Cheers a neighbor, Dodge a bike, Stop for lunch, Knock over a plant: Tokyo 'Roji' as a model for Urban Housing

The following mixed-use residential proposal presents itself adjacent to one of Oimachi’s recognized roji networks and aims to vertically extend this urban landscape through a new housing project that introduces varying degrees of public and private spaces. The fundamental principles leading this design reflect architectural and social conditions that stem from our roji analyses: maximize shared community and green space, create identity, increase social exchange through central thresholds, and develop business opportunities for residents to flourish. Preserving the historic roji and linking it with access to contemporary retail opportunities will help to encourage an intensification of younger populations within the network.

Elevated residential spaces will be centered around shared green spaces that promotes moments of social interaction blurring the boundaries between public and private spaces. The proposal promotes a heterogeneous local identity through a generous mix of retail spaces, housing units, shared green space, and semi-private and semi-public spaces. The main goal of this project is to intensify the population around the Oimachi neighborhood, to promote the use of traditional roji and preserve their historic character from being eroded. This design is a model that integrates varying scales of living, working and leisure opportunities in order to efficiently introduce young adults into older neighborhoods.

What are “Roji”? Roji are typically narrow, often dead-end alleyways, no more than a few meters across. Their intimate, human scale, along with the adjacency to residences, fosters a sense of community between neighbors and encourages chance social encounters. Roji act as mediating spaces between the private interior and the larger public realm. They are ostensibly public, often with public restrooms, signage, and vending, but are also cared for and utilized in highly personal ways. There is a tradition of urban gardening, DIY wayfinding, and improvised pedestrian amenities in Japan, and roji are a standard stage for these activities. In these indeterminate, liminal spaces, the line between the public and the private blurs.