top of page

Manufacturing Landscapes Exhibition



The Rotch Traveling Studio is an annual foreign-travel grant that provides $20,000 toward enhancing students’ architectural education. Julie won the grant for her Manufacturing Landscapes Studio proposal to bring students to Tokyo Japan to visit the Tsukiji Market and the aftermath on the city from the 2010 Tsunami. The following exhibition and subsequent symposium is the result of the studio trip and projects that focus on rethinking the infrastructure and ecology of Tokyo Bay.

Grant proposals are invited from faculty members in all U.S. NAAB-accredited schools of architecture for travel anywhere in the world during the following calendar year. Studios are to be directed by the faculty applicant and are intended to supplement a specific design studio at the school.

Assistant Professor at UIUC, Julie Larsen, submitted her studio proposal for the Rotch Travelling Studio for 2012 to visit Tokyo, Japan. The arguments for choosing to research Japan resulted from the following:

THE SYNOPSIS Since the earliest developments, cities were physically shaped by their relationship to the natural environment. Infrastructural systems (levees, bridges, aqueducts, storm water systems) were used to mediate or protect settlements from natural forces. Today, these systems largely remain hidden and, in many cases, are beginning to fail. These systems play a key role in addressing the rising ecological challenges that urban areas, such as Tokyo, face due to effects of global warming and growing densities.

The response lies in how infrastructure and ecology can inform one another to create a more resilient urban fabric that re-codes its environment. Alexander D’Hooghe argues that rather than thinking of infrastructure as a ‘system of transportation planning or engineering’, we should be considering it as an ‘object of cultural production with a spatial content not unlike that of architecture...”

Infrastructure is going beyond the realm of strictly an ‘engineering problem’ and becoming an integral public and cultural component to urban development. As we begin to take on more ecological complexities within our environment, cities can no longer be separated into isolated entities but become a synthesis of integrated systems with cultural significance.

STUDIO PREMISE - With over 50% of the world population living in cities and two thirds in cities vulnerable to climate change, as architects it is fundamental that we leverage infrastructural and ecological concerns for new architectural prototypes that can reshape the focus of our discourse.

Tokyo is one of the largest populations in the world and one of the top 20 port cities most susceptible to flood damage due to high storm surges. It is also one of the leading cities to combat its critical water crisis with the extraordinary G-Cans Project. How can port cities like Tokyo redevelop outdated systems by fusing infrastructure and environmental strategies to formulate new architectural solutions?
The studio used Tokyo as a test bed to examine three key issues at the Tsukiji Market Tokyo Bay Site: 1. How to understand the ecology of Tokyo and utilize the flooding system as a Manufactured Landscape for the city, and 2. Generate new qualities of public space and architectural devices for the waterfront, and 3. Utilize Tsukiji Market as a spatial and programmatic vessel that needs to adapt to dynamics and fluctuations within the city.

BACKGROUND - Each year, costal cities face the realities of high flood factors taxing not only our infrastructure but urban quality of life. As Japan is surrounded by water, ‘how to cope with problems related to sea level rise caused by global warming is one of the significant issues in Japan’s adaptation strategies for global warming’ (

Since 1979, Tokyo faced more than six major floods and is highly susceptible to flood damage. To protect the city, the government designed a flood sewer system – The Metropolitan Area Outer Discharge Channel (G-Cans) – also known as the underground temple – built to prevent overflow and minimize at least 80% of the damage caused by heavy rainfall. But as recently as August 2011, other areas of Tokyo encountered flash floods with a record rainfall rate of 3.7 inches per hour. The flooding turned roads into rivers and many residents were forced to evacuate. The city is progressive in flood mitigation yet one system is not resilient enough to remedy the entire region.

SITE (DILEMMA #1) - Tokyo is home to the largest, wholesale seafood market in the world – the Tsukiji Market . The Market resides in prime urban real estate along the waterfront and near the famous Ginza district. With continuous economic growth, there is significant pressure on the market to move out of its location and make way for more lucrative, commercial development. Yet with the rich, cultural significance of the market, it is politically charged and almost impossible to extinguish from the city. The prime waterfront location is potentially beneficial as public space but inevitably is a permanent threat due it being in the highest flood zone of the city. The Market as a new, manufactured landscape for the city, could combat ecological realities and offer new possibilities for much needed public space - a term rarely used in Japanese culture till the Metabolists.

PROGRAM (DILEMMA #2) - The public markets lining the complex establish the Tsukiji Market as a lively, vibrant place to buy seafood – for wholesalers, city residents and tourists. The Market also struggles with increasing tourists and the unfortunate result of sanitation concerns. As a result, the Market slowly retreats from being a tourist destination. The studio researched the Market as a cultural influence within the city and the impact of the Market as a destination. Students are asked to speculate on its cultural role, current location and what kind of impact new programs could have on the site that would make it more economically, ecologically and culturally viable.

bottom of page