Mohsen Mostafavi: Sharing Tokyo: Artifice and the Social World

Join us for The Living Memory of Cities, a seminar series convened in collaboration with Eric Parry Architects and the Centre for Urban and Built Ecologies (CUBE), London Metropolitan University.

Sharing Tokyo: Artifice and the Social World

Tokyo is the world’s most populated metropolitan area. Every day, millions of commuters travel to and from work, arriving to and leaving from the city’s train-stations. The dynamism of the city is beguiling. Yet, it is hard to register that much of Tokyo is a young city. An artifice, constructed from the ruins, first of the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923, and then, of the Allied fire bombings during WWII. The city, quickly managed to rebuild itself after every disaster. Much of the charm of Tokyo is based on contrasts, between new and old, large, and small. In Tokyo, a major thoroughfare of modern buildings invariably fronts a much smaller scale, hidden, neighborhood of older structures. It remains a city of secrets, of discoveries, and surprises. More recently, the adoption of neo-liberal policies has led to the building of a series of large-scale mixed-use projects by a small handful of big developers. The financial model of these exclusive, semi-autonomous islands makes them -out of reach- almost extra-territorial- spaces of the city for most Tokyoites. In contrast, are the older neighborhoods of the city, many in need of revitalization. How can the city, given Japan’s changing demographics, aging, de-population, single living, prepare itself for a future that can be shared by all and not for the benefit of the few?


Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and educator, is the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, and served as Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 2008-2019. His work focuses on modes and processes of urbanization and on the interface between technology and aesthetics. He has been the Director of the Master of Architecture I Program at the Harvard GSD and has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Cambridge, and the Frankfurt Academy of Fine Arts (Städelschule). Mostafavi is a Trustee of Smith College, an Honorary Trustee of the Norman Foster Foundation, and served on the Board of the Van Alen Institute as well as the Steering Committee and the Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. At Harvard, he co-chairs the Harvard University Committee for the Arts, serves on the Smith Campus Center Executive Committee, the Harvard Allston Steering Committee, and co-chaired the Steering Committee on Common Spaces. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Harvard Innovation Lab Advisory Board, the Executive Board of The Laboratory at Harvard, and the Committee on Middle Eastern Studies. He is a consultant on a number of international architectural and urban projects. His research and design projects have been published in many journals, including The Architectural Review, AAFiles, Arquitectura, Bauwelt, Casabella, Centre, Daidalos, and El Croquis. His books include On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time (co-authored 1993), which received the American Institute of Architects prize for writing on architectural theory; Delayed Space (co-authored 1994); Approximations (2002); Surface Architecture (2002); Logique Visuelle (2003); Landscape Urbanism: A Manual for the Machinic Landscape (2004); Structure as Space (2006); Ecological Urbanism (co-edited 2010 and recently translated into Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish); Implicate & Explicate (2011); Louis Vuitton: Architecture and Interiors (2011); In the Life of Cities (2012); Instigations: Engaging Architecture, Landscape and the City (co-edited 2012); Architecture is Life (2013); Nicholas Hawksmoor: The London Churches (2015); Architecture and Plurality (2016); Portman’s America & Other Speculations (2017); and Ethics of the Urban: The City and the Spaces of the Political (2017).

a Living Memory of Cities leaflet with a portrait of Mohsen Mostafavi to the right


Date/time Online: Wednesday 26 October, 5pm to 6.30pm
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Watch the video of this research seminar on Tokyo, the world’s most populated metropolitan area, led by architect and educator Mohsen Mostafavi, who served as Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 2008-2019.