Osaka Brand Committee
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Yasumichi Morita
Yasumichi Morita
Ken Miki
Chiaki Murakami
Ryo Yamazaki
Biolgical field
Water city
Osaka Kaleidoscope
#2 From “to Make” to “to Use”--A Landscape Architect’s Challenge to Design Public Spaces

The meaning of design--to make or to use?

What would be the best definition of design? It is generally thought of in terms of making something--whether it is for aesthetic purposes or for practical purposes. Designers of clothes, industrial products, printed materials, buildings, or in any genre are usually considered as professionals, whose jobs are to create something new.
Is designing really only about making things that do not currently exist?--this is what Ryo Yamazaki, a landscape architect, has been questioning. For Yamazaki, it seems more important for the future to work consciously to “make the best use” of what has already been made but has not been fully utilized. Based in his office in Kita-ku, Osaka City, Yamazaki continues to pursue his vision through various pioneering activities that involve public spaces such as parks.

Using public spaces in one's own way -a special talent of people in Osaka

Yamazaki’s wide range of activities is not limited to the communities within Osaka. “Hozumi Seizaisho (Sawmill) Project” in Iga-shi, Mie, and “Sagurareru Shima (an island to be explored)” at Ieshima Island, Himeji-shi, Hyogo, are among his major projects that are currently taking place outside his base city. Through these projects in outside communities, however, Yamazaki has discovered that people in Osaka “are generally pretty good at using public spaces.”
In Osaka, as Yamazaki points out, people often grow green onions and shiso basil in planting areas of public streets. They also plant private garden bushes on the premises of train tracks that run right behind their houses, or turn street spaces in front of stores into community areas after they have closed for business for the day. “People in Tokyo, for example, seem to separate themselves from the public,” says Yamazaki. “People in Osaka, on the contrary, rather think that they are part of the public.” In other words, Osaka locals forwardly assume (in a good sense) that what the public has is what they’ve got, while being particularly gifted to find a practical use for every corner of public space. This may explain why unique, unexpected utilization of public space is seen in Osaka, according to Yamazaki.

Having studied landscaping in the agricultural department of his college, Yamazaki originally specialized in designing parks and gardens and was not particularly interested in how they were or could be used. His view changed after he was engaged in a management support project for the Arima Fuji Park, Hyogo, which inspired him to expand his design works to include potential usages of space including various community activities.

Shrinking city

Yamazaki continues to explore potential usages of public spaces while questioning what he could do about the trend of a “shrinking city,” caused by the decreasing urban population. Depopulation directly means the decrease in tax revenues for the city, which may eventually cause financial difficulties for the maintenance and management of public facilities. The increase of public spaces with poor management could trigger the devastation of the entire city. To avoid such an issue from happening in the future, according to Yamazaki, community-based management by local residents themselves is definitely indispensable.
Yamazaki reminds us that Osaka is a clear example of a depopulating community, showing the fastest decreasing rate of population among large cities. The number of unoccupied residential properties in many suburban areas is also increasing, which may not be so obvious today but could certainly affect the destiny of the entire community sooner or later. “I am concerned about what awaits suburban Osaka in the future,” says Yamazaki, who himself was raised in the suburbs of Osaka. He has already started some field work in these communities.
Yamazaki believes that it will become a serious issue in the near future to determine how to rebuild the developed and overpopulated urban city into a smaller size. The key to its success is how many proactive residents there are in the community and who would increase its attractiveness and provide it with vitality. Here Yamazaki finds the reason why he should focus on using what already exists rather than making what does not. Yamazaki’s goal is to suggest a role model comprised of citizens who can independently manage public spaces and bring vitality to the community instead of leaving it in someone else’s hands. In that sense, Yamazaki is a professional who designs the entire community.

December 7, 2007
Text by Michi Komura, Osaka Brand Center

Ryo Yamazaki Profile
Ryo Yamazaki is the founder of studio-L and a landscape designer for public spaces. He also designs various programs to utilize developed public spaces and suggests project management plans. Yamazaki continues his research at the University of Tokyo graduate school on the theme of “landscaping design in the era of depopulation.” He lectures at Kyoto University of Art & Design, Kinki University, and Osaka College of Technology, and is a chief researcher at Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute. Yamazaki is the author of Masochistic Landscaping (Gakugei Shuppansha), Urban Environment Designing (Gakugei Shuppansha), An Approach to the Regional Promotion (IBC Corporation) and more.

Ongoing projects

Hozumi Seizaisho (Sawmill) Project (Hozu-pro) (Japanese only)
Based on Hozumi Seizaisho, a closed sawmill in the Shimagahara district of Iga-shi, Mie, the project aims to open the place to the public and create an area where local residents and visitors from outside the community can communicate and become friends via furniture making. Currently, about 50 participants, including students and young business employees, are building a small cabin where visitors may stay overnight.

Sagurareru Shima (an island to be explored) (Japanese only)
This project takes place on Ieshima Island, a small and remote island of Himeji-shi, Hyogo. Each year, about 30 participants, including students and young business employees from outside the island, explore its community, find and report the local attractions from the outsider’s viewpoint, and put them together into a small brochure. Started in 2005, the third year’s report on the project, which is currently being edited, focused on the hospitality of local people.


■Additional URL for reference
studio-L (Japanese only)