Walk Tall!


The Western-influenced street design concepts have failed to address problems uniquely experienced within Asian streets. This results in unsound solutions and overshadows the need to conserve our unique heritage. To achieve a sustainability-oriented mobility culture requires the revival of the Asian street culture based on the premise that the present space utilization is a consequence of and reflects the underlying pedestrian culture of the past. The discussion centers on street space development in two Asian cities, namely: Edo period Tokyo, under seclusion policy, and Manila, a colonial city. The study draws on the historical survey of urban spaces, visual analysis of pictorial representations and analysis of existing literature. The discourse will focus on the major planning instruments, urban open space morphogenesis; pedestrian and street culture; and the emergent spaces, both movement and non-movement. Finally, it will provide initial recommendations on how to improve sidewalk space and contribute towards an Asian perspective in pedestrian transport studies.

Calle Escolta in the Philippines was distinguished among other streets of Binondo because it was well-paved with cobblestones and piedra china blocks brought from Hong Kong.

There is a pressing need to develop a new perspective on sidewalk space design especially within Asia. This entails the review of current design approaches and their effectiveness when applied to the Asian context. This study provided an initial attempt on comparing the histocultural perspective of both cities, given the premise that effective design comes for the consideration of local history and culture which only can be derived with the study of a city’s historical trend.

Edo streets in Japan, similar to its Manila counterpart, were historically conceived as something between public and private, both serving as urban thoroughfare and semi-residential space.
Photo lifted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/xinpheld/235620852/

The paper had shown the evolving concept of space within Asian cities, particularly of Edo (Tokyo, Japan) and Manila (Philippines). At a macro-level, it compared various aspects of planning principles adopted as well as external factors (i.e. environmental conditions, social/religious beliefs) that had contributed to its present state. While at the micro-level, it analyzed emergent spaces, both functional and social purposes, and how the spaces were derived, signaling the importance of pedestrian culture in developing effective spaces. It utilized a historical approach. Through the historical survey conducted, the study has shown that the revival of the culture of the streets may be a feasible alternative to achieve a sustainable-street space. This also strengthens the point that cultural history is useful in achieving street space renaissance. There is an ongoing osmosis of ideas in various related fields and this osmosis has provided revolutionary changes in each of the fields.

Also, it is important to note that “Asian-initiated’ ideas are beginning to be manifested in the mainstream West, thus, making it important to discover the Asian traditional “ways of doing things.” This furthermore strengthens the need to reconnect present-day urban design proposals with their cultural context so as to spatially express localism originating from cultural diversity.



1 Response »


  1. Pedestrian power to shape future cities | Walkability Asia

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