The third edition of "Conversations on Public Space" features Koichiro Tamura, (also known as KT), from Tokyo, Japan.
Dhanya: Describe the city you're from. What's your public space in your home city and why?
Koichiro Tamura: I was born in south Japan and moved to Tokyo when I entered university. My favorite public space in the capital city are the streets of Yanaka district, which has managed to maintain the atmosphere of an old downtown. The street has a sense of community, local identity, human-scale environment and a creative vibe.
D: What is your background in? What brought you to a career in design and placemaking?
KT: I studied and worked in the field of infrastructure planning for emerging and developing countries. After many years of working abroad, I came to feel that urban development in such countries do not take into account the everyday experiences of city dwellers because of strong emphasis on the technical and functional aspects of design. This shifted my interest in placemaking as an alternative way of creating cities.
D: What according to you is the biggest challenge with respect to public life in the city you're from?
KT: In general, Japan is much more homogeneous in comparison with the United States. However, there is a tendency that the society becomes divided by class and generation gradually. Social aspect of public space and public life is not discussed actively, while more attention goes to physical design and financial management of spaces.
D: What are your areas of research or design interest?
KT: My current research interest is studying people’s behaviors that enrich qualities of public spaces as well as design and planning methods that could foster such behaviors.
D: What/who inspires your professional or academic goals?
KT: In recent years, activation of public spaces has been booming in Japan, and a number of inspiring spaces have emerged. Also in Africa, where I traveled for projects frequently, "Open Streets" initiative is gaining momentum in various cities such as Cape Town, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa. These are inspiring examples that showcase the potential power of public spaces in different contexts across the globe.
D: What is your favorite public space in New York and why?
KT: My favorite public space is Rosemary’s Playground in Ridgewood, Queens, where I am also actively engaged in the planning of seasonal events along with the neighborhood group called Friends of Rosemary's Playground. This is an active neighborhood place for diverse communities and ages to engage in different ranges of activities. Seniors use the tables on the edge of the park to play games, while children and parents enjoy the active programing and park events.
D: What do you think is missing from the conversation around public spaces?
KT: In my opinion, there is plenty of room for debate about innovative models of management of public spaces in less affluent neighborhoods.
D: How do you like the public spaces in NYC? What would you change about it?
KT: I love the innovative design, programs, and accessibility to these spaces in most parts of the city. However the quality of public spaces in outskirts of the boroughs could be improved.
D: What are your aspirations after graduation?
KT: I desire to return to the world of international development and contribute to mainstreaming the idea of quality public spaces in the development of rising cities.
D: How do you envision the future of your profession 10 years from now?
KT: Placemaking is already a multi-disciplinary profession, but I expect it will evolve further by collaborating with and learning from experts from different fields. I also hope the profession will spread to every country in the world with processes that are tailored to the context of the specific city, governance and culture.