4. Townhouses Yamashita Pier 

University D–ARCH ETH Zurich
Course Architectural Design Studio 3rd/4th Year
Dates 2008
Professor Felix Claus 
Assistants  Medine Altiok, Benedikt Boucsein, Axel Humpert

           Yamashita Pier, one of many such sites in Yokohama harbour, is in functional flux and currently under high pressure to be redeveloped. During the last semester, the class of Prof. Kees Christiaanse drew up an according strategy for the whole area. Based on their results, we generated a master plan for the Yamashita Pier. This plan served as the starting point of our studio. As demanded in the initial strategy, it mainly focused on dwelling functions. We focused on designing town houses on the rules of the masterplan, and great care was given to the genius loci of Yamashita Pier. Each student chose his task from a given set of precisely defined programs, ranging from single-family houses over social housing to upscale dwellings with office functions. We discussed the quarter as a whole, even though our efforts were clearly focused on the individual design task.
        The design of waterfront inner-city dwellings in an area formerly coined by industrial structures: Such a task, viewed from a European perspective, seems to be an easy, if not to say trivial one. In the Japanese context, though, it presents an enormous challenge. Japan knows no urbanistic traditions to handle such tasks. Also, the phenomenon of housing on urban waterfronts is largely unknown, as are certain housing concepts like social housing. We therefore mainly focused on the topics of dwelling itself, dwellings in general and living environments. We newly interpreted these issues from a European view. From the Japanese side, such a transfer of knowledge is highly desired, and its results will have an actual influence on the decisions on site.

Workshop in Yokohama

            During the seminar week in Japan, the students from ETH Zurich and the Y-GSA meet for a two-day workshop in Yokohama. We set out five mixed groups to examine different areas in Yokohama. The research focused on dwelling types and the way dwellings were set into their urban context. They collected “hard facts” of each dwelling type, such as floor space index, the number of inhabitants, prices and plot sizes. The Japanese and Swiss students spent parts of their day in the quarters talking to inhabitants and real estate agents. They entered flats and houses, examining the interior. The workshop enabled an intercultural dialogue and exchange about different dwelling environments and living habits.