Reconsideration of Urban Design from a Perspective of Coordinative Mechanism in Local Administration: A Case Study of Yokohama’s Urban Design Section

Aoki, Atsuhiro | Taguchi, Toshio

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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This study is a combined scientific and subjective analysis of the history of the Urban Design Office (UDO) of the Yokohama city administration. The UDO celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. It is a rare example of a governmental organisation that has survived with the vague institutional objective of doing something for urban design. The UDO began in 1971 as part of the Planning and Coordination Department (PCD) led by Akira Tamura, an eminent urban planner. The goal of the PCD was to introduce new values into city management and development through collaboration with institutions inside and outside local government. In accordance with PCD policies, the UDO achieved several outcomes, such as pedestrian space improvements in the 1970s and the preservation of historical buildings in the 1980s. However, since the 1990s, the role of the UDO has shifted from practitioner to advisor because of policy changes enacted by new mayors. It may be that the UDO has gradually lost the basis for its existence in this process. Today, new urban issues, such as population, environment and gender, are emerging. In these times, if local governments uncritically accept the logic of capital and majority values, they cannot create better cities. The implication of this case study is to re-evaluate urban design in the contemporary context as a practitioner of coordinative mechanisms by local governments as it used to be.