Paper and pens and tape and glue and photos and string and plastic and magazines and crayons and scissors.... mapping the real and imagined green spaces of a megacity requires all kinds of junk.
More art event than planning meeting, the Tokyo DIY Gardening mapping workshop, held at a repurposed high school in central Tokyo, combined hope, reality, and a heap of imagination to bring the city's green spaces – from roof gardens to community gardens to farms to plants in pots and trees bursting from car roofs – alive in surprising ways.
Thirty participants including a school child, musicians, ceramicists, textile buyer, real estate developer, architect, arts administrator, senior citizens, and some random people who were walking by pitched in to collage a 2m x 4m overview of the entire Tokyo region.
Starting with a straight line (the Chuo (central) train line) and a circle (the Yamanote (major ring-rail) line) participants first negotiated the positioning of a number of prepared tourist spots (the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, Shibuya, etc) and then entered into an energetic debate over the positioning of Tokyo’s waterways (the key to understanding the city). The workshop then rapidly dispersed into small groups pasting together their past, present and future images of Tokyo (all recorded on prepared forms) and the organizers were quickly reduced to strolling around the workbench taking in the scene as the participants took over.
The event illustrates that “ 'old school’ mind mapping continues to offer great access to 'local' knowledge of a given place, that only real people with memories, imaginations and creativity can provide”. Cooperatively creating a map also reflected the inherent hands-on quality of gardening, while sharing and deepening participants understanding of urban green spaces. Messing about with 'a whole lot of junk' created an environment for people to remember the places the love about the city and why, and to connect their memories and experiences with those of others.
The map and the process also showed the way that these spaces mosaic together to create Tokyo’s unique urban environment – a city of parts, where the individual defines the large scale, and depending on your viewpoint each entity has the characteristics of a “whole” as well as a “part” (Yoshinobu Ashihara ref). It reinforced the image of Tokyo as a collage, patchwork or bricolage, but built on a shared language of terrain, materials and techniques – snapshots from all over Japan being cobbled together as “stuff we have in our neighbourhood”.
Collaborative mapping workshops provide a loose, freeform, non resource-intensive way for citizens, researchers, planners and interested parties to access deep and creative understandings of the city and the everyday within. They also result in delightful visual records for archiving, display, reference and further discussion.
We’d love to learn more about hands-on city mapping around the world. Please get in touch at: email@example.com
Collages from the workshop, participants quotes and the entire documentation are available for those who want even more detail. View Images and Workshop Notes >>