The Effervescent Void City
Master of Architecture
In Tokyo, where the cost of one acre of land is $7.8 billion and the urban population has grown by about 100,000 per year, urban densification is a necessary but pricy reality. The issue is not new; overcrowding as a problem has dominated urban visions in postwar Japan. The current mode of subdividing land, caused by Tokyo’s high inheritance tax, has produced smaller and smaller plots, each of which has been maxed out, based on the city’s FAR restrictions. Recent revisions to property laws have introduced the possibility of purchasing air rights, which has encouraged developers to clear Tokyo’s distinctive small-scale urbanism, replacing it with a landscape of tall towers. The solution to this de-Tokyoism lies in the city’s Deep Underground Utilization Law, enacted in 2001, which designated subterranean rights, allowing owners to build to a depth of 40 meters below ground. As a new model of urban densification, the Effervescent Void City exploits the underground to increase density, both accommodating the rapidly growing population while preserving the urban fabric that makes Tokyo unique. The Effervescent Void City is designed to accommodate large-scale programs like sporting facilities and auditoriums, that don’t fit into Tokyo’s tight existing fabric. By embedding such super-scale programs in the underground, a contextual smaller scale urbanism is maintained above. Instead of privileging the above or below ground, the project transitions between both scales by making the void an equal player to the mass. The void works to increase density (and openness) by merging the above and below ground, formal horizontality and verticality as typified in towers and mat buildings, small and large scale programs, producing a model of radical contextualism to shape the future of Tokyo.