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Big in Japan: Cabe leads the way in the far East

Big in Japan: Cabe leads the way in the far East

16 September 2013 Written by By Thomas Bender Lead Advisor, Design Council Cabe

The Japanese Institute of Architects (JIA) are looking to establish an organisation like Cabe in Japan.

Design Council Cabe and the services we offer were high on the agenda at this year's annual convention of the JIA in Sapporo. The JIA are keen to replicate the services of Cabe, given the major challenges in terms of rebuilding large parts of the country after the Tsunami disaster, and a general move towards more community involvement and sustainable urban development. Representatives from JIA visited Design Council Cabe and have sat in on our Design Reviews on several occasions.

Our Design Review approach to debating the design quality of projects – and criticising esteemed colleagues – is a rather delicate matter in Japan, but there’s a great appetite for learning more about the English system.  

I was given the opportunity to speak about the Cabe services, Design Review, Support and Training and illustrated the benefits for design teams, clients, local authorities and the community. I also met a number of Japanese architects and debated the pros and cons of our respective planning systems.  

Japanese buildings are not built for eternity: Earthquakes are a constant risk, frequent fires in the past and a more consumerist approach to objects allow for a very short-term understanding of design and the building’s lifespan. This also creates the almost overwhelming cacophony of styles, materials and quality along the streets in Japanese cities. For earthquake protection, each building stands independently and doesn’t have party walls that join the buildings to form a continuous street frontage. This emphasises the heterogeneity of the streetscape.

Tokyo is emblematic for this style – a true Sim City where every building seems replaceable by a grander even more extravagant structure.

The JIA  and other organisations in Japan are now debating how they can organise and set up an organisation like Design Council Cabe and we're very excited to help see to all of their queries. 

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