Film | Wide Angle

Urban planning

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

“Inside Architecture — Dare mo Shiranai Kenchiku no Hanashi” is a fascinating look at the relationship between money and city planning, economy and architecture. The filmmaker behind this formidable documentary is 38-year-old Tomomi Ishiyama, a Fulbright scholar who studied at New York City University and later worked as an apprentice to film director Isao Okishima. “Inside Architecture” is her second feature, and her first documentary.

The three musketeers of Japanese architecture — Arata Isozaki, Tadao Ando and Toyo Ito — form the spine of Ishiyama’s work. The documentary is roughly divided into two parts: The first focuses on the legendary “P3” (Public Private Partnership) Conference in 1982, where the creme de la creme of the world’s architects gathered in the same room to talk about buildings, cities and design. The three Japanese participants, who felt a little out of their league, huddled together in a corner in awe of their company.

Fast-forward some 30 years and the trio have attained global recognition, while Tokyo is renowned for cramming in more buildings and facilities per square meter than any other city in the world. Ishiyama — herself the daughter of an architect — is clearly fascinated by how the city has developed since the postwar era, but she’s also well aware of how that development has divorced itself from architects and architecture. In one of the interviews, Dutch architect extraordinaire Rem Koolhaas points out that Japanese architects “do not have the satisfaction of contributing to society,” and he’s right. In Tokyo, architects have pretty much been sacrificed on capitalism’s altar and, as such, there is a chronic lack of a clear philosophy in the city’s planning. It’s a real tragedy.