long walk where is possible to find some sports infrastructure that connects with the site to neighbouring districts.

site area 245'700 m²
housing units 5'100
inhabitants 20'400
density 0.08 inhabitants/m²
program public space
parking spots
public facilities

Mogusa Danchi
Simona Magnoni

Mogusa Danchi extends along a hillside that slopes from west to east: the topography has inevitably characterized the development of the neighbourhood and the settlement forms of the different typologies. The long buildings are divided into small blocks separated from the open stairs, which serve two apartments per floor: this fragmentation allows buildings to follow the ground by means of a series of steps. Along the central axis that goes in north south direction, there is a long walkway, currently poorly attended, along which is possible to find small play areas and sporadic rest areas. The mall at the centre of the site remains a vital place, which is the only real aggregative space of the whole district.
The project aims to re-evaluate the entire north-south axis, proposing the definition of a backbone that can represent a new centre for the neighbourhood. The project is able with an accurate reading of the site and without the addition of roads or driveways to concentrate along the perimeter parking and access to the existing buildings, thus releasing the entire central space, which becomes a linear park that can accommodate multiple sports and public activities: a market, a library, a small theatre, a bus station enrich the green space. All the buildings are easily accessible from the bottom and from the top of the site: a system of walkways and ramps sews the two parts of the district linking some strategic points. The park is a rich environment, where public buildings, vertical connections and sports areas mark the path from the university, located south of the area, to the secondary school that ends the park in the north part of the neighbourhood.

site area 381'400 m²
program space
bus station
public facilities

Harumi Danchi
Sofia Albrigo

The project is located in an area of the harbour that is undergoing profound changes: the entire island, in fact, since 2001 has seen the demolition of most of the existing buildings (including one of the most interesting buildings of social housing built by Kunio Maekawa) replaced by office towers and new tall buildings. The new buildings of the Campus for the Olympic games of 2020 will be added to complete the transformation. The large buildings that surround the site are founded on a basement that houses the parking and are interconnected each other by bridges: that creates a upper ground floor accessible to the public. The project occupies an area that faces the main road, in a site that is easily connectable to the large surrounding complex. The project explores the potential of the courtyard building, probing the boundary between public and private, between introverted and extroverted: through stairways leads to the ground floor, raised 1.5m above the street level. This space, intended more as a place of passage than as a resting place, as a great hall of a station, hosts public and commercial activities: the first level that houses shops and commercial activities reaches the height of the surrounding platforms and face directly this kind of square. From the second floor up, a thin inhabited wall offers the opportunity to live suspended between the reality of the city and of the courtyard: a place inhabited by structural columns containing stairs, elevators and small rooms dedicated to house offices, studios, vending machines and laundries. The walkways are anchored to these structures and lead you to the common loggias and to the accesses of the apartments. The walkways, deliberately distant from the facade of the building, offer a possible reading of the corridor type building, eliminating the classic distinction between serving and served areas.

site area 9'100 m²
housing units 360
inhabitants 1'440
density 0.15 inhabitants/m²
program housing
parking spots
public space


Nine students from the Accademia di architettura di Mendrisio and five of the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) of Japan will face on the issue of social housing in the metropolitan area of ​​Tokyo. The group will participate in a study trip in Japan and will attend seminars organized by TIT. The activities of analysis of the selected areas and the development of the first project ideas will begin in Japan with a ten-day intensive workshop and will be refined in Mendrisio with a five-week workshop. Final discussions will be at the Swiss Pavilion during the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice.


7,5 ECTS

22. June
2. August

Workshop in Tokyo

4. August
31. August

Workshop in Mendrisio

1. September–
7. September

Workshop in Venezia


Tsukiji Fish market
Maison Hermes – Renzo Piano
Swatch Flagship store – Shigeru Ban
Mikamoto Ginza – Toyo Ito
NISSAY theatre – Togo Murano
Capsule Hotel – Kisho Kurokawa
Watari-um Gallery – Mario Botta
Tower house - Takamitsu Azuma
TIT Campus
TIT Centennial Hall – Kazuo Shinohara
TIT Library - Yasuda Koichi Laboratory + AXS SATOW INC.
Auditorium, Tokyo Institute of Technology Yoshiro Taniguchi
UR Research Institute
Steel House – Nosaku Fuminori
House in Gotanda – Go Hasegawa
House in Kyodo – Go Hasegawa
Atelier + house Bow Wow – Atelier Bow Wow
Inomata House – Isoya Yoshida
Machiya in Daita – Kazunari Sakamoto
House SA - Kazunari Sakamoto
Masayuki Kurokawa office
Shinonome Danchi – Kengo Kuma, Toyo Ito, Riken Yamamoto

Site visits

Takashimadaria Danchi
Toshima Go-chome Danchi
Akabanedai Danchi
Kitasuna Go-chome Danchi
Ojima Yon-chome Danchi
Mogusa Danchi
Shinonome Canal Court CODAN
Takahatadai Danchi
Kohoku Roku-chome Danchi
Harumi Danchi
Kita Aoyama San-chome Shigaichi Jutaku
Kibakoen Miyoshi Jutaku
Townhouse Suwa
Hanahata Danchi
Fujimidai Danchi


A brief history of Housing policy in Japan – Toshio Otsuki
History of CODAN housing Design – Yoko Kinoshita
WISH: design experiences – Martino Pedrozzi
UR: a brief history – UR Research Institute
History of Shinonome Danchi - UR Research Institute
Lecture by Masayuki Kurokawa
Lecture “Project for the pleasure of reason” by Martino Pedrozzi


Is a project
of the Accademia di architettura,
Mendrisio, Switzerland

Directed by

Martino Pedrozzi


Andrea Nardi


Tsukamoto Yoshiharu, TIT professor
Nosaku Fuminori, TIT assistant
Go Hasegawa, AAM visiting professor

Local Support

Sho Kurokawa

Edition 2014

In collaboration
with the Tokyo Institute
of Technology,