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Chapter 8
Intermediary Space


Unobstructed Interpenetration: The Symbiosis of Interior and Exterior Space Provided by the Engawa Verandah

No Plazas in the East, No Streets in the West

Streets of the Sun and the Wind

The Symbiosis of All Activities in Street Space

An Inviting Architecture of the Street

Neutral Zones and Cooling-off Periods: Creating Relations Between Opposites

Creating a Discontinuous Continuum


Unobstructed Interpenetration: The Symbiosis of Interior and Exterior Space Provided by the Engawa Verandah

At the risk of being misunderstood, I would like to suggest that the difference between Western space and Japanese space is that Western space is discrete and space in Japan is continuous. Western architecture is created to conquer nature, in opposition to nature. The significance in Western architecture of the wall, dividing exterior from interior, is very great fro the reason. Japanese space, in contrast, seeks to harmonize architecture and nature, to make them one, by enveloping nature in architecture and making architecture and nature equal partners.

The wall as a divider between outside and inside did not evolve in Japan partly because of a difference in the basic materials of the two cultural sphere: Japan is a culture of wood, and the West is culture of stone. But in addition, in Japan there was a conscious effort to integrate the inside and the outside.

I was struck by Japan's traditional architecture and its space, which was one in which inside and outside interpenetrated. In the countryside ho use where I spent the war years, for example, we always opened the sliding exterior door from the first light of morning, no matter how cold it was. The garden would be filled with snow; or in another season, the buds of spring would be opening and the air filled with the fragrance of flowers. In Japanese homes of the shoin and sukiya styles, there was always this kind of "unobstructed interpenetration" and symbiosis of inside and outside, a symbiosis with the world of nature.

In the West, in contrast, we have the picture window: the window as a frame, with nature as the painting it frames. This is a view of nature as something "out there," and if very different from the traditional Japanese house, where house and garden are one. The Japanese house has another important feature that intermediates between inside and outside -- the engawa verandah. The engawa runs around the house as a projecting platform under the eaves. It is different from the terrace in Western architecture in that it serves as an exterior corridor. While it protects the interior from wind, rain, and, in the summer, the strong rays of the sun, it also functions as a place to entertain guests and as an entranceway from the garden into the house. The space known as the engawa takes on a wide variety of functions that are left unsolved in the conventional plan of a series of rooms linked by interior hallways.

But in addition to that, the engawa possesses its own meaning as a third type of space, an intermediary space, in addition to interior and exterior space. In that it is beneath the eaves, the engawa is interior space; but in that it is open, it is part of the exterior space, the garden. In the country house that I lived in during the war, special and formal guests would be received in the guest room, but local merchants and neighborhood friends would come cooling to the engawa, sit down there, and have a cup of tea and chat. Thus the way of receiving guests wad distinguished spatially according to the meaning and the role of the guest.

My concepts of intermediating space and intermediating elements are linked to the question whether we can't reintroduce a space that permits this kind of communication among people, unobstructed by any dualistic division between inside and outside, a space free of the divisions of walls, into architecture today, I have identified a variety of architectural details -- the space beneath the eaves, the engawa, corridors, and lattice doors among them -- as intermediating elements, and I have also made efforts to rediscover the ambivalence and multivalence that boundaries and peripheral spaces possess.

Already in 1960, when discussing the theories of space in Metabolism, I emphasized the importance of intermediating elements and spaces. Just as emptiness in Buddhist philosophy is a very real of intangible existence, intermediating elements and spaces do not always necessarily take physical form. It was when I took notice of the concept of the street in traditional Japanese urban space that I began to realize that an intermediary element or zone need not always take physical form. And I found in the half-public, vague zone of the Japanese urban street a kind of space that was profoundly meaningful for the way in which it far transcended the space of the Western plaza.

No Plazas in the East, No Streets in the West

When Japanese first travel to a Western city, what surprises them most is undoubtedly the central plaza. The piazza San Marco in Venice, the Campidoglio in Rome, any plaza in a European city is the face of the city. We cannot conceive of a Venice without San Marco.

Public facilities such as the church and the city hall, as well as the marketplace, are gathered around the plaza, and their architecture is imposing and grand. The Western city developed with the plaza as its center. From that center, streets projected in a radiating pattern. As the city's population expanded, many small plazas and neighborhood plazas strung up, and the cityscape was given a more sculptural and spatial treatment. But on the back side of the plaza and the lively view from it in the Western city were the backstreets -- dark, dangerous, and utterly without charm. In a city structured around central authority, these backstreets were the city's unseen, dark face.

A study of the ancient Greek city of Miletus shows that the streets were narrow pathways lined on both sides with stone-walled houses. The only openings were tiny windows, showing that the street was not considered a part of daily living space. People met and interacted in their patios and in the marketplaces, the agora. The streets were laid out, in fact, with a secondary function in mind: they served as a sewage canals to flush away waste when in rained.

In contrast, Japanese streets were not merely transportation routes. They were much more intimately involved with the fabric of daily life and took the role of a space for communication. As many Japanese words testify -- "crossroad assassinations," "crossroad sermons," "crossroad shrines," and "crossroad fortunetelling" among them -- the crossroads (tsuji), the street, was an exciting space that made a variety of encounters possible. In my 1965 book Toshi Dezain I pointed to this fact and wrote that, in effect, the Eastern city has no plaza, while the Western city has no street. By now this thesis has come to be fairly widely accepted, but at the time a reference to my claim in the magazine Ekistics was picked up in scholarly journals the world over and set quite a debate raging. NOTE 1 To rephrase my statement in a more precise if less dramatic fashion, a special feature of Eastern cites is that though they lack plazas, their streets perform the functions of the plaza. But that is not all that I want to say. Not only do the streets of Eastern cities perform the function of the plaza in the Western city, that of binding the life of the private citizen to the life of his city, but the Eastern street also possesses, at the same time, an ambiguous meaning, for it has double nature: it is simultaneously public and private space, city space and residential space.

In addition, the street lacks any definite starting point or ending point; it has a multivalence that responds to a wide variety of places and times. This is another difference from the Western plaza, which has an assigned and clear function and spatial definition. The street has no single assigned spatial function. Functioning at certain times as a space for private life and at other times as a space for public life, the roles of the street of the Eastern city are complex and overlapping and profoundly multivalent.

Streets of the Sun and the Wind

In the Vedic texts of ancient India we find the statement, "Streets are the core of the city." The text continues as follows: "Those streets are the streets of the sun and the streets of the wind."

The Vedas offer four ideal shapes for cities, dandaka, nandyavarta, padmaka, and swastika. All of them are basically lattice patterns of intersecting streets. In size, they range from 1,200 meters on a side to 7,500 meters on a side, and two-thirds of the total area is reserved for farming plots. Residences in these cities ranged from 7.3 by 4.8 meters to 12 by 9.6 meters and each had a central court for domestic animals.

The cities' streets were laid out by first using a sundial to determine two axes. These were connected to form the rajapata, or king's way, running east and west. Perpendicular to the rajapata, running north and south, was the mahakara, or the broad avenue, and together these streets formed the framework of the city.

There was no plaza in these ideal Vedic city plans. Public facilities and temples were set along the two main thoroughfares, and a bodhi tree was planted at their intersection. The bodhi tree was believed to have given birth to the sun, moon, and stars. Though the tree was a spiritually powerful cosmic symbol, it was not the city's core. I was the streets which performed that social function: the bright rajapata, on which the sun shone from morning to night, and mahakara, cooled by the breezes constantly blowing down it.

The sunny rajapata must have been a lively place when the long rainy season finally ended, and mahakara was a cool sanctuary into which people suffering during the sweltering summer nights could carry their beds and sleep under the stars. City festivals took place on these two avenues, while religious processions were held on another road, magaravici, the road of blessings, that circled the city. In ancient India, the street was an ambivalent, multivalent space that functioned in many ways.

The Symbiosis of All Activities in Street Space

This tendency can be seen in the urban space of Japan as well, based as it is on the open structure of our wooden houses. In the ancient capital of Heian (Kyoto), for example, there were no plazas. Temples, shrines, and public facilities were set along the roads. Without a central plaza or core, it was a multicolored city structured by its streets.

In its checkerboard layout, Heian's streets were divided into broad avenues and narrower streets. Citizens of relatively high social status lived along the avenues. These were the thoroughfares along which the ox carts of the nobility were drawn, and down which the many festivals and processions paraded. The avenues, in other words, were the framework that linked the citizens to their city ceremonially and in terms of secular authority. In contrast, the small streets, like those that can still be seen weaving in and out among the houses of the townsmen in Kyoto's Nishijin District today, formed the actual centers of city life. The avenues divided the city into large areas and districts; the streets crisscrossed those districts.

The areas on both sides of one street would be known by a single name -- for example, the smiths' district, or the armourers'' district -- and make up one interrelated unit. The houses on both sides of the narrow streets, less than three meters in width, exploited the open construction of wooden homes and through the device of the lattice created a shared space with the street. On hot summer nights the streets would fill with people seeking the evening cool, and on the other side of the lattice doors, people chatting and laughing could be seen. Sometimes the room facing the street was used as a shop. If the avenues were places of ceremonies, festivals, and displays of authority, the streets were an extension of residences, a place for the activities of ordinary citizens.

According to Kazuhiko Yamori, author or Toshizu no Rekishi (History of city maps), this type of Japanese urban space developed from the latter half of the ninth century through the tenth century. Before that time, the street was like a river, separating or encircling communities -- in other words, an obstacle. In Heian in the ninth century, the square residential blocks surrounded by streets were called machi. These were later divided into four equal parts by drawing diagonal lines connecting the corners, and each of these parts was called a cho. Finally, the cho on opposite sides of the intersecting street were united into one unit, again pronounced cho (though written with the same character as the earlier machi). It was Toyotomi Hideyoshi who completed this urban structure based on the street. Hideyoshi made the streets of each cho the communal property of the residents of the district and exempted the street space from taxation.

This inconspicuous urban structure possesses great significance. What had previously been the basic unit of urban activity, an area bounded by streets, was transformed into a unit that incorporated streets, and an extremely active commercial and productive unit at that. The disbanding of the medieval guilds (za) and the establishment of free markets, the flourishing of the townsman's culture and the rise of industry and commerce, increasing urbanization -- Hideyoshi's policy was conceived against this historical backdrop. It let to the development of the Kyoto-style urban residence (machiya) with the street as the core of the community -- which was this in turn a further encouragement to commerce. The machiya facing each other across the intersecting street evolved architectural features to exploit the common central space. In addition to lattice doors and windows, attached benches and horseguards (kurumayose) emphasized the continuity of the street and the open-structured wooden houses facing it.

The lattices of the machiya, for example, allowed an appropriate amount of openness while simultaneously guarding the privacy of residents. The people in the street outside and those inside the house could sense the others' presence as they went about their activities. The street space was neither public nor private but an intermediary zone, performing the same function as the engawa between house and garden.

Thus the street has traditionally played an important if intangible role in Japanese society, but since the enactment of a new system of urban districts in 1962, Japanese cities are divided according to a system of districts and wards. In imitation of the West, areas surrounded by streets are the new units of urban space. They have been named and the old cho and their names are disappearing. Solely for the convenience of computerized record-keeping, wonderful old historical names such as Kajimachi (Smithies' District), Teppocho (Armorers' District), Bakurocho, and Temmacho (Post-horse District) are disappearing from Japan, to be replaced by inoffensive, abstract, bland names such as Heiwa (Peace), Midori (Greenery), Kibo (Hope), and Hibari (Lark). I am working, as vice-president of the Zenkoku Chimei Hozon Remmei (All-Japan alliance to preserve place names), to revise that 1962 law, and I have participated in activities to that end all across Japan. The reason for my commitment to this cause is that I am convinced the 1962 system of districts will lead to the loss of our communities built around the street and their history.

An Inviting Architecture of the Street

The importance of the function of the street in the contemporary city continues to increase. That is precisely the reason that the revival of the street as it existed in Eastern cities is such an urgent topic in city planning today.

Of course I do not oppose streets that are restricted to automobile traffic. Looking at the present state of our streets, however, in which passenger cars, trucks, and bicycles are crowded dangerously together, I have come to the conclusion that alternative systems of commercial intracity transport must be developed (for example, underground tunnels) and that the urban highway system, both intracity highways and bypass loops and belts, must be improved. At the same time, it is important to build city streets that also function as living space.

All over Japan today there is an increasing interest in making the city a scenic place, and the preservation movement is also making gradual headway. But even in cities like Kyoto and Kanazawa, where so many historical buildings remain that we can stroll through history, there are few streets along which we can enjoy a pleasant and safe walk. Increasing pedestrian walkways does not really make the city such an inconvenient place, nor does it mean the decline of local shopping arcades. To allow automobiles and pedestrians to exist in symbiosis we need not restrict ourselves to a system of streets exclusively for either cars or people; experiments that allow them to share the same streets are now underway.

In mixed residential and commercial districts, for example, speed bumps can be put in the roads to slow traffic and trees planted in islands in the road. Or architecturally interesting, arcade-like streets can be built. All of these are methods to restore the originally ambivalent, multivalent nature to street space.

When all space in the city is divided into public and private, as it is today, restoring to the streets their nature as an extension of communal living space is a way to make our cities more livable and more interesting. I called my design for the Nishijin Labor Center in Kyoto (1962) "Architecture of the Street" because it was my goal in that project to create a new street space to make up for the streets that had already been usurped by automobile traffic. To create a work of architecture that presents intermediary space as architectural space, we may employ the technique of the symbiosis of interior and exterior space. The lobby of the Headquarters of the Japan Red Cross Society (1977) is an example of the interpenetration of interior and exterior space, creating an overlapping, multivalent intermediary zone. In this work, the lobby is clearly an interior space, but the ceiling is a glass arch, through which an opening in the building is visible. The floor is water-polished red granite in the shape of a waterless pond that reflects the whole. The lobby is a dramatic presentation of a series of reversals from interior to exterior and back again.

In the design for the Main Office of the Fukuoka Bank in downtown Fukuoka City, I allowed for a large, thirty-meter engawa-like space beneath the eaves. There are trees, sculpture, benches; it is a place to relax. Though the land is the property of the bank, people are free to use this space anytime day or night. They can read, they can gossip; in summer cicadas fly in and thrum from the trees; it is a simulation of nature.

My design for the Daito Seimei Tokyo Building came between the Nishijin Labor Center and the Main Office of the Fukuoka Bank. Because the lot was bounded by two streets, front and back, I planned to create a new street space that permitted people to pass through the site. This street space cut through the building and was a recreation of the traditional machi, on both sides of the street: it had shops, trees, flowing water, streetlight-like illumination, and street furniture. Light -- as well as rain to fill the man-made river -- entered through an opening that divided the building in two. My goal in creating this space was to represent a simultaneous opposition and symbiosis of interior and exterior.

Hasn't our urban planning since the war, based on the logic of functionalism, too strictly separated private from public space? Having imbibed the draft of the Western God of reason, our cities have been divided into cramped, individual, private spaces and, including our roads, broad public spaces. Now that our streets, which once had many uses, are overflowing with automobiles they have lost their image as scenes of dense urban life and become perilous rivers that separate us. This separateness can only increase the alienation of urban dwellers. Though I do not count myself among those who rather hysterically ask that we entirely outlaw automobiles from cities, certainly there is a need to restore the importance that the intermediary space of the street once played in our lives.

One of the important tasks of the architecture of symbiosis is to oppose architecture based on the rationalism and dualism of modernism with architecture that incorporates intermediary space and is full of charm and mystery.

Neutral Zones and Cooling-off Periods: Creating Relations Between Opposites

The concepts of intermediary space and ambiguity are important keys to understanding the philosophy of symbiosis. In the West, dualisms are transcended through the dialectical method of resolving (aufbehen) opposites on a higher level. The two opposites are unified into a single entity, or one of the two is negated and rejected. In contrast, the philosophy of symbiosis creates a relationship between the two elements while allowing them to remain in opposition. That relationship must be a dynamic, ever-changing one. To create a relationship between two opposing elements, it is usually effective to place spatial distance (a neutral zone) or temporal distance (a cooling-off period) between them.

In Western society, historically neutral zones and cooling-off periods have been regarded as obscuring social policies, and they have been shunned. In the contractual society of the West, all decisions are spelled out in legal agreements. Ambiguity and intermediary zones are looked on as social evils. Present American society os typical contractual society. Perhaps mutual trust is only possible among Americans within the rules of contract, since the nation is a conglomeration of many different ethic and racial groups. It is impossible to carry on any business in America without lawyers, and situations that most Japanese would regard as easily soluble with a little discussion soon evolve into legal proceedings to be argued before a court. In comparison, in Japan many, many projects are undertaken on the basis of verbal promises. Except in the most extreme circumstances, mutual acquaintances or companies in a supplier-customer relation are very unlikely to carry any grievance to the courts.

Trust, in Japan, is trust without contracts. When a problem arises, every attempt will be made to settle it my making mutual adjustments. In order to make adjustments, there must be room -- in other words, ambiguity and intermediary space -- for adjustment.

The more two parties try to draw up a contract that provides for every future risk and contingency, the more inflexible their positions will become in the process of wrangling. Perhaps in the process their mutual peace of mind will be assured to a certain extent, but genuine understanding and the desire to deepen, of one's own free will, the relationship with the partner in the future will be made much less likely.

The limits of attempting to govern all human transactions by the Western contractual system are increasingly apparent in this international age in particular, when many different nations, enterprises, and individuals are living in peace while standing in opposing relationships of benefit and harm, profit and loss.

Creating a Discontinuous Continuum

I don't believe that such traditionally Japanese ambiguous means of communication, such as the verbal promise and the nonverbal communication called haragei, are completely effective as they are, but there is a crucial necessity to create a new system of human transactions in which a system that allows adjustments in overlaid on the present contractual system. This system of adjustments derives from those keys to the philosophy of symbiosis, intermediary space and ambiguity.

In Japan, we say that we undertake (literally, accept and carry) an architectural project or some other contractual obligation. The term implies more than the obligations specified in the contract. Non-Japanese construction companies regard their relationship with the firm that the contracted them as finished when the work specified in the contract has been completed. In Japan, however, we feel a moral responsibility to look after a building whose design and construction we have undertaken for the life of the building. After a typhoon, for example, the contractor will get in touch -- even though the building has been standing for decades -- to check whether it has been damaged and to inquire in detail about any necessary repair work. This way of thinking applies not only to the construction industry but to all human relationships. This is what is regarded as a relationship of trust.

The concept of ma or interval is strongly rooted in Japanese living pattern and in the arts. For many years I have analyzed Japanese culture and traditional architecture with reference to the concept of ma. One who hasn't grasped the concept of ma and is difficult to get along with, a fool, is called "a person lacking ma (ma no nuketa hito, or manuke). Ma is spatial distance (a neutral zone) and temporal distance (a cooling-off period). Those who properly space (ma) their words are effective speakers who create a deep impression. When two factors are in fierce opposition to each other, it often becomes surprisingly easy to adjust their conflicting claims by inserting a ma -- that is, after a period of waiting.

In writing Chinese ideographs, it is more important to pay attention to the space between the lines than the lines themselves. This space is not nothingness. It has as much significance as the lines, it speaks as much. Ma is also important in folk songs and Noh chants. The engawa is a space, a ma, inserted between nature and building, exterior and interior. This type of intermediate zone functions as ma to permit two opposing elements to exist in symbiosis. Intermediate space makes a discontinuous continuum possible, so that a plurality of opposing elements can continue in an ever-changing, dynamic relationship. The nature of intermediate space is its ambiguity and multivalency. It does not force opposing elements into compromise or harmony; it is the key to their living and dynamic symbiosis.



1. This international magazine was founded by the Greek planner C.A. Doxiadis. The term ekistics, which he coined, means the study of human settlements and their problems from an interdisciplinary approach.