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Privately Owned Public Space: The International Perspective 公共空間としての民有公開空地 ー世界の事例と新たな発展


Abstract and Figures

Although local governments around the world are rewarding FAR bonuses to private developers for decades if they in turn agree to produce and maintain publicly usable urban spaces, most research so far has discussed these ‘privately owned public spaces’ (POPS) against the background of North American cities. This volume contributes to overcome this Western bias by offering a theoretically informed and empirically grounded, comprehensive survey of governance systems that have been producing privately owned public spaces in cities as diverse as Santiago de Chile, New York, Seattle, Aachen, Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, and Yokohama.
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1. Background
This volume, 'Privately Owned Public Spaces: The
International Perspective', is based on a weeklong
workshop and conference that took place in Tokyo
in February 2012. The workshop brought together
young international scholars engaging in a variety of
research projects, dealing with the private provision of
collective space, with leading Japanese public space
administrators, planning practitioners, and researchers
During the workshop, fieldwork and interviews with
urban administrators and scholars were carried out
in Yokohama, Kawasaki, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Osaka
in order to provide a deeper understanding of the
diverse and differentiated manifestations of the
related planning policies (Fig.3). This research was
kindly funded by The University of Tokyo’s Center for
Sustainable Urban Regeneration (CSUR) and builds
on an earlier collaborative research project that was
set up by Christian Dimmer (University of Tokyo),
Juliane Pegels (RWTH Aachen), Elke Schlack Fuhrmann
(Universidad Andres Bello, Santiago de Chile), as well
as Marieluise Jonas and Beau Beza (RMIT Melbourne)
in 2008.
2. Introduction
The concurrence of the appropriation of Zuccotti
Park by the Occupy Wall Street movement in October
2011 and the 50th anniversary of New York City’s
groundbreaking zoning ordinance has drawn renewed
and unprecedented attention to a particular mode
of urban governance that has not only brought this
widely televised Lower Manhattan park into being
but also hundreds of its kind; not only in New York but
across the world. As the Occupy movement spread
around the globe and as other privately owned public
spaces were similarly taken over such as Hong Kong’s
iconic HSBC Plaza, Taipei’s 101 Tower, and City Square in
Melbourne, so spread the awareness that such hybrid
spaces at the nexus of the public and private domains
also existed in many other countries and continents.
Although it has been decades since local governments
around the world started rewarding bonus floor area
to private developers if they in turn agree to produce
and maintain publicly usable urban spaces, most
research so far has discussed these ‘privately owned
public spaces’ (hereafter referred to as POPS), as Jerold
Kayden coined them in his seminal book of the same
title (2000), against the background of North American
cities only. This volume seeks to overcome this inherent
Western bias by offering a broad survey of governance
Public Space by Private Actors? Outlining the Issues
Christian Dimmer (The University of Tokyo)
Fig.1 The price for a questionable amenity: Maybe unintentionally, the shift towards the floor area ratio (FAR) system, aiming at the creation of new downtown open spaces, legitimised the proliferation of high-rises in urban Japan
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
systems that have been producing privately owned
public spaces in cities as diverse as Santiago de Chile,
New York, Seattle, Aachen, Bangkok, Taipei, Hong
Kong, Melbourne, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo, and
By concentrating on this seemingly simple and
straightforward bargain of additional building height
or other zoning concessions in turn for the provision of
publicly usable space, this comparative study analyses
the influence of different planning and governance
cultures in 13 very different cities and highlights
the role that particular local histories, geographies,
institutions and actor-networks play therein.
3. Signicance of this Collaborative Research
This collection of essays is not intended as a conclusive
statement but an initial broad survey of this specific
subset of publicly usable spaces that sketches out
common ground and provides the basis for more
systematic future research. Furthermore, it seeks
to make a contribution to three wider, theoretical
First, a fresh body of recent scholarship in planning
theory has highlighted global learning processes, the
multi-directional circulation of planning ideas, and the
particular ways these manifest in different cultures and
local contexts (See Edensor and Jayne 2011, Healey
and Upton 2010; Sanyal 2005; Nasr and Volait 2003,
Ward 2002). This collection of essays contributes to
these novel planning theoretical discourses. Instead
of discussing very different planning issues on various
spatial scales and cultural contexts, this volume
compares 13 international cities by focusing on one
single set of institutions, actor-networks, and plan-
ning tools that provide publicly usable spaces through
private actors. This reduced analytical framework
and the narrow spectrum of spatial archetypes dis-
cussed allows for a systematic analysis and provides
a more solid common ground for further comparative
planning theory studies.
Second, until not too long ago, international public
space debates strongly centred on European or North
American cities, or those influenced by European
cultures through colonialism (Low 2000) — in effect
underplaying public space in non-western settings
(See Dimmer 2012). Only recently has urban collective
space been discussed in a cross-cultural perspective
(Miao 2001; Madanipour 2010; Hou 2010), seeking
to decentre the dominating Western bias. While
these books offer valuable new insights and identify
important common issues, the discussed spaces and
problems are too disparate to advance a more coherent
comparative agenda.
This collection of essays adds to these international
public space discourses by focusing on one single
subset of public space, namely privately owned public
space, and compares related issues systematically in
13 different cities. Quantitatively speaking, these POPS
are highly significant as they have thrived adjacent
to hundreds of downtown skyscrapers since the late
1960s (Fig.1). Moreover, since these privately owned,
yet publicly accessible spaces result from a trade-off of
bonus floor area for open space, involving developers
and local governments, their design and operation
reflects how both public and private key actors at a
specific point in time thought about public space. This
is a fresh perspective, as until now, most writing on the
subject focused mostly on government policies but
ignored the motivation of private developers (ibid.).
Third, with the rise of neoliberal policies and the
entrepreneurial city (Brenner and Nik 2003; Harvey
2005), important urban governance interventions like
the provision of public spaces need to be critically
interrogated. Indeed, incentive zoning, the mechanism
behind the creation of POPS, is credited with “being
a marvelously creative solution for obtaining public
benefits without expenditure of taxpayer money, at
a time when public sector budgets are increasingly
constrained" (Kayden 2000: 307).
At the same time the proliferation of hundreds of high-
rises that were predicated by this policy is having a
severe impact on urban spaces and local communities
(Fig.1, 4, 5).
Are these new public spaces allowing for democratic
expression and supporting complex social interaction
among various members and groups of the public, or
does an ever-growing number of POPS undermine a
buoyant, diverse public life and create more problems
than it solves? To which degree can the design and
management of a vital public good like collective
urban space be given over to profit-oriented interests?
How much and which kind of control can be tolerated
in order to safeguard the evolution of diverse social
Fig.3 Participants of the international workshop visited POPS across
Japan and entered into a dialogue with local governments
Fig.2 The POPS Symposium in Tokyo brought together international public space researchers with eminent Japanese planning experts
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Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
4. What is Privately Owned Public Space?
In this volume, the term privately owned public spaces
(abbreviated as POPS) refers to urban spaces that are
the result of some kind of trade-off between local
governments and private landowners or developers.
Landowners are granted the right to build a bulkier
building than allowed by existing planning regulations,
receive a tax cut, or are exempted from other building-
form limiting regulations. Accepting this bonus from
the public side, the developer is then obliged to
provide a publicly usable space, or other stipulated
amenities. The space remains in private property but
must be usable in principle by all members of the pub-
lic at any time. Incentive zoning, a planning method
that does not force private developers to produce
a desired public good but induces this through the
provision of an incentive, commonly produces POPS.
Other POPS are not newly created but preserved.
If a landowner agrees to maintain a piece of inner
city open space instead of building the land up, and
agrees to open it to the community, he is entitled to
tax benefits. No new open space is created here but a
hitherto inaccessible private open space is opened to
all members of a community.
As Kayden suggests, the implicit rationale behind
incentive zoning is that the public is better off in a
physical environment that has more public spaces
as well as bigger buildings than in one with fewer
public spaces and smaller buildings. This kind of public
space is seen as density ameliorating, “in that it more
than counteracts whatever negative impacts, such as
greater street and sidewalk congestion and loss of light
and air, that may be associated with larger buildings.
For the developer, the rationale is still simpler: the
value of the incentive equals or exceeds the cost of
providing the public space, making the transaction a
financially desirable one" (2000: 22). This suggests that
“alternative methods for securing small public spaces,
such as buying them with money from the city's capital
budget, would be less worthwhile or simply unrealistic”
(ibid. 307). The financial mechanics behind incentive
zoning are straightforward: to attract developers,
cities must provide incentives that convey a financial
benefit sufficient to at least cover the costs incurred in
providing the POPS (ibid. 23). Floor area bonuses and
other stimuli benefit developers either by increasing
their income or reducing their costs. FA bonuses
for example increase a building's cash flow or value
through rental or sale of the extra space. Frequently,
the ability to develop extra space allows the building
to be taller, and the higher story floors may be rented
or sold at higher rates because of better views.
Concessions to setback and building envelope
regulations may allow for a building design that is
more in keeping with the tastes of the developer, or
the market, or may reduce construction costs. In return
for the incentive, the developer agrees to allocate
a portion of its lot or building to be used as a POPS,
constrict and maintain the space according to the
stipulated design standards, and allow access to and
use of the space by members of the public. “In effect,
the developer 'pays' for its bonus floor area or non-floor-
area incentive by agreeing to these obligations” (ibid.).
Although the privately owned public space continues,
by definition, to be privately owned, the owner has
legally surrendered significant rights associated with
its private property, including the right to exclude
others, and may no longer treat this part of its property
any way it wishes. As de facto third-party beneficiaries,
members of the public participate in the exchange by
gaining their own rights to this private property, even
as they endure whatever extra congestion and loss of
light and air that may result from the grant of extra
floor area or other regulatory concessions (ibid.).
5. Structure of this Volume
This volume offers a variety of empirically grounded
and theoretically informed examinations of privately
owned public space across the world as well as an
in-depth discussion of the implications of the related
planning instruments in urban Japan.
Part I
The first part discusses the standardised production of
POPS in various countries and loosely in chronological
order of the introduction of the planning systems; from
New York, where this trade-off system of bonus floor
area for publicly usable open space was 'invented'
via Chile, Melbourne, Taiwan, Hong Kong to Thailand,
where it was introduced only in recent years.
The discussion of Aachen’s Bücherplatz concludes
the first part by offering a very different, contrasting
perspective to the preceding chapters. While in New
York, Santiago de Chile, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok,
and Tokyo, local governments are in a weak position
and hard-pressed to carve out precious public space for
rapidly expanding cities, in Germany local governments
have traditionally had the final say on planning
decisions and held far-reaching planning powers. While
general, abstract and place-independent parametric
rules dictate the form and use of the POPS elsewhere,
in Germany every space is negotiated individually
between developers, local communities and municipal
governments. Often the property situation is blurred
through overlapping responsibilities and a lack of clear
Part II
The second part provides an in-depth discussion of
urban Japan and exemplifies the provision of POPS in
various cities and different spatial scales. In literature,
it is often claimed that until very recently the Japanese
planning system was very uniform and standardised;
legislated from above through central government
directives and not allowing for meaningful local
However, on closer sight, and somehow
commonsensical, it becomes clear that the
manifestation of incentive zoning and the provision
of POPS does differ significantly in Osaka, Kyoto,
Yokohama, Tokyo, and Sapporo for example. Thus, local
histories and path-dependencies as well as physical
and socio-economic contexts do make a critical
Part II discusses how local governments utilise their
weak planning powers to achieve distinctly different
outcomes if they have a coherent planning and public
space vision (Sapporo, Yokohama), if there has been
a sustained political commitment (Yokohama), or if
long-established collaborative planning practices have
influenced the spatial production until today (Osaka).
Local planning cultures, local histories and actor
networks do matter.
Fig.4 The provision of POPS in urban Japan often leads to conflicts
between large incentive zoning-buildings and fine-grain urban contexts
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
Part III
The final part of this volume looks beyond the highly
standardised provision of corporate plazas that do
not differ too much in terms of design quality, glossy
materials, and the limited possibilities they offer for
facilitating public interaction, or the lack thereof.
Instead, the chapters on Seattle, Kyoto, and Taipei
introduce a different kind of POPS that have been
produced and maintained by local communities. These
spaces are much closer to the everyday lives of the
citizens and offer more meaningful ways to engage in a
wider variety of social activities. They cater to distinctly
wider strata of society, are far more enabling and
empowering to local communities, and in short, are
more meaningful public spaces.
The example of Taipei is significant in this respect
because the local government plays a vital role in
the creation of community spaces and takes the lead
in activating communities. Furthermore, the city is
providing incentives for the creation of temporary
community green spaces and urban farms, making use
of otherwise inaccessible inner-city brownfield sites
that are awaiting redevelopment. In short, Taipei is an
excellent example of a city that is not shying away from
experiments and is actively engaging its citizens.
BRENNER, Neil, and Nik THEODORE, eds. 2003. Spaces
of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America
and Western Europe. Wiley-Blackwell.
DIMMER, Christian. 2012. Re-imagining Public Space:
The Vicissitudes of Japan’s Privately Owned Public
Spaces. In Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and Social
Perspectives, ed. Christoph Brumann and Evelyn
Schulz, 74–105. Routledge.
EDENSOR, Tim, and Mark JAYNE. 2011. Urban Theory
Beyond the West: A World of Cities. Routledge.
HARVEY, David. 2005. Spaces of Neoliberalization:
Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical
Development. Franz Steiner Verlag.
HEALEY, Patsy, and Robert UPTON, eds. 2010. Crossing
Borders: International Exchange and Planning
Practices. 1st ed. Routledge.
HOU, Jeffrey. 2010. Insurgent Public Space : Guerrilla
Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities.
New York: Routledge.
KAYDEN, Jerold S., The Municipal Art Society of
New York, and The City of New York City Planning
Department. 2000. Privately owned public space: the
New York City experience. New York: J. Wiley.
LOW, Setha. 2000. On the Plaza: The Politics of Public
Space and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press.
MADANIPOUR, Ali. 2001. Whose Public Space?
International Case Studies in Urban Design and
Development. Abingdon Oxon ; New York: Routledge.
MIAO, Pu, ed. 2010. Public Places in Asia Pacific Cities:
Current Issues and Strategies. Softcover reprint of
hardcover 1st ed. 2001. Springer. Reprint, 2010.
NASR, Joe, and Mercedes VOLAIT, eds. 2003. Urbanism:
Imported or Exported. 1st ed. Academy Press.
SANYAL, Bishwapriya. 2005. Comparative Planning
Cultures. New York: Routledge.
SCRUTON, Roger. 1987. "Public Space and the Classical
Vernacular." In The Public Face of Architecture: Civic
Culture and Public Spaces, edited by Nathan Glazer and
Mark Lilla, 13-25. New York: Free Press.
SHIFFMAN, Ron, Rick BELL, Lance Jay BROWN, and
Lynne ELIZABETH. 2012. Beyond Zuccotti Park:
Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public
Spaces. New Village Press.
WARD, Stephen V. 2002. Planning the Twentieth-
Century City: The Advanced Capitalist World. 1st ed.
Academy Press.
Fig.5 Are these spaces really worth the deal? Nobody in Tokyo monitors the quality and usability of the city's countless POPS; design and management remain mostly in the discretion of the developers
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
Map by Chie Kodama, The University of Tokyo
Seattle City
217 km2
620,778 people
28.4 people/ha
Greater Santiago
641 km2 *
5,428,590 people *
84.6 people/ha *
* Santiago de Chile’s figure
New York City
1,213 km2
8,244,910 people
105.2 people/ha
Aachen City
161 km2
260,454 people
16.2 people/ha
Bangkok City
1,568 km2
8,280,925 people
53.0 people/ha
Hong Kong Special
Administarative Region
1,104 km2
7.026,400 people
64.6 people/ha
Taipei City
272 km2
2,650,968 people
96.0 people/ha
Tokyo Metropolis Metropolitan Melbourne
2,189 km2
13,227,730 people
60.4 people/ha
8,806 km2
4,170,000 people
15.7 people/ha
Map by Chie Kodama, The University of Tokyo
Seattle City
217 km2
620,778 people
28.4 people/ha
Greater Santiago
641 km2 *
5,428,590 people *
84.6 people/ha *
* Santiago de Chile’s figure
New York City
1,213 km2
8,244,910 people
105.2 people/ha
Aachen City
161 km2
260,454 people
16.2 people/ha
Bangkok City
1,568 km2
8,280,925 people
53.0 people/ha
Hong Kong Special
Administarative Region
1,104 km2
7.026,400 people
64.6 people/ha
Taipei City
272 km2
2,650,968 people
96.0 people/ha
Tokyo Metropolis Metropolitan Melbourne
2,189 km2
13,227,730 people
60.4 people/ha
8,806 km2
4,170,000 people
15.7 people/ha
PartInternational Experience
1. Background
Throughout modern history, planning innovations and
public space policies in New York City have served as
templates for other cities worldwide; be it the idea of a
central park, of Olmstead’s park system, the “light and
air” philosophy of the 1916 zoning ordinance, a trade-
off of bonus floor area for public space, or management
innovations such as the business improvement district
around Bryant Park, or the Central Park Conservancy.
2. “Light and Air”: The 1916 Zoning Ordinance
From the early 1900s on, technical progress had allowed
the construction of ever-higher skyscrapers with the
consequence that congestion increased and less and
less “light and air” reached the streets. An aggressive
race to build New York’s tallest building progressed
with no regulation limiting a building’s height or
bulk. After years of political struggle, New York’s first
zoning ordinance was introduced in 1916. Height
district rules determined the relationship between
building massing and the pubic realm of streets and
sidewalks. Just like parametric planning regulations in
Japan today, the more a building was set back from the
property line, the higher it could rise; the wider a street,
the higher the building part fronting it. If the building
covered no more than 1/4 of the whole plot there was
no height restriction at all, as it was assumed that
slim, tall buildings would not interfere with light and
air reaching the street or the lower parts of adjacent
buildings (Kayden et al 2000: 9). In the absence of
ground coverage stipulations and skyrocketing land
prices, the majority of buildings covered their plots
completely and no space was left open. This changed
only with the completion of Ludwig Mies van der
Rohe’s iconic Seagram Building in 1958, which the
building industry greeted with enthusiasm, and which
ushered in a new zeitgeist. “The owners of several
of Manhattan's newest and largest skyscrapers have
foregone maximum floor space to provide the open
plazas — long sought by architects and city planners
to relieve congestion and monotony,” exclaims Ennis
(1960). Instead of building up the complete plot, the
building was set back from the property line and a
large representative plaza was created.
3. 1961: Trading Floor Area for Public Space
After over a decade of examination processes, the new
zoning ordinance was enacted in 1961. It introduced
a maximum building volume limit and was modeled
after the Seagram Building and other innovative
precedents. A Floor Area Ratio (FAR) defined the total
floor area that a building could have in a specific
zoning lot in relation to the area of the building
plot. These more flexible parametric rules in turn
would encourage more original architectural design
to achieve attractive, efficient and ultimately more
profitable buildings as well as incentivise the provision
of privately owned public space (POPS). For every
square meter of plazas, arcades, and later urban plazas,
residential plazas, sidewalk widenings, concourses,
through-block connections, atriums, and elevated
and sunken plazas (See Fig.5) developers provided,
they would be rewarded with up to 10 square meters
of bonus FA for their office or residential towers. The
total amount of bonus FA would allow an increase of
up to 20% in building size. “The bonus proved almost
embarrassingly successful” (Whyte 2009: 233) and so
every new building put up in the following decade
used it. While developers earned well from this, with
$48 worth of extra space for every dollar they had put
into the construction of a POPS, the outcome for the
city was mixed. With more and more high buildings, sun
and light decreased, and an additional load of people
strained community facilities and public infrastructure
(ibid.). The logic behind incentive zoning – open space
for the public and additional revenues for developers
– proved so tempting that other cities across the USA
like Hartford, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco
adopted it subsequently. Also in other countries like
Chile, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand the
trade-off was implemented.
4. Special Purpose Districts for POPS networks
Between 1967 and 1973 the city not only created five
generic POPS categories that could be applied as-
of-right everywhere, but also mapped out 5 special
purpose zoning districts: specific geographic areas
where the creation of public spaces would be assigned
to specific building lots prior to construction in order
to develop and strengthen pedestrian circulation
networks. Their creation would be either mandated,
Changing Understanding of New York City's Privately Owned Public Spaces
Christian Dimmer (The University of Tokyo)
Fig.1 On the website of the New York City Department of City Planning the map showing the locations of all of the
city's existing POPS is easily accessible; the note "to report suspected violations within a Public Plaza, please call the
City of New York at 311" actively encourages the citizens to become stewards of these urban assets
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
leavened with a FA allowance, or voluntary, encouraged
by an FA bonus (Kayden et al 2000: 13). In the 5th
Avenue District as-of-right plazas were prohibited
along the avenue frontage in order to preserve the
regular, human-scale cityscape (NYCPC 1975: 35) and
avoid developments like along the nearby 6th Avenue,
where three sterile plazas had developed in a row.
Instead, active retail frontages along the sidewalks
were mandated and bonuses granted for the various
through-block and interior POPS.
5. Research-induced Changes
Although New York City set up an urban design group
in 1967 that inspired the establishment of a similar
institution in Yokohama City in 1970, there was no
evaluative unit monitoring the results of the new plaza
bonus. William H. Whyte, an urban sociologist who had
been assisting the New York City Planning Commission
in drafting a comprehensive plan since 1969, and
who had been critically involved in the planning of
the city’s urban spaces, came to wonder how these
POPS were actually performing. “A lot of the places
were awful: sterile, empty spaces not used for much of
anything except walking across”, he notes, “but a few
were excellent.” (ibid. 234). Even New York’s Planning
Commission admitted in an official report that plazas
can be “bleak, forlorn places. Some are hard to get to.
Some, sliced up by driveways, are more for cars than
for people. Some are forbidding and downright hostile”
(NYCPC 1975: 5). Whyte initiated his Street Life Project
in 1970 and began researching which design factors
made good plazas work and bad plazas fail. For that,
he famously employed time-lapse photography, user
interviews, and statistical compilations. His seminal
research was published in 1979 under the title “The
Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” together with an
hour-long educational film of the same title. As he was
closely cooperating with the New York City planning
commission, his ground breaking work was influential
for two official reports titled “New Life for Plazas” (1975)
and “Plazas for People” (1976) that led to a critical
perception and a series of zoning amendments that
introduced concrete design requirements. The new
zoning regulated the permissible height of plazas
above and below an abutting sidewalk, the amount of
seating – preferably movable chairs and benches –, and
the minimum number of trees and other amenities. The
new stipulations not only promoted better design of
new plazas, but also the retrofitting and upgrading of
older ones, as the popularity of the new spaces became
obvious. More importantly, wording like accessibility
“to the public at all times for the use and enjoyment
of a large number of people” (cited in Kayden et al
2000: 17), or residential plazas as being “living rooms
of open space” (NYCPC 1976: 20) that are “accessible,
inviting, sunlit, safe and beautifully landscaped” (ibid:
15) stressed the high design and amenity value now
conditional for approving bonus FA.
6. Incentive Zoning and Market Pressure
During a real estate crisis of the early 1970s, the city
felt pressure to relax rules and introduce new kinds
of bonuses in order to incentivise more downtown
development activity. These new stipulations now
allowed much higher densities than previously
possible, to the detriment of the urban environment.
Another consequence was the introduction of a new
discretionary design review process with a special
permit as a condition for receiving an FA bonus. This
path was newly available in addition to the older,
quicker, as-of-right approval process that was open to
developers who asked for no special exceptions and
favours. Although design review with discretionary
power on the side of community boards and municipal
planners sounds preferable to the straightforward,
parametric, standardised, and uniform as-of-right
permit process, William Whyte offers numerous
convincing arguments why the outcomes could often
be worse (See ibid 236-41).
7. Policy Change after Public Controversies
By the late 1970s more and more big, bulky buildings
were constructed, some of which replaced no-longer-
profitable historical landmarks. Due to sinfully high
Fig.2 Genealogy of New York City's privately owned public spaces from their introduction in 1961 until the latest zoning amendment in 2009
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
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The University of Tokyo
zoning bonuses that were now available and compared
to the huge new buildings, the older ones appeared as
too unprofitable to be preserved. Public discontent
mounted and civic groups started to criticise the
planning commission’s policies in newspapers and
In 1982, another sweeping review of Midtown zoning
was therefore necessitated that downzoned FAR,
reduced bonuses for the provision of POPS and, instead
of offering bonuses, mandated the provision of public
amenities such as retail frontages, large trees, or
through-block connections if a building was facing two
8. Inventory of New York’s POPS
Between 1998 and 1999, a comprehensive survey of
New York City’s complete inventory of POPS was carried
out by a unique coalition of academia, government,
and civil society. Urban planning professor at
Harvard Jerold Kayden, the New York City Planning
Department, and the Municipal Art Society found that
roughly half of the 503 POPS that they surveyed at
320 office, residential and institutional buildings were
out of compliance with legal requirements regarding
public access, private use and provision of amenities
(Kayden 2005: 125). While the survey found that a total
area, equalling 10% of New York’s Central Park had
been produced and maintained by private developers
utilising incentive zoning, only 3% of these functioned
as true destination spaces that attracted users from
outside and inside the neighbourhood.
13% of the spaces qualified as neighbourhood
space, serving as amenities for users from within the
neighbourhood. 21% were categorised as hiatus spaces
that are good for brief stopovers, and 18% as spaces
only serving pedestrian circulation. Most alarmingly,
41% of all spaces surveyed had to be written off as
marginal spaces “without any measurable public
use” (Kayden et al 2000: 51). Revealingly, the share of
marginal as-of-right plazas is 63% and that of as-of-
right arcades 72%, having been completed before
the stricter design standards and review processes
introduced in the mid-1970s. In any event, the book
that documented the survey (ibid.) became an instant
success, and instigated a heated public debate about
the usefulness of incentive zoning and the question of
whether the production of public space through the
private sector is worth the effort. And indeed, the so-
called Unified Bulk Programme was intended as the
most sweeping zoning reform since 1961 that would,
according to Joseph B. Rose, (then Chairperson of the
City Planning Commission) “drive a stake through the
heart of tower-in-the-park zoning” (cited from Kayden
2000:19). It would eliminate the as-of-right bonuses for
residential plazas and for other public open spaces, not
having produced significant public benefits. Bonuses
for residential plazas in high-density commercial
districts would only be allowed by special permit.
Bonuses for commercial and community facility plazas,
of greater value because of the more public nature
of these buildings, would be retained. However, the
ambitious reform failed due to opposition from the real
estate sector and political struggle.
The next reform step was made in 2007, when a new
zoning amendment brought significant changes to
the design standards of privately owned public plazas.
Previous standards for urban and residential plazas
were unified in a new POPS category, called ‘public
plaza’. Different design standards were replaced with
one coherent set of rules and the bonuses for sunken
and elevated plazas were terminated.
9. Evaluating POPS, Mandating better Design
Over the last 50 years, incentive zoning and the
design standards for privately owned public spaces
have undergone some dramatic changes. While these
spaces were producing little more than “air and light”
during the 1960s, ever stricter and more detailed
quality stipulations were introduced from one zoning
amendment to the next. While most spaces were
permitted on an as-of-right basis in the beginning, this
changed later to discretionary design review processes
and certifications. This transformation has been driven
by a constant dialectic between developers and
laissez-faire politicians on the one side, and public
space advocates, dedicated government planners, civil
society groups and the media on the other. Initially,
planning experts like William Whyte and his associates,
many of who later became leading public space
theorists like Fred Kent or Jerold Kayden, perceived the
outcome of incentive zoning critically, and convinced
the planning department to evaluate their usability.
In the early 1980s, stricter zoning regulations were
necessitated by a broadening critical public awareness
and a growing discontent with the rapid proliferation
of ever-bulkier buildings that were predicated by the
bonuses generated from POPS. As developers priced
in future FAR deregulations, the development pressure
increased on many important historical landmarks that
appeared no longer profitable enough comparatively
speaking, and environmental conditions worsened.
By the late 1990s, the zoning ordinance had grown so
complicated that only a few zoning lawyers could fully
comprehend it, and the city no longer had a view over
which spaces had been created, if they were being
maintained properly, if they were still open to public
use, or if the amenities on which basis the FA bonuses
had been granted had actually been provided.
In this situation it was the Municipal Art Society, a
civic group, and Jerold Kayden, an academic, who
carried out the most comprehensive survey to this day,
together with the city’s planning department.
A contrasting look at Japan is helpful to appreciate this
healthy dialectic of constant contestation of standards
and use limitations. No less than 183 academic studies
have been carried out since the 1980s that scrutinised
Fig.3 Different concepts of POPS in New York (above) and Tokyo (below):
While spaces are explicitly required to be inviting amenities and signs
state this openly at the entrance, Tokyo’s POPS welcome visitors with a
list of prohibited activities in a jargon not understanable to casual visitors
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
either the effects of incentive planning tools or the
spaces they had created. Although many of these
studies go into great detail, most of them are purely
academic and don’t influence administrative practice or
the practical work of architects or landscape designers.
To contrast, in New York, academia, civil society and
local government have been repeatedly collaborating
on improving design and management standards and
keeping the building sector in check. Critical media has
picked up on these issues and provided a public forum
for discourse.
10. Representing POPS, Inviting the Public
When accessing the website of the New York City
Planning Department, the casual visitor is initially
greeted with easily understandable public plaza design
principles, before accessing the nitty-gritty of detailed
technical zoning standards. POPS have thus to be: a)
open and inviting at the sidewalk, easily seen and read
as open to the public, conveying openness through
low design elements and generous paths leading into
the plaza, visually interesting, and containing seating;
b) accessible and enhancing pedestrian circulation,
located at the same elevation as the sidewalk; c)
providing a sense of safety and security, containing
easily accessible paths for ingress and egress, being
oriented and visually connected to the street, well-lit;
and d) providing places to sit and accommodating a
variety of well-designed, comfortable seating for small
groups and individuals.
Every citizen can understand these requirements
that are further supplemented with well-presented
graphical examples of good and bad POPS designs.
Furthermore, the results of Kayden et al’s survey (2000)
are presented in the form of a map and database on
the homepage of the City Planning Department. Every
citizen can easily use the site to find “the good, the bad
and the ugly” privately owned public spaces.
On the website of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau
for Urban Development, on the other hand, only
planning experts can find their way. Laypeople and
ordinary citizens have no chance to understand the
regulations, nor is the public amenity character of the
urban spaces that result from incentive zoning openly
and aggressively stated. In fact, other than abstract,
technical design standards and a comprehensive list
of developments utilising incentive zoning, little to no
reference is made to quality of life or the importance
of well-designed public spaces. Yet another example
is signage (Fig.3). While in New York, a unified
welcoming signboard design is mandated that states
that the visitor is entering a public space and lists all
the amenities to be found here, most POPS in Tokyo
welcome visitors with a long list of non-permitted
activities. In many cases it is extremely difficult to find
such signage at all, as developers seek to conceal them.
Even the Japanese term that is equivalent to POPS –
kokai kuchi, or public open space– is a technical term
that is rarely understood by ordinary citizens. Instead
of a list of available public amenities, members of the
public are greeted by unintelligible planning jargon
that describes on which precise zoning stipulations the
provision of the space is based. New York’s unified POPS
signage with the “broccoli” mark makes it clear that all
spaces belong to a larger POPS system, that makes
up the city’s “decentralised Central Park.” In Tokyo, in
turn, non-unified and hard-to-find signage as well as
corporate logos and surveillance, often semantically
code POPS as corporate spaces rather than public ones.
11. Conclusion: Activating Civil Society, Curating
Monitoring the design and management quality
of hundreds of publicly usable spaces in private
management is hardly possible for city authorities
alone. The key to an effective enforcement regime is
an active, interested, knowledgeable, and strident civil
society that literally cares for these spaces. In 2005,
Jerold Kayden founded the organisation Advocates
for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS) under
the auspices of the Municipal Art Society in order to
establish a set of guiding principles for revitalising
these under-leveraged amenities, creating new and
renewed public resources, and strengthening the
broader dialogue around public spaces. Students of
Kayden also founded the civic watchdog group ‘Friends
of POPS’ that carries out activities to exercise the right
to these places and broaden the public awareness.
They carried out a parade, for example, through a
series of midtown POPS in 2011 (Fig.4) and successfully
proposed to connect a string of POPS between the 6th
and the 7th avenue into a unified pedestrian realm. The
‘6 1/2 Avenue’ concept was unanimously supported
by the City and will be implemented. To summarise,
all the above developments together with the 50th
year anniversary of the zoning resolution, and the
occupation of Zuccotti Park, the most famous POPS
today, has led to a renewed, broad interest in public
space. Excluding Tokyo, for example, POPS are once
again focus of heated public debates, increasing their
potential as truly public spaces.
ENNIS, Thomas W. 1960. ‘Find Loss of Revenue Is
Balanced by a Rise in Prestige; Building Owners
Favoring Plazas’. The New York Times, July 3.
OF CITYPLANNING. 2000. Privately Owned Public
Space: The New York City Experience. Wiley.
KAYDEN, Jerold S. 2005. ‘Using and Misusing Law
to Design the Public Realm’. In Regulating Place:
Standards and the Shaping of Urban America, ed. Eran
Ben-Joseph and Terry S. Szold, 115–140.
NYCPC, New York City Planning Commission. 1975.
New life for plazas. New York.
NYCPC, City Planning Commission. 1976. Plazas for
people: streetscape & residential plazas. New York.
WHYTE, William H. 2009. City: Rediscovering the
Center. Reissue. University of Pennsylvania Press.
[Figure References]
Fig. 1+3 (top) Website of the New York City Department
of City Planning
Fig.4. Permission from Friends of Privately Owned
Public Space (FPOPS)
Fig.4 Raising awareness: The group Friends of Privately Owned Public
Space curate events to challenge established notions of corporate POPS
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
1. Background
Chilean public policies frequently apply incentive
zoning with the aim of improving publicly usable
spaces in the city. There has been little research on
the results of these policies so far. However, the broad
public enthusiasm for such planning instruments
cannot be substantiated by this study that examined
62 bonus spaces and their development processes in
Santiago’s inner city district Providencia. This study is
based on an analysis of the planning processes, site
observations, interviews with architects, planners and
developers, which reveal that most of the resulting
privately owned public spaces (POPS) do not match
the intent of creating meaningful public spaces.
Furthermore, the research has found that incentive
zoning in Santiago de Chile is mainly geared toward
harvesting the highest possible bonuses for providing
these spaces and not the creation of high-quality
spaces themselves.
2. Introduction
Reflections about incentive zoning encapsulate the
key question of planning itself: How to combine
the forces of development with the demands of the
common good? Critics of earlier Chilean regulations
assume that traditional planning practice based
on conventional zoning neither guaranteed the
achievement of the common good nor sufficiently
guided the urban development towards quality cities
and neighbourhoods. Numerous authors in Chile find
that incentive planning is the right deal for serving the
common good by granting more flexibility in planning
guidelines and promoting conditioned private urban
development (See for example Bresciani 2012). This
research tests the advantages of these incentive
planning mechanisms and evaluates them in one
specific central district of Santiago, Providencia.
3. Decit of Public Space and the Opportunities of
Incentive Zoning in Chile
In Santiago’s public policy debates, the deficit of open
space has become a central concern. In these discourses
the focus is on mechanisms for providing space, instead
of trying to answer fundamental questions about
the nature and qualities of public space. Incentive
zoning is considered a successful way to provide
open spaces in the city, even if they are only partially
public. Much attention has been directed to the precise
mathematical formulas of these mechanisms. For
instance, in several recent zoning amendments the
experts evaluated the exact proportion between the
additional building rights and the area ceded for public
use. Even morphological aspects, i.e. if arcades or inner
passageways should be promoted, and the question
about the legal status of these spaces were debated.
Despite the existence of legal easements to defend the
public use of spaces that are part of the public domain
in the Chilean urban tradition, there are comparatively
few regulations for spaces that are intended for public
use but governed by the rules of private landowners
(POPS). The municipal regulations do not officially
recognise the public’s right of access to these spaces.
Because of the absence of such requirements, the
spaces provided by incentive zoning in Santiago do
not meet common standards for public space and
only follow the logic of a private right of way between
neighbouring lots. Discussions about possible
limitations to the public sphere seem very rare in the
Chilean debate.
Instead, the focus is on the opportunities rather than the
risks of incentive zoning, which seems understandable
given the lack of broader instruments for providing
public space. In theory, Chilean law sets out two
possible strategies to acquire public land through the
state or municipalities. The first one, an acquisition
strategy, is direct. It consists of the purchase of a private
lot by a municipality or a municipal agency. The second
strategy relies on the legal instrument of expropriation
that is very difficult to implement because of the lack of
political will. On the one hand, acquiring land in either
of these ways is difficult because of the lack of sufficient
municipal budget. On the other hand, the municipal
resources for designing, planning and maintaining the
public domain have become more and more limited in
the last decades.
The reason for that is the public policy oriented towards
a subsidiary state system. At this point, it is important
to ask the question if and under which conditions it is
legitimate to reward additional floor area to private
landowners, when at the same time the spaces that
are the condition for the bonus are not available as a
public accessible space? Incentive zoning is nothing
but a trade-off of more building rights in exchange
for making a public good available. In order to shed
some light on this difficult question, the following case
study evaluates the privately owned public spaces in
Providencia, the district of Santiago where incentive
zoning has been applied most frequently.
4. Providencia’s Public Space and Incentive Zoning
Santiago is Chile’s largest city and its capital. It occupies
an area of more than 600 km2 and has a population
of nearly six million. Santiago’s inner city districts are
densely populated, but the supply of public space is
insufficient. Providencia, the central district developed
since 1960, has a density of 9,000 people per km2
and a supply of public space of six square metres per
inhabitant (Municipality of Providencia 2011). The area
where the incentive zone is concentrated is about 3
kilometres long and covers an area of 132 km2. This part
of the city was laid out in an irregular street pattern,
where Providencia Avenue constitutes a double-arm
main axis. In this central area with intensive pedestrian
circulation, there are only few public plazas besides the
street space.
Traditionally, Providencia’s central district was a
residential area, but between 1960 and the early 90’s
this area has evolved into a prospering commercial
district for all of Santiago. The bonus spaces promoted
Possibilities of Planning Publicly Usable Space through Incentive Zoning
The Example of Saniago de Chile
Elke Schlack Fuhrmann (CITU/ Universidad Andres Bello, Santiago)
Fig.1 Aerial view of Providencia’s central district
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
show a public character in relation to a clear design of
the entrances, floor continuity, visual connectivity and
a good integration into the net of pedestrian paths in
the surroundings.
In most cases, the private character of the spaces
depends on the following aspects:
Symbolic barriers that exist in these spaces: This
is expressed for example by the predominance of
exclusive shops, pubs and restaurants, opening times
that are shorter than the times in which surrounding
public spaces are used, and the use of street furniture,
lightning and pavements that differ substantially from
those used in traditional public spaces. The obligation
to pay to stay there and the indoor and exclusive look
that these places have may repel an important group
of users.
Homogeneous groups of users: Only office men and
women that work in the nearby buildings or shoppers
traversing the passageways visit most of the spaces.
Rarely are there other groups such as students, children,
families and elderly people who live in the vicinity and
use these places for their everyday activities.
Predominance of private control: Half of the spaces
studied are under private surveillance in the form of
closed circuit television cameras that supervise the
by the incentive zoning complement many of the high-
rise buildings of the area and consist mostly of outdoor
patios as well as indoor arcades with through-block
5. Planning Public Space by Incentive Zoning
In a study funded by the Chilean Research Council
(2009-2011), we were able to carry out extensive
evaluation research about incentive zoning developed
in Providencia between 1976 and the present. We
looked at 62 resulting spaces with different spatial
configurations, built in different periods, and with
different qualities.
The main objective of this study was to find out if the
fundamental characteristic of public space, its public
character, was fulfilled by these 62 analysed spaces.
We verified public accessibility of these spaces, as well
as physical aspects of the configuration and symbolic
aspects that influence its public character. The kind of
users that are in the space and the way the space is
controlled were also topics of the research. The applied
indicators were based on the categories developed
by Wehrheim (2009) in his comparative study of
pedestrian streets and shopping malls.
The aim of the research was to find out: do the resulting
spaces fulfil the objective of being truly publicly
useable spaces, and which of the following aspects
are fundamental to that. Physical accessibility, the
symbolic promotion of public character, the diversity of
users, and the presence of social control seemed for us
indicators for the public character of space. In contrast,
physical barriers, symbolic barriers, homogeneous
users and private control (CCTV and guards) were
indicators for a more private character of space.
Based on these criteria, our study shows that 96% of
the 62 cases studied have a predominantly private
character. This being said, when looking only at the
physical-morphological aspects, almost all the cases
space 24 hours a day or by the presence of private
security personnel. In fewer spaces, this private
control is complemented by social control, namely
that induced by the eye of the users and tenants of the
shops near the bonus places.
Of course, the particular characteristics of each of
these spaces depend on the design objectives of
each developer and architect. However, this study is
concerned with the way in which the design decisions
were guided and conditioned by the regulations of the
municipality of Providencia.
There was a very important change in the way
regulations were handled in the period between 1970
and 2010. The critical differences between the earlier
and latter phases were the design possibilities given by
the instruments, the way coordinated decisions were
taken between developer and municipality, and the
way they agreed about the sense and appearance of
In the first phase, under the planning direction of
German Bannen, most of the planning stipulations
were not clearly spelled out but depended upon the
detailed negotiation between this visionary planning
pioneer and the developers. The framework for the
negotiation was a master plan, where all the important
locations of passageways and inner block patios were
pre-defined by the planner. In this phase, most of the
developers agreed with the planner’s vision of public
space, and both parties accepted without question that
the privately owned places open for public use had to
look just like the public sidewalks in order to express
full public accessibility.
The first phase of incentive zoning in the district
Fig.4 Homogeneous groups of users: Office people taking a break Fig.5 “Smile, we are watching you!”: Private control of space and use
Fig.2 Pedestrian activity and public spaces in the Providencia district Fig.3 Physical barriers with symbolic meaning
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
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The University of Tokyo
of Providencia formally began in 1976, when the
municipality’s zoning amendment included a FAR
incentive in exchange for the production of publicly
accessible space on the ground floor of high buildings.
Because it was modelled after the ideologies of
Doxiadis, the Greek urbanist who led the Ekistics
School, and was strongly influenced by the ideas of
building pedestrian spaces and the human scale in the
city, the new zoning ordinance of 1976 was more than
just a physical-spatial approach. The formal master
plan with the designation of passageways and patios
was accompanied by instruments that allowed the
cession of public space.
Developers and the municipality also negotiated
several symbolic aspects of public space that depended
on physical qualities like materials, pavements and
urban furniture and that contributed significantly
to forming a public character of space. The bonus
places that resulted in this early period (1976-1989)
are significant for several reasons. Some of them not
only capture the ideal of urban design for pedestrians,
they were also the first experiment in which private
developers built public space that gradually combined
to become a new, alternative grid of pedestrian spaces,
guided by master plan objectives.
Spaces that were designed in the first phase differ from
those of the latter in two aspects. The heterogeneity
of users and the high presence of users that stay and
not only pass through the spaces is a distinguishing
characteristic of this period. Data demonstrates that
the security in the spaces built in the early years is
managed until today by social control rather than by
CCTV cameras and private security personnel.
Paradigmatic spaces built in the first phase show the
intention to design spaces that look like public space by
using similar materials, street lighting, and vegetation.
In the second phase, all discretion on the side of
planners was ruled out, and POPS design became
codified and spelt out in generic and quantitative ways,
losing the soul of Bannen’s original vision. The detailed
design prescribed in the earlier master plan did not
play an important role anymore.
In this phase there was no longer an agreement
between developers and the municipality about the
sense of public space. While the municipality still
argued for the public look of places, developers tended
to prefer an indoor look and the use of a repetitive
recipe, that of the exclusive look, the monitoring by
security experts and the spatial occupation by activities
that have a private character.
The second phase, from 1989 to the present shows
a very different kind of bonus regime. From 1990
onwards, and after a series of organisational changes
at the national and municipal level, the precise FAR
bonus coefficient per square meter for specific types
of POPS was codified and the possibility for municipal
governments to negotiate the design of spaces in a
master plan was eliminated. Thus, for each square
meter of publicly usable space on private property,
the building could earn up to 5m2 additional floor
space. The definition of qualitative aspects was no
longer on a case-by-case basis, but was reduced to
one single condition: that of the relationship to the
existing streets. The previously mentioned master plan,
a detailed planning policy that defined the location
of each passageway and interior courtyard of a block,
was no longer respected in all cases. Several decisions
about symbolic aspects like materials, urban furniture,
lightning, etc. were transferred to the developer. The
public character was no longer a priority; developers
began to make planning decisions based on their own
private interests and tastes.
The spaces built in the second phase show an
appropriate accessibility, visual clarity, and continuity
of pedestrian patterns. However, in this period the
spaces became thought of as passages for circulation
rather than for staying. Although they remain useful
spaces, they cater more to local businessmen and
women of the surrounding buildings (as shown in Fig.
4 + 5), than to the everyday life of nearby residents.
Fig.6 Passing through and staying in a space from the first phase;
completed in 1980
Fig.6 Passing through and staying in a space from the first phase;
completed in 1980
Fig.7 Passing through and staying in a highly concurred space in Providencia (Each dot representing one person staying for 5 minutes)
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
6. Conclusion
Although two different regulation mechanisms were
examined, neither of them achieved the optimal result
of creating spaces with primarily public character.
From our research we have learned that it is possible
to provide favourable conditions for a public use of
privately owned spaces. But to achieve this, there
is a need to for a very precise definition of public
Not only an appropriate accessibility and visual clarity
are needed, but symbolic characteristics like perceived
opening times, the choice of the precise architectural
program, pavement design, and lighting should also be
specified to safeguard a public character.
Until now, incentive zoning was perceived as a useful
instrument in the Chilean planning system, but what
if the results were not what most experts expected?
While the incorporation of the private sector in the
physical construction of public space does reduce the
need for some government resources, this should not
go hand in hand with a reduction of public regulations.
On the contrary, more resources are needed in the area
of master planning, and precise planning regulations
for public space are needed in order to maintain and
preserve its public character. In the future, the main
motivation for creating POPS should be once again the
space itself and not the FAR bonus.
The material presented here is result of the research
project Fondecyt Nr 1104007.
BANNEN, Germán. 1980. Providencia, una calle en la
ciudad. in C.A. nº 27, Santiago, Ed. C.A.
BANNEN, Germán. 1989a. Seccional Nueva Providencia.
in C.A. nº 57, Santiago, Ed. C.A.
BANNEN, Germán. 1989b. Providencia, la ciudad entre.
in C.A. nº 58, Santiago, Ed. C.A.
BANNEN, Germán. 1993. El comercio en Providencia. in
C.A. nº 72, Santiago, Ed. C.A.
BANNEN, Pedro y Chateau, Francisco. 2007. La ciudad
de Providencia en la obra de Germán Bannen. Santiago
de Chile, Ediciones ARQ.
BRESCIANI, Luis Eduardo. 2012. Planificación urbana
condicionada: respuestas para ciudades más dinámicas
y más sustentables. En Schlack. 2012. POPS, uso público
en espacio privado. Santiago de Chile. Ed. Did Unab.
Municipality of Providencia. 2011. Statistic Information
District of Providencia. (
municipio/datos-de-la-comuna) Access 18.8.2012.
SCHLACK, Elke. 2007. Espacio Público in ARQ, Ediciones
ARQ, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago,
SCHLACK, Elke. 2011. Fórmulas invisibles del espacio
público in Revista 180, Ediciones Universidad Diego
Portales, Santiago, Chile.
SCHLACK, Elke/ Vicuña, Magdalena. 2011.
Componentes normativas de alta incidencia en la
nueva morfología de Santiago Metropolitano. In EURE,
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
SCHLACK, Elke. 2012. Producción privada de espacio
público. Espacios privados de uso público y la
planificación por incentivos. Revista de Arquitectura.
Ediciones Universidad de Chile. Santiago. Chile.
WEHRHEIM, Jan. 2007. Shopping Malls. Interdisziplinäre
betrachtungen eines neuen Raumtyps. Wiesbaden. VS
WEHRHEIM, Jan. 2009. Der Fremde und die Ordnung
der Mall. Opladen. B. Budrich.
[Figure References]
Fig.1 Bannen G. 2000
Fig.10 Diagram by Elke Schlack and Raynner Campos
Fig.9 Typical space built in the second period; completed in 2008
Fig.10 In spaces created during the first phase social control dominates private control; darker tones indicating a higher degree of social control
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
1. Introduction
Melbourne is one of Australia’s oldest and largest
cities. Located on the north side of Port Philip Bay, the
inner city is framed by the Yarra River, which provides
a natural element the city and its people regularly
engage with. Holding a population of nearly five
million people and occupying an area of 8,816 km2.
Melbourne’s inner city is one of the most densely
populated urban environments in the state of Victoria.
People from over 140 nations live in this setting and
this diversity helps make the City of Melbourne one of
Australia’s most contemporary and culturally rich cities.
It is also Australia’s fastest growing city with The Age
newspaper reporting (in April, 2011) that 1000 people
a week come to live in Melbourne.
To put this figure into perspective, that equates to
roughly a 145m long trainload of people arriving
weekly in Melbourne.
Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) (the heart
of the city) is about two km2 in area and was laid out in
1836 in a 100 x 200 gridded street pattern. Pedestrian
activity can now be found along many of its laneways
and roads but originally no central or common open
space was designed to be part of the City’s layout.
Figure 1 shows the intricate pattern of laneways and
gridded road layout that has provided the building
blocks to affect change in the city. The CBD is also made
up of a number of precincts. Traditionally, there are the
financial and parliament areas and notably, there are
also three recognised cultural precincts: Greek, Chinese
and Italian, which as previously mentioned provide a
rich atmosphere for civic life.
Unfortunately, and in terms of the CBD’s current
population, pedestrian capacity has been reached
in significant areas of the city (e.g. Swanston St.).
Additionally, crowded and obstructed pedestrian travel
along some of the city’s laneways and footpaths has
resulted in unsafe pedestrian spillage into its roadways.
2. Melbourne and Urban Change
These later comments are remarkable considering
central Melbourne was described back in the late
1970’s, by The Age newspaper, as an “empty useless
centre”. Remarkably, it is this concept of a useless
centre that was used as the platform to change the
city and, ultimately resulted in a number of public
private partnerships (PPPs) that realised some of the
city’s most notable publically accessible open spaces.
To take a step back, the situation of Melbourne’s CBD
was at one point considered so bad that in 1980 the
State Government of Victoria fired Melbourne’s City
Council and removed many of their planning powers
(McLoughlin 1992). And so to improve the city’s urban
environment, the renewal of the CBD was argued to
rely on mainly three things:
(1) Social policies and programs,
(2) Economic investment,
(3) Changing Melbournian’s perception of the city.
Unfortunately, the latter two items were a major
challenge because in the mid-1980s Melbourne began
to feel the effects of globalisation (i.e. international
competition) and by the early 1990s had the highest
unemployment in the country. In essence, the state
and local government did not have the money to invest
in the CBD and by the mid-1990s the state was nearly
bankrupt (Cuthbert 2007). Private investment was
needed to change Melbourne.
Initially, private investment in the city did not
materialise, and the perception of this urban
environment as a dead space prevented large scale
change. The City of Melbourne first needed to
implement a number of measures to affect the needed
perceptual change, which included:
(1) The establishment of a residential population in the
(2) Programs of activities for the city’s planned
residential population and the other surrounding
suburban communities.
(3) A vision that establishes a desired direction to guide
Melbourne’s civic improvements.
(4) Advice on the desired materials that are to be used
in Melbourne’s spaces and to achieve its vision.
(5) The development of workable planning legislation
to provide structure to the city’s development (e.g.
a planning scheme and framework).
(6) A champion to lead works.
Fig. 1 Melbourne’s CBD and its gridded layout
Public Private Partnerships in Melbourne
Using Private Investment and Public Accessible Open Space to Transform the CBD
Beau Beza (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)
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specifically utilising the city’s existing north-south
laneways (or when designing new spaces within a
gridded block, an interpretation of them) to provide
privately owned public spaces. In each case an
intimate pedestrian environment is meant to be
established through a reduction in the width of a
laneway brought about by bringing commercial
related elements into the space - tables and chairs
from restaurants or cafés fill the space and slow
pedestrian traffic, while strategically positioned
shops (e.g. clothing stores) remove pedestrians
from the other competing adjacent streets by
drawing people into the ‘laneway environment’.
(5) Urban open spaces that are specifically designed as
civic or destination places in the city and provide a
setting for the public or public accessible activities/
events. These spaces are designed with much
thought and are considered highly important
civic spaces within Melbourne. Common to these
environments is a central open space element with
adjacent commercial activities placed along the
spaces’ edges. At times of, for example, festivals the
central open space element fills with built features
(e.g. a fenced marquee, with catwalk, fills the space
of Melbourne’s City Square during the fashion
3. Who is Involved with Melbourne’s PPPs
Three main actors are involved in the production
and, importantly, management of these five
different publically accessible spaces and mostly
work in a tri-organisational partnership to produce
appropriate spaces for Melbourne. The first element
in this partnership is government and its related
departments. However, depending on the scale of a
development project the local government authority
may be the City of Melbourne or the State of Victoria,
through the Department of Planning and Community
Development. In Melbourne’s CBD the responsible
authority is decided upon by many different variables.
The two most important variables are: is a project
deemed to be of state significance and/or the does
the project have a gross floor area of over 25,000 m2?
If either is achieved, the State Government becomes
the project’s responsible authority and private
development organisations must deal with them.
Another layer to the government dimension of
producing any potential publically accessible space
brought about by a PPP is that the state government
has and can utilise its development arm, called Places
Victoria. Its specific role is to “carry out, manage or
By utilising these tools, Melbourne was (and is) able to
“provide a range of mechanisms to help city officials,
developers and community members structure and
achieve a desired outcome” (PM 2012: 39) for the city.
In essence, the above six items provide two streams of
civic improvement: a physical stream, where physical
features are realised and built to form results; and
a cultural stream that endeavours to provide social
attractions and a population base in the city. The end
result of these measures was an urban environment
that in 2011 was recognised as the world’s most
liveable city, by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and
now boasts a residential population of nearly 12,000
people, which is expected to more than double by 2015
with the latest population projections estimating over
40,000 residents by 2025.
The end result of this perceptual change to the city is
a CBD that has attracted millions of dollars in private
investment and resulted in over 50 privately owned
public spaces. Pegels (2010) in her study of Melbourne’s
public private partnerships found that five different
types of POPS exist in the CBD. These are:
(1) Forecourts and foregrounds to buildings (e.g. a
museum) that provide some sort of statement
in front of the facility but, importantly, provide
a venue for passive (e.g. sitting) or active (e.g.
demonstration) public use of the space. These
spaces are normally designed in some way, adding
to their attraction and use.
(2) Entrance plazas to complexes and/or buildings (e.g.
Melbourne’s Family Law Court) which primarily
allows for pedestrian circulation and “creates [ ] an
outside foyer” (ibid. 22) to the facility. These spaces
are minimalist in design using mostly paving to
create distinction and interest, which leads to an
entrance door that is normally set far back from the
(3) Office plazas provide an integrated open space
element in front of the office complex and three
different levels of design are used to influence the
public’s use of these spaces. The first is the office
plaza designed to act primarily as a thoroughfare,
which includes minimal seating. The second type
of space uses “seating, planting and water features
[to] make attractive areas for respite” (ibid.). Last is
a highly thought-out space meant to attract use
through the provision of private businesses like
cafés and restaurants.
(4) Through-block circulation makes use of and/
or reference to Melbourne’s gridded layout by
coordinate urban renewal projects” (URAV 2003: 1) in
Melbourne (and throughout the state). Importantly,
Places Victoria can bring together partners (public and
private) to realise projects and spaces. The resources
available to Places Victoria are land and employee
capital. In terms of land, Places Victoria has the ability
to raise capital through selling parcels of land and/or
its commercial assets. They can then apply the raised
capital as desired. The employee capital within Places
Victoria includes community engagement officers,
designers, quantity surveyors, project managers and
development directors. In essence, teams of people
are on staff and available to realise partnerships and
In terms of the state and local government, an annual
budget for capital works provides the financial
resources to realise spaces/projects. Grants and
other financial schemes are also available from the
federal government through an application process.
Both levels of government (state and local) have the
ability to sell assets to raise funds and have done this
on occasion. The motivation for selling these assets
is rather straightforward - to raise capital to pay for
the design and construction of highly engaging and
attractive urban spaces for the public.
The main private actors involved in PPPs are the large
development organisations (e.g. Grocon Pty. Ltd., Lend
Lease) and financial institutions (e.g. National Australia
Bank). But smaller private actors such as accounting
firms, lawyer and barrister firms, design offices, and
electronic suppliers (McLoughlin 1992) provide
another layer to the realisation of publically accessible
The motivations for private organisations entering into
these partnerships are remarkably similar to that of the
government. They too want to develop and establish
urban places that attract people to their realised
space(s). Obviously, there is a commercial objective
and agenda to the desired attraction. However, the
private organisations understand that quality designed
and built publically accessible spaces are a commercial
asset, adding a tremendous amount of value to a
development. This is why development organisations
in Melbourne fiercely argue and wish to retain the
management of the publically accessible spaces when
entering into a PPP. They also have come to realise that
by maintaining the managerial rights to spaces they
can protect their brand, company name and/or product
by deciding on what activities can be done onsite and
who can and can not access the space. Lastly, the
development organisations feel they simply can do
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a better job than council at maintaining these spaces
and are therefore more willing to invest in an open
space. The last set of actors involved in partnerships
is community and private stakeholders (e.g. Bicycle
Victoria, Department of Transportation (i.e. VicRoads),
train, tram and bus companies) that posses the
political clout to influence the realisation of the public
accessible space. The financial capital available to these
organisations varies enormously and depends on the
public or private support backing the organisation. In
Melbourne, these stakeholders and their influence on
the development of publically accessible spaces lack
serious research, and this provides an opportunity
for investigation into another branch of the debate in
public private partnerships.
4. Mechanism Used to Realise Privately Owned
Public Spaces
In Melbourne, the two mechanisms used to enact
change in the city and allow for PPPs to realise
publically accessible open spaces is policy and
legislation. However, upon review of six of Melbourne’s
most notable public private partnerships (i.e. the
Melbourne City Link, Federation Square (Fig.2), Queen
Victoria (Melbourne), the Carlton United Brewery,
Melbourne’s Docklands and the Swanston Street
redevelopment) a number of different instruments
that are contained within these mechanisms are used
to confirm partnerships. The instruments, like a 163
agreement (found in the Building Act) or a Corporate
Charter required in corporations law, distinguish
each of the partnerships and so when researchers,
authorities, private developers and so on make
reference to Melbourne’s use of PPPs not one typical
example can be referred to or is regularly employed.
Each PPP is an evolution of a previous partnership and
is tailored to meet the needs and requirements of the
relative project.
One should note that the concept of an incentive
zoning framework to affect change in the City and to
realise privately owned public spaces has not been
used in Melbourne. Rather, urban change in Melbourne
has been brought about through a dialogue involving
the tri-organisational partners in the respective
works – they meet to discus a desired outcome for
the City and their varied interests. This approach has
been successful and has led to positive change in
Melbourne’s CBD.
CUTHBERT, A. 2007. Urban Design. In S. Thompson
(ed.) Planning Australia: An Overview of Urban and
Regional Planning, pp. 263-283. Cambridge University
Press: Cambridge, UK.
MCLOUGHLIN, J. B. 1992. Shaping Melbourne’s Future?
Town Planning, the State and Civil Society. Cambridge
University Press: Cambridge, UK.
PEGELS, J. 2010. STARSinternational_Melbourne: A
Document of Post-Doc Research (PT_Materialien 23). A
publication made possible by DAAD, Germany.
PM. 2012. Place Making Applied Research: A Places
Victoria and RMIT University research Collaboration.
Report produced by RMIT University research project
team. RMIT University, Melbourne.
URAV. 2011. Urban Renewal Authority Victoria Act 2003.
State Government of Victoria: Melbourne, Australia.
Fig. 2 Federation Square is one of Melbournes most prominent publicly usable spaces
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Fig.1 Typology of Bankgok's privately owned public spaces
for contemporary urban public space, official planners
ignore important social and class differences and other
vital activities such as survival strategies, identity
performances, unofficial economic transactions, and
protest. In an era of energy saving, the focus is on
pedestrians who are engaged in activities at various
times in the same public space. This latter definition
is interesting and in accord with a constructive idea
of turning a vacant space into a social space for towns
and communities. In fact, merely beautiful space in
Bangkok is dispensable for good public space that
is needed in quality and quantity that is sufficient to
facilitate the social life of most of Bangkok's citizens.
3. Public Space Under the City Planning Act
Bangkok’s city planning regulations have undergone
constant development for decades. The latest revision
was promulgated in 2006 and introduced the floor area
ratio (FAR) system: a volume ratio that sets the usable
building space in relation to the overall building plot.
The highest FAR designation is 10 for commercial high-
rise buildings. For the first time, planning regulations
provide bonus floor area to developers, who agree to
create a publicly usable space on their private property
(POPS). This allows the private sector to comply with
the Ministry's regulations on the revised Building
Control Act of 2009, which prescribes the setback of
commercial and residential buildings from adjacent
1. Introduction
Bangkok was founded in 1782 as the new capital of
Thailand by King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty in a
flood plain delta of the Chao Phraya River. This location
served as a natural defence from enemies and the
richness of water supported the lives of a prospering
city. Since its establishment, the city has grown
steadily in size and importance. Initially, it covered
only 4.14 km2 but has swelled today to a megacity that
is comprised of 50 districts, with a total area of 1,569
km2. The population of Bangkok is now close to seven
million by registered record or about ten million by
daytime population.
Bangkok has always been more cosmopolitan than
other cities of the region. The government sector plays
a significant role in Bangkok along with the private
sector. There are a number of activities in commerce,
industry, construction, manufacturing and various
kinds of services including banking and other financial
services. Bangkok's work force includes employees,
private retailers, street vendors, entrepreneurs,
government officials, etc.
Due to the densely packed streets of the city,
especially in the Central Business District (CBD), land in
Bangkok has been highly invested-in with offices and
commercial building projects. Meanwhile, the amount
of public space has decreased because land prices are
becoming too expensive to allow for more. To remedy
this situation, the idea was brought forward of using
some private property as public space or semi-public
space, for which the owners would legally agree to
open up their land to the public. The owner can make
some conditions regarding the purposes and activities
that are allowed in this kind of POPS. It has to be
noted that in the CBD of Bangkok only a small variety
of types of open spaces and activities can be found,
and therefore the semi-public spaces today are not as
useful for the citizens as they could and should be.
2. Dening Good Public Space
At this point it is necessary to reflect about the nature
of good public space. Prominent urban design thinkers
like Jane Jacobs and Donald Appleyard have agreed
that street spaces and sidewalks cater best to the
diverse needs of people living in towns and cities.
A definition of good public space usually involves a
rich user experience, diverse uses, and claims that a
place should be frequented by a variety of people.
However, often planners focus too narrowly on
generic, behaviourist use patterns of public space. By
tending to see leisure as the only appropriate activity
public space such as sidewalks, promenades and
overpasses. The ministry's regulations state that a
land owner or investor who builds a public sidewalk
widening of less than 10 metres width must locate the
building at least 6 metres away from the middle of the
adjacent public sidewalk. If the sidewalk is at least 10
metres wide, the building must be located away from
the sidewalk by at least 1/10 of the sidewalk’s width. If
the sidewalk is wider than 20 metres, the building must
be located at least 2 metres away from the sidewalk.
This means that open space on private property must
be at least 10% of the total plot area for a commercial
property. If it is a residential building, the open space
ratio must be at least 30%.
Presently, the FAR bonus policy in Bangkok’s
Comprehensive Plan of 2006 is an incentive to
encourage private developers to produce wide, open,
empty spaces. Just only 5% of the standard FAR is
awarded as an additional bonus if the project provides
outside POPS that are located along the sidewalk in
front of the building. If developers don’t make use of
the bonus regulation, the conventional FAR system in
Thailand tends to produce privately owned, and fully
privately controlled open spaces, not public spaces or
POPS. Without claiming the FAR bonus, developers are
not legally obliged to open these spaces to public use.
Design, management and exercise of rigid user control
lies then within their discretion.
Examining Publicly Usable Spaces on Private Property in Bangkok, Thailand
Sakrapat Anurakpradorn (Chulalongkorn University)
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2011, there were only two applications for the FAR
bonus incentive, adjusting the area in front of a large
building to have a more clear space and creating a
walkway ramp to connect with a BTS Skytrain station.
Upon investigation, the two FAR bonus applications
that have created POPS so far formally complied with
the ministry's building control regulation. Although
the result was a green, beautiful open space in one
case, the owner did not allow anybody to use it. Some
owners built public space as a plaza without any
apparent function or with no access from the public
sidewalk. In fact, this space was designed only as a
visual amenity that induces people with a feeling of
fear to use it. The space does not match the activity,
and private security keeps people away.
This research aimed to find out why the privately
owned public spaces in Bangkok are not successful
in terms of quality and/or usage. If FAR bonus cannot
bring about good POPS in Bangkok, what else can
be the solution, and should a bonus be awarded for
something that is not really meaningful? What are
characteristics of POPS? How are they produced? How
are they used? How should the system be adapted
to facilitate the production of better usable spaces in
places where they are needed?
5. Public Space Usage
Many of the surveyed privately owned public spaces
are located in the highly developed areas along the
subway and Skytrain networks, which has stimulated
developers to link these infrastructure public spaces
directly to private properties. In the first step, the study
evaluated if the developments formally complied with
the ministry's regulation on building control, and in
the second step, analysed which role variable factors
such as users, time, activities in space, special design
features and others factors, such as religious facilities
played for the character of these POPS. Accordingly,
Bangkok’s multi-use public spaces can be subdivided
into the following five distinct categories.
Case 1: Public spaces in front of a building, allowing for
24-hour usage, usually involving very large buildings
and big events e.g. the boxing event in front of Mah
Boon Krong shopping centre, aerobic exercises in front
of Depot Mall and Tesco Lotus, or cosplay at a public
space linked to the BTS Skytrain.
Case 2: Public spaces in front of very large buildings
designed by notable architects and city planners and
allowing for a 24 hours use for religious activities or
sacred worship e.g. Erawan Shrine (San Phra Phrom)
in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, Trimurti and
Many large buildings have been created in recent years,
using the normal FAR system, thus creating privately
owned, private open spaces. However, no further
details were available from the Department of Public
Works and Town & Country Planning as of mid-2012
about the number and the total area and quality of
these open spaces. For this reason, this study made a
first attempt to categorise and describe those POPS that
have been created through large-scale developments
in recent years. The focus was both on POPS that
have been created by using the FAR incentive as well
as on spaces that have the same appearance but are
completely under private control because of their use
of the conventional FAR regulations. The areas studied
are located in commercial land use zones, along the
Bangkok Skytrain lines and stations, which are the most
dynamic development zones of the city. Focus was on
large-scale development projects because of their
significant impact on the city and everyday life.
4. Compliance of POPS with Regulations
A high building density is inevitable in a city like
Bangkok, especially in the CBD, where very little
public space in the form of promenades, parks and
plazas exists. The effect of the new FAR regulation to
create more public space has yet to be evaluated in
central Bangkok. Throughout the five years after the
introduction of the FAR regulation, between 2006 and
Ganesha Shrine in front of Central World shopping
Case 3: Public spaces in front of buildings with a lawful
walkway and allowing for public use for a certain
period e.g. walkways along Silom, Sukhumvit and
other roads in Bangkok.
Case 4: Public spaces in front of buildings with a lawful
walkway and allowed for public use 24 hours a day e.g.
walkways along Silom, Sukhumvit and other roads in
Case 5: Public spaces in front of very large building or
infrastructure designed by notable architects and city
planners and allowed to be used 24 hours e.g. Mor Chit
BTS Skytrain parking lot and public sport recreation
areas under the Expressway.
6. Discussion and Conclusion
The survey found that factors that fostered activities on
the privately owned (semi) public spaces are regularly
organised events or permitted special events relating
to commercial activities, entertainment and other
attractive festivities. A legal permit is usually granted for
religious activities during all hours of the day. However,
it could be said that most Thai people still seem to lack
an understanding about how to use public space. One
reason is city residents nowadays prefer commuting
by vehicles and staying in airconditioned interior
spaces. This is in contrast with a generic, idealised
pedestrian culture that planners and architects seek
to implement into new outdoor public spaces. As Hsu
also points out in this volume for the example of Taipei,
most theories and studies on public space usage are
conducted by Western researchers living in temperate
zones, where the behaviours of people in public
space are markedly different from tropic zones like in
Thailand. Furthermore, most urban design theories
tend to have a Western bias. The result is a mismatch
so that many newly built public spaces are unused,
abandoned, damaged and not patronised. Copying the
Western model of public space without understanding
the cultural and climatic context contributes to its
unpopularity; spaces might be beautiful to look at,
but are ultimately too hot, or too far away from public
transport terminals.
The FAR bonus policy could potentially create good
public space in Bangkok, but the bonus of 5% appears
too small, and the resulting restrictions are too great
for developers. Furthermore, existing regulations
succeeded to create compulsory public spaces on
private property, without awarding a bonus. For only
5% bonus developers don’t want to be permanently
Fig.2 Set-back regulations creating privately owned public spaces
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privately owned (semi) public spaces was constrained
by a rigid control of the time period these could be
used, or the activities that could be performed. It was
often the case that public spaces, especially walkways
that were designed for convenience rather than beauty,
were more popular for Bangkokians, who prefer small,
linked walkways, shaded by surrounding buildings and
connected to several places without being required
to pass through uncovered open space. Another type
of well-used popular public space featured either
permanent or temporary commercial events, such as
meeting markets on the weekends.
Finally, there is still a dominating Thai perception of all
things public, including public space: "If it is public, it
cannot be mine". This mindset might have contributed
to the private owners' reluctance to fully commit to
creating POPS on their property, as they are not sure
about public maintenance, usage, security and don’t
want to surrender the full control over their private
committed to opening up their land to the general
public, which might result in economic disadvantages
for them due to insurance risk, surveillance, or crowd
control costs. But these are not the most important
factors in creating good social space for Thai people.
Some areas that were elaborately designed by
architects and city planners were indeed beautiful
public spaces in the city. However, the utility of these
Fig. 3 Case studies 1 (top left), 2 (top right), 3 (centre left), 4 (centre right), and 5 (bottom left)
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Furthermore, due to the limited amount of land
available in Hong Kong, most of the public spaces in
these public housing areas are small. Xue and Manuel
(2001) refer to such spaces, which have taken over the
functions of Kai Fong, as pocket parks. They point out
that an insufficient supply of such parks has caused
local residents to become increasingly dissatisfied with
the living conditions in Hong Kong.
At the same time, Hong Kong’s street markets, another
essential kind of traditional public space, also face the
threat of extinction. As a result of urban development,
the traditional practice of street hawking has been
increasingly relocated to indoor market buildings
(Kinoshita 2001), leaving only a few individual street
markets in Hong Kong today. The markets at North
Point on Hong Kong Island and Sham Shui Po or Mong
Kok in the Kowloon district are typical examples of
Hong Kong’s traditional street markets. Kinoshita’s
study indicates that street markets such as these
provide a community for the local hawkers. Apart
from trading and selling goods, the local residents also
conduct their everyday practices in the street market.
The street markets were demolished to improve the
sanitary conditions in the old towns and to regulate the
hawkers’ business. While the Hong Kong government
has made a huge effort to transform the old urban
layout, the demolition of the traditional street markets
has been a tremendous loss to Hong Kong’s original
Over the past 25 years, urban redevelopment in
Hong Kong has undoubtedly given rise to the real
estate industry over the past 25 years, as it has led to
increasing supplies of both public and private housing.
Although it is based on the developmental model set
out in the New Town Plan, the physical environment
of Hong Kong now appears more advanced, and
a better combination of communal facilities has
1. Background: Public Spaces in Hong Kong
Kai Fong and Street Markets
Wordie (2007) describes how the spatial form of
Kai Fong (街坊, neighbourhoods) is represented
by the combination of streets and squares in a
local residential area. The term Kai Fong refers to
community associations that provide various services
to local residents, enabling them to build communal
ties and serve their daily lives. In discussing community
development, Chan (1995) vividly describes the
neighbourhood structure in Hong Kong. The smallest
neighbourhood unit is the communal area surrounding
a small-scale housing cluster. This communal area is
believed to provide the essential link in the community
life of Hong Kong residents. Kai Fong are one of the
most significant forms of traditional communal space
to have emerged in Hong Kong since the Second World
War (Mingpao Weekly 2011). Prior to the launch of the
New Town Development Program (see also Chan 1995)
in 1973, a large percentage of the daily activities of
Hong Kong residents were conducted in Kai Fong. The
New Town program aimed to provide a better living
environment for Hong Kong’s growing population
(GovHK 2011). The target towns included Tsuen Wan,
Tuen Mun and Sha Tin in the New Territories and Kwun
Tong in Kowloon. The major goal of the program was
to demolish the old residential areas and provide new
public housing for lower-income Hong Kong residents.
Chan (1977) states that the spatial layout of the New
Town plan follows the developmental pattern of the
original neighbourhoods by providing a common
space with public facilities, commercial centres and
communal utilities. Although the supply of such
facilities improved the living environment, the New
Town developments forced large numbers of residents
to relocate into high-rise condominiums and thereby
lose their links with their former neighbourhoods.
been adopted. At the same time, the transportation
system has expanded significantly to connect and
integrate the different, formerly independent, towns
and communities. This, in turn, has fostered the
development of the commercial real estate market. In
recent years, shopping centres have been constructed
in place of existing commercial centres. Since 2004,
the Link Real Estate Investment Trust (Link REIT)
has been pursuing a major renovation program
(The Link 2011) that has seen many old commercial
centres being reconstructed and chain stores being
brought in to revitalise existing shopping centres.
The resulting higher rents have forced many smaller,
independent mom-and-pop retailers out of business.
Shopping centres now cover almost all of Hong Kong’s
transportation hubs in business and residential areas.
This development has changed the identity of public
space in Hong Kong. Common areas, such as the Kai
Fong, around the old commercial centres have been
transformed into, or replaced by outdoor POPS above
Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations and shopping
2. POPS in Hong Kong
Introduced to Hong Kong during the 1980s as a new
type of public space (GovHK 2011; Luk 2009), POPS
are located on private property that the general public
has the right to use. A privately owned public space
can be regarded as a deed of dedication on the part
of a private developer in return for additional floor
space. The public and private parties cooperate in
the management of these spaces. Ho (2009) regards
shopping centres as one of the main types of privately
owned public space in Hong Kong. He also states
that a large percentage of the POPS in Hong Kong
are indoor spaces in shopping centres in the central
business district. However, as shopping centres are
commercially owned and managed, the activities
permitted in these indoor POPS are even more strictly
confined to shopping-related consumer activities than
their outdoor counterparts. For this reason, another
form of POPS unrelated to shopping is urgently needed
in Hong Kong: outdoor POPS.
3. Outdoor POPS in Hong Kong
In contrast to more controlled indoor POPS, outdoor
POPS potentially offer more opportunities for the
general public to engage in social activities other
than shopping. Outdoor POPS refer to public spaces
that are located on private property and are managed
by the private sector. These spaces are accessible to
Vanishing Everyday Space: Outdoor POPS in Hong Kong
Na Xing, Kin Wai Michael Siu (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
Fig.1 Early modern public housing buildings provided small courtyards
for residents for gatherings and social interactions. Kai Fong materialised
in these places. The few remaining buildings surviving the New Town
Program were converted to other purposes such as artist ateliers.
Fig.2 Street market in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
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Kong. Accordingly, outdoor POPS are an additional
form of public space and serve as an important social
With the expansion of the private real estate sector
in Hong Kong, increasing numbers of high-rise
commercial skyscrapers have been constructed in the
central business district. The location and spatial form
of the different types of outdoor POPS can be divided
into three categories:
The first category comprises spaces located on the
paths and entranceways to private corporations, such
as financial institutions, insurance firms and office
The second category comprises the plazas and open
spaces adjoining private buildings.
The third category is the open-air squares adjacent to
shopping centres (Cuthbert & Mckinnell, 2001).
All of these types of POPS are well-designed and funded
by the private sector. However, they tend to arouse a
feeling of distance in people (Fig.4+5). The Hong Kong
the public and attached to different types of private
buildings, such as shopping centres, office buildings
and residential units. The purpose is to provide a
recreational outdoor space where the general public
can relax and participate in leisure activities outdoors
(GovHK, 2012). In 2008, the Hong Kong Buildings
Department issued a statement declaring that private
developers were expected to provide public facilities
(including outdoor POPS) for public usage on private
properties. In addition to guaranteeing public access,
recreational activities were explicitly encouraged
in such dedicated areas (GovHK 2008). The Hong
Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines specify
that the primary purpose of an “outdoor open-air
space,” provided by either a private or public party, is
recreation (GovHK 2007).
Outdoor POPS in Hong Kong are called “rest areas,
open to the public” (公眾/共休憩空間 in Chinese,
Fig.3). The Chinese characters explain the precise
meaning of the term: Together “ (gōng, public)”, and
(zhòng, people)/共 (gong, common)” describe
the range of users as the public and their legal rights
in the space, namely, that although outdoor POPS are
managed by private developers, the general public still
has an equal right to use them. Otherwise, the public
nature of such a space would be meaningless. “休憩
(xiū qì)” points to the practices allowed in the space,
including undisturbed relaxation. “空間 (kōng jiān)”
defines the nature of the physical environment and
the space. Because the English translation ‘public open
space’ does not accurately explain the term, this paper
employs alternatively the phrase “outdoor POPS” to
avoid any misunderstanding about the open and public
nature of these spaces. Furthermore, as the majority of
shopping centres in Hong Kong are connected to the
transportation system, they serve as major pedestrian
thoroughfares. Therefore, the outdoor POPS attached
to these shopping centres are an inescapable part of
the urban life of Hong Kong. Accordingly, the value of
the outdoor POPS as essential public spaces in Hong
Kong is worth investigating.
As noted above, outdoor POPS have replaced the
traditional communal public spaces in Hong Kong.
The term “outdoor POPS” is also used in this paper
to emphasise the fact that these outdoor spaces are
located on private property for public usage. They
differ from pedestrian streets, public parks and other
forms of government-owned public space in Hong
Fig.3 Two signs from an outdoor POPS in Hong Kong displaying the
opening hours, property ownership details and regulations. Interestingly,
although the English naming is identical, the Chinese writing differs.
Fig.4 Grand Millennium Plaza, Central Hong Kong
Fig.5 Outdoor POPS in Central Hong Kong
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on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Canton Road is one of
Hong Kong’s most famous pedestrian areas. The area is
home to a number of flagship stores of luxury brands
and attracts a great number of shoppers. According to
the Apple Daily, security guards working at the Dolce &
Gabbana store were preventing Hong Kong residents
from taking pictures of the store from Canton Road.
However, the guards had been told to allow tourists
from the Chinese mainland free rein to do so.
The store management’s attempt to illegally control
the public space outside the store led to a civic protest
(Fig.8). Hong Kong residents believed that the retailer
was discriminating against local residents.
This episode is also evidence of the development of a
business culture that is eroding people’s right to use
public spaces.
5. Vanishing Everyday Space in Hong Kong
Gehl (2010) states that the dynamism of a city can
be evaluated by the extent to which its residents
participate in different activities.
Before urban development took off in Hong Kong in
the 1960s, the original urban layout offered a relatively
low-quality living environment. Nonetheless, the urban
environment provided large areas of public space for
the city’s inhabitants to interact with their neighbours.
As noted earlier, Kai Fong are not only outdoor markets,
they also serve as a venue for the local residents to go
about their everyday life in Hong Kong. Although the
New Town Program has led to a new phase of urban
development that has promoted economic growth, it
has also completely transformed the nature of urban
life in Hong Kong. Although the new residential
areas included spaces for community interaction, the
government stipulates that a property developer may
be allowed to add additional floors to a project as an
incentive to provide a ground floor public space.
However, the percentage of outdoor POPS available to
Hong Kong residents is the lowest among high-density
cities in Asia (Coorey, 2008; Designing Hong Kong,
2008). Moreover, the management of outdoor POPS
in Hong Kong limits their utilisation by the public.
In particular, most outdoor POPS have insufficient
seating, are fenced off, and are monitored by security
4. Commercialisation of Outdoor POPS in Hong
The property owner of the Times Square development
had rented out the open plaza to a cafeteria pursuant
to a permit issued by the Hong Kong government.
Citizens other than customers of the café were strictly
prohibited from bringing along their own food.
Security guards had been given extraordinary powers
to disperse non-customers.
This abuse of power by the private sector served as
a catalyst for a public demonstration to fight for the
public’s right to use the space (Fig.7). As a result of
public protest, this outdoor POPS has played host to
various activities in recent years, including those
undertaken in everyday life (short breaks, passing by,
etc.), as well as social and commercial activities.
However, the lesson has not been learned. The
expansion of private owners’ rights has led to on-going
disputes concerning the use of public spaces on private
land. In January 2012, the Apple Daily (2012) reported
that members of the public were being inappropriately
monitored by the staff of the Dolce & Gabbana store
relocation of the local residents and the densification
have eroded the original community spirit.
The pursuit of economic gain underlying the above
described and the massive urban transformation of
Hong Kong have corroded community life of the city.
Traditionally, urban life in Hong Kong has been both
disorderly and dynamic. However, the demolition
of the open street markets has had an inevitable
influence on the patterns of urban life, as formerly
independent shops have come under unified corporate
management, or had to close down altogether.
Relatively spontaneous outdoor trading activities
have been relocated to controlled, indoor commercial
buildings, which have subsequently been renovated
by their private owners to increase profits. This has
effectively cut the connections between people
and their urban environment, as well as between
people themselves. In short, it can be argued that the
increasing restriction of public space in residential
areas and commercial districts has limited people’s
capacity to participate in everyday life.
6. Consumer-based Erosion of Public Space
The expansion of shopping centres in Hong Kong has
promoted the development of Hong Kong’s consumer
culture. The combination of shopping centres and
Fig.6 Outdoor POPS on the groundfloor of Times Square, Hong Kong: In early 2008 it was reported that citizens had been barred from using this space
Fig.8 Hong Kong residents protesting against Dolce & Gabbana at Canton
Road, Hong Kong in 2012
Fig.7 Public protest against exclusion from the POPS at Times Square,
Hong Kong in 2008
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
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The University of Tokyo
GOVHK. 2012. Public open space in private
developments design and management guidelines
development. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from http://
HO, S. 2009. Shopping mall as privately owned public
space. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong
Kong. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from http://www.arch.
KINOSHITA, H. 2001. The street market as an urban
facility in Hong Kong. In P. Miao (Ed.), Public places in
Asia Pacific cities: Current issues and strategies (pp. 71-
86). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
LUK, W. L. 2009. Privately owned public space in Hong
Kong and New York: The urban and spatial influence
of the policy. In Proceeding of The 4th International
Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism
(IFoU): The new urban question - Urbanism beyond neo-
liberalism (pp. 697-706) Delft, Amsterdam. Retrieved
April 10, 2012, from
MINGPAO Weekly. 2011. Neighborhoods. Hong Kong:
Mingpao Weekly.
THE EPOCH TIMES. 2008. The militia called on to open
up the Times Square open space. Retrieved February 20,
2012, from
THE LINK. 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2012, from
WORDIE, J. 2007. Streets: Exploring Kowloon. Hong
Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
XUE, C. Q. L., & MANUEL, K. K. K. 2001. The quest for
better public space: A critical review of urban Hong
Kong. In P. Miao (Ed.), Public places in Asia Pacific cities:
Current issues and strategies (pp. 171-190). Boston,
MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
[Figure References]
Fig.6 Floor plan adapted from: http://www.
Fig.7 Picture from
Fig.8 With permission of OTHK
public transport terminals has strengthened people’s
daily reliance on such commercial facilities. People
eat, play and meet friends in shopping centres, and
are attracted by the forms of entertainment they
provide. For the younger generations, the urban
transformation of Hong Kong has changed their urban
life patterns. Consumer spending has become the
main part of public life. For the older generations,
the reduced public participation and interaction
has left them with little more than memories of the
traditional urban life in Hong Kong. However, for
the younger generations, the growing consumer
culture has provided a new reason to participate in
public activities, and has become one of their major
motivations. The accelerating growth of consumer
spending is significantly reshaping the culture of
urban life.
In recent years, outdoor POPS in shopping centres have
become one of the primary forms of public space for
Hong Kong residents. The increasing commercial use
of outdoor public spaces and the restrictions on, and
monitoring of the public who use them, confirm that
such spaces are now largely profit-driven. Furthermore,
the recent protests in Times Square and at the Dolce &
Gabbana store in Canton Road indicate that the public’s
civil rights are being threatened. Even so, the public
continues to actively contest these infringements of
their civil rights. However, blindness to the expansion
of private power and the disregard for civil rights may
eventually lead to wider public discontent.
7. Conclusion
Outdoor POPS are now typical forms of publicly usable
space in Hong Kong. They have largely replaced the
traditional public spaces following the escalation of
urban development in Hong Kong in the 1960s. During
this time, the majority of the original public spaces
such as the Kai Fong and street markets have been
demolished. In their place, outdoor POPS located in
shopping centres have become the dominant form
of public space people use in their day-to-day life.
However, the essential connection between people
has been weakened as a result of these changes. Due
to the increasing pursuit of economic gain and the
dense urban environment in Hong Kong there are
now insufficient non-consumer-driven outdoor POPS
available in the city.
We would like to thank The Hong Kong Polytechnic
University for the research funding for this study.
APPLE DAILY. 2012. Trespassing ban passers-by to
take pictures tarnished shopping paradise Shoppes
bullies D & G. Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://
CHAN, C. K. J. C. 1995. Community development and
management of private sector housing estates in Hong
Kong. Master Dissertation. Hong Kong: University of
Hong Kong. Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://
CHAN, Y. K. 1977. The development of new towns in
Hong Kong. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of
Hong Kong.
CHOW, J. 2012. Dolce & Gabbana photo ban sparks
protest. Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://blogs.
COOREY, S. B. A. 2008. Design of open spaces in high
density zones: Case study of public housing estates in
Hong Kong. PhD thesis. Hong Kong: The University of
Hong Kong. Retrieved 10 April, 2012, from http://hub.
CUTHBERT, A. R., & MCKINNELL, K. G. 2001. Public
domain, private interest and social space in Hong
Kong. In P. Miao (Ed.), Public places in Asia Pacific cities:
Current issues and strategies (pp. 191-211). Boston,
MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Designing Hong Kong. 2008. Public right over private
property. Retrieved 10 April, 2012, from http://www.
GEHL, J. 2010. Cities for people. Washington, DC: Island
GOVHK. 2007. Recreation, open space and greening.
In Hong Kong planning standards and guidelines.
Retrieved April 10, 2012, from
GOVHK. 2008. Background information on provision of
public facilities within private developments. Retrieved
10 April, 2012 from
GOVHK. 2011. New town and new major urban
development. In Hong Kong: the facts. Retrieved
February 20, 2012, from
GOVHK. 2011. Background information on provision of
public facilities within private developments. Retrieved
12 April, 2012 from
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
States and many urban planning and urban design
mechanisms as well as laws have been borrowed
from there, especially from New York. Even though
much of Taiwan’s spatial institutions and academic
knowledge have been imported from the USA, the
Japanese colonial legacy still have a significant impact
on academia and bureaucratic practice. Although
the spatial policies have been learned from overseas,
the spatial reality in Taiwan’s cities is based on and
embedded in local culture and politics. Although there
has been an intensive exchange of ideas between
Taipei, New York, and urban Japan, Taipei developed a
distinct subjectivity due to a different understanding of
the relationship between individual and state, the role
of private property, and the authority of state organs.
Similarly, other Asian cities have been confronted with
the challenge of importing foreign knowledge and
matching it with its social space. This complex process
of subjectisation could be called the postcolonial
2. Archaeology of POPS in Taiwan
Cities have created urban planning and urban design
mechanisms in the 20th century to cope with the
problems of rapid urbanisation and to improve
1. Background: Postcolonial Space in Taipei
Taiwan’s modern urban planning and building
regulations were mostly introduced during the
Japanese colonial period (1895 – 1945). At that time,
the urban spatial policies sought to improve public
sanitation and reflected universal modernist principles.
In 1953, after becoming independent, and within
a transforming world order, urban spatial policies
were adapted to enhance public infrastructure and
to induce new modern economical thinking under
the developmental state model. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s
central government, and in particular the Ministry
of Economics and Infrastructure invited experts and
consultants from the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), in order to help establish urban
governance institutions such as a spatial planning
system, building regulations, a public housing policy
and planning education.
To this day, the national institutional framework is the
foundation stone of spatial policies in Taiwan. These
kinds of spatial institutions were not only influenced
by the Western experience at the time of their original
development, but also by limiting political conditions
and local academic discourse. Most of the urban
planners and designers were educated in the United
the quality of life. Among the most important and
innovative mechanisms are the institutional systems
for the creation of public space, such as the famous
model of New York City, where the provision of publicly
usable space on private property (POPS, privately
owned public space) was first developed in response
to the dilemmas of capitalising urbanism. With the
mechanisms of POPS constructed under incentive
zoning, the quality of public space was predicated by
the logic of capital in New York. With POPS expressing
the contradiction of capitalist public space, the concept
of the public is still sustained in Western cities in order
to safeguard a more just urbanism. Paradoxically, the
essence of the public is different in Asian cities. Here
one can explore the complexity of problems that result
from learning the formal mechanisms for the provision
of POPS from New York, for example (including
incentive zoning, POPS design standards and an urban
design review) while socio-economic, cultural and
political contexts don’t support these.
3. The Example of Taipei
The Taiwanese City Planning Act, which is based on
the American zoning system, was enacted in 1964 in
order to safeguard orderly urbanisation. At that time,
the role of local governments was seen to be to clean
slum areas and initiate urban renewal. As the planning
systems were established and managed by the central
government, plans were not really suitable for local
needs. On the contrary, the zoning control systems
that were introduced were modelled after the rapidly
growing New York. Ironically, the same mechanisms
for the creation of POPS were implemented in very
different contexts and as a response to different urban
issues in the East and the West. When Taiwan’s central
government wanted to initiate zoning control, local
governments were in opposition to the mechanisms,
despite the fact that officials of both local governments
and the central government were educated at the
same institutions, and all were under pressure from
local politics. That is the reason why the FAR control in
Taipei was only introduced in 1983; 20 years after the
City Planning Act was promulgated.
Aside from this struggle between the central and
the local governments, another struggle took place:
between government officials with urban planning
and those with civil engineering backgrounds;
between equity and welfare state advocates and
between adepts of scientific rationalism and free
markets. Urban design as a new approach learned from
New York and Tokyo responded to the contradictions of
From Capitalising on Public Space to Subjectising Urban Life
A Reflection on POPS in Taipei, Taiwan
Yen-Hsing Hsu (City of Taipei, National Taiwan University)
Fig.1 POPS created by the Comprehensive Design System in Taipei until 2010 per every city ward
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became active in this matter. In spite of the citizens
and public starting to take a strong concern in the
compliance of POPS with the public interest, incentive
zoning had already become a part of the game of
capital accumulation with the quality of space still
disputed in Taipei. The scattered location of POPS was
predicated by the logic of the real estate market and
urban planning failed to integrate them with adjacent
public parks and promenades. POPS often remained
isolated in the city, with their quality almost entirely
depending on the skills of architects and the good
will of developers. Those POPS that were produced by
the Joint Development of Mass Transportation Act are
similar to the public spaces in station developments
in Japan; with the design led by the transportation
department and by civil engineers, the design of the
POPS followed the functions of safety, convenience
and crowd control, but often ignored the qualities of
aesthetics and diversity.
In order to cope with these dilemmas of POPS, Taipei’s
urban design officials attempted an alternative
way in 1995, called community empowerment. The
policies of community empowerment (in Japanese,
machizukuri) were not only aiming at improving
public space, but also at managing the privately
owned space, which elevates community identity. The
policies were proposed by the Department of Urban
Development. In other Taiwanese cities and counties
the departments of culture pushed this policy forward.
Truly, this policy change created a new opportunity for
quality public life, with synergies in the production and
management of space resulting from a partnership
between officialdom and locals. Until 2010, the policy
completed 121 projects, including parks, streetscapes,
or semi-public lands in private ownership.
urban planning and favoured FAR incentives. The Taipei
zoning regulations, administered by the Department
of Urban Development, has contained a mechanism of
bonus FAR since 1983. Initially, the zoning regulations
introduced an incentive zoning instrument called
the Comprehensive Design Systems (CDS), which
aimed to incite private developers to provide publicly
usable open space. Accordingly, the first type of POPS
emerged in Taipei. As in Japan, after the introduction
of incentive zoning for encouraging open space and
good design, other mechanisms of FAR incentives were
invented for the creation of other much needed public
amenities. Many government departments began
thinking about using FAR incentives for achieving
their own objectives. In 1988, for example, the
transportation department of Taipei City introduced a
regulation to encourage additional public car parking
lots. Other FAR incentives were introduced through
the Joint Development of Mass Transportation Act by
the Ministry of Transportation in 1988, and the urban
renewal ordinance by the Ministry of Interior. The
different incentive FAR policies, offered by different
government authorities and implemented without
mutual integration led to a loss of integrity of urban
planning and local government control. Therefore,
the mechanisms of incentive FAR no longer played
the role of encouraging good quality of design, but
also to increase the profitability of the investment.
The multiple types of POPS and incentives, governed
by different public reasoning were destroying the
urban planning system; urban planning became a tiger
without teeth.
In order to restore the integrity of urban planning,
new urban design mechanisms were introduced. Since
1988, for example, urban design reviews are held for
controlling bigger scale development projects with
sites over 6,000m2 or a floor area of over 30,000m2.
The urban design review came to play the role of
gatekeeper for quality of new developments, which
previously failed to integrate into their wider urban
context. The new pioneering discipline of urban design
advocated an integrated wider urban design with a
detailed development plan. This new policy was first
implemented for the urban planning of the XinYi
district, where Taipei’s iconic 101 Tower is located, and
which provided a comprehensive open space structure,
an urban design review, and detailed urban design
At the same time, pioneer urban design officials in
the Taipei City Government started to improve the
Comprehensive Design System, and revised the design
and management standards to preserve the public
interest. The older incentive regulations had usually
led to producing gated communities, with POPS not
open to the general public. Citizen organisations had
sprung up to contest this unjust phenomenon, and
as a result, the incentive policy was abandoned for
residential land use zones. Today, the Comprehensive
Design System is only applicable in commercial
zones. Meanwhile, as of 2010, the number of POPS
has increased to 169 cases under the comprehensive
design policy in Taipei. Moreover, as of 2012, the
number of car parking lot cases is 9,147, and the
number of motorcycle parking lots amounts to 2,596,
under the regulation for encouraging additional public
car parking. Because most of the incentivised parking
lots were underground, they were hardly open to
the public. For this reason, the public opinion turned
against the policy and citizen protests erupted. In 2010,
the national institution of impeachment and audit
Fig.2 Large privately owned public space in Taipei's XinYi District Fig.3 Interior POPS on the fourth floor of the 101 Tower; since the number "4" connotes to death in Chinese
culture, often public facilities are allocated in the fourth floor, which is otherwise difficult to rent out
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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and privates, and enhance the capacity of urban
design. We might believe that these efforts have come
to fruition, with successful urban regeneration projects
like Marunouchi, Roppongi Hills, and Nihonbashi in
Japan as good examples. Here, the amazing success
is in integrating a complex spectrum of stakeholders,
coupled with mature design skills, and a perfect
balance between urban function, social activity,
ecological issues, and historical preservation.
However, following the current crisis of globalisation,
uneven development, climate change and growing
Unlike all planning policies in Taiwan that came before,
these new developments had been divorced from
the earlier models of New York and Japan. After three
decades of hard work, the POPS policy seemed to
have missed the original intention to achieve a better
public urban life, but planning officials still try hard to
change this by improving the laws, design standards,
review mechanisms and management mechanisms.
Simultaneously, pioneer urban design officials have
started to develop creative mechanisms in order to
avoid isolated POPS, such as FAR incentives that are
granted for the utilisation of idle properties since 2001.
This new incentive mechanism is meant to encourage
a temporary public use of unused buildings or vacant
lands before a new redevelopment takes place. This
type of POPS is highly original and very different from
the original concept imported from New York. These
novel policies were born from the need to respond
to the reality of urban problems in Taiwan and were
developed without borrowing to Western experiences.
They are the beginning of a new paradigm of subjective
public life under the conditions of a capitalist world.
4. Subjectising POPS
If we agree that most formally produced POPS are not
catering to the public life in the city, we should honestly
face the question of: what could their role be in the 21st
century? In the 20th century, issues of urbanisation
were solving density issues, capital accumulation and
creative destruction, which caused urban governance
to facilitate circulation spaces, improve connectivity
through appropriate collaboration between officials
social disruption, urban issues are no longer only
solving high growth, facilitating and intensifying
the flow of capital, and expanding urbanised areas.
To respond to the new challenges, policies for the
provision of POPS need to be more creative.
Since 2010, the Taipei Urban Renewal Office (URO) has
initiated an expansion of a series of policies under an
urban acupuncture approach, confronting these new
challenges. The first creative policy is called Urban
Regeneration Station (URS), which began to shift the
focus on soft infrastructure. URS’s policy is embedded
Fig.4 Citizen organisations are protesting against additional FAR incentives for public parking lots in Taipei
Fig.5 The Urban Regeneration Station URS21 was an old warehouse, which is now temporarily used for creative co-working spaces and exhibitions
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
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The University of Tokyo
through POPS is miniscule. In order to rethink POPS
and take an alternative route to sustainable urbanism,
more creativity and critical reflection is needed.
The concept of temporality is promising in this respect.
It would have been entirely possible to create, for
example, a permanent stadium for the 2012 London
Olympics. However, in order to allow the public
more time and a deeper reflection on subjectising
urbanism, and not to foreclose future possibilities, a
temporary structure for the main stadium was chosen.
Like the stadium, the meaning of POPS should also
express inclusiveness and shared spaces should create
synergies with the citizens toward a sustainable city.
Urbanism is a subjectising process with social inclusion
and a sharing society always being the mandate for
urban designers and planners.
*1 For details refer to see LIEN Chen-Yu and SHIH
Pei-Yin in this volume: ‘Temporary Privately Owned
Public Space in Taipei: A Flexible Space Opens the
Social Realm’
[Figure References]
Fig.1 With kind permission of the City of Taipei
Fig. 4+5 With kind permission of the NGO Organization
of Urban Reform (OUR)
as a creative, vital activity into the community. The
establishment of an URS is temporary and designed
in response to local assets and community needs. This
strategy aims at creating prosperity together with
the citizens. Traditionally, urban regeneration policies
have been based on the expectation that a new
development per se would be enough to invigorate
the wider project area. URS, however, develop a more
heterogeneous space based the subjectivity of city and
the diversity of social needs. The policy does not aim
to struggle against capitalism or globalisation, but to
create a new model.
A special case of POPS provision was URS89-6, where a
private developer allowed an old building to be turned
into an art studio, a public gallery, a lecture hall, and an
NGO office before the urban renewal began.
The other case was URS21, where the land was owned
by the national government, and where Taipei City’s
urban regeneration office has borrowed it for three
years in order to present a new showroom to the
public, as well as incubation studios for young creatives
and NGOs in the field of cultural production.
URS differs from traditional projects because the public
office has cooperated with artists and academics in
order to elaborate a common vision together with
the community. This approach was chosen in order to
prevent visions from elites prevailing. Today, the site
successfully integrates fashion and cultural production
as well as young creatives with the surrounding
community which is maintaining a vegetable farm
Another important new policy is the temporary green
spot project that was launched in order to beautify the
city for the Taipei FLORA EXPO in 2010. As LIEN and
SHIH discuss in PART 3 of this volume, many of these
kind of temporary POPS were collaboratively planned
and managed together with the local communities and
NGOs. (*1)
To conclude, in Taipei the formalistic provision of POPS
that has been imported from New York and Japan has
failed to address the subjectivity of the city. The URS
and the new temporary POPS are more reflexive of
the reality of urban public life we face today. These
alternative approaches to the production of space
aim to transform the capitalist public space into an
integrative social productive one.
5. Temporary Conclusion for Policy of Temporality
The Taipei experience suggests the possibility of a new
kind of POPS. In the past, Asian cities that have imported
techniques and mechanisms for the production of
space from Western civilisations were unable to answer
to the challenges of today's complex urbanism issues.
Nowadays, the techniques for creating POPS are merely
aiming at preventing negative externalities, whereas
the important goal of creating a better public life
Fig.6 Temporary POPS that serves as a community farm in central Taipei
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influence on public space is something we questioned
in the research project STARS. (*1) It added more
nuances to this simplistic view and examined what was
not recognised before: urban spaces in shared public
and private responsibility. Publicly usable space is
rarely only subject to municipal planning and control;
it is created and maintained by many different public
as well as private stakeholders.
The STARS-study started with identifying over 100
possible case study spaces in the cities of Aachen,
Hanover, and Leipzig of which 29 were chosen for in-
depth analysis. In addition to studying the function,
spatial context, and design characteristics of each
space, all actors involved in the design, regulation, and
management were interviewed.
For each space a responsibility profile (Fig.1) was
created to summarise and visualise answers to the
following questions in a standardised representation:
Who is the landowner and who has further rights
(rights)? Who planned and built the space; who
maintains and manages it (production)? And who is
allowed to regulate the use and the users behaviour
In addition to these case studies, we interviewed 40
representatives of planning and parks departments in
20 large German cities and conducted 17 interviews
with private stakeholders in order to understand
1. Background
Plazas, parks, and promenades play an important
role in the identity of a city. With lively and attractive
public spaces, cities can showcase their social, cultural,
and economic situation. But who is responsible for
them? Discourse on urban space in Germany has
often assumed that publicly accessible open spaces
are always ‘public’ – i.e. owned and regulated by the
municipality. Following this understanding, spaces
in private hands cannot be public by definition. The
conception of which roles the different stakeholders
play in the creation of urban spaces also corresponds
to this dualistic thinking: municipal actors were seen to
dominate ‘public spaces’, whereas market forces control
‘private spaces’. These assumptions have continued to
be present in public space debates. For years, several
German scholars described the state and prospects for
public spaces with a skeptical tone (see, for example,
Beiglböck 2008, 34; Hochstadt 2010, 6; Kreye 2007;
Matzig 2007; Weilacher 2006, 44) with privatisation
processes leading to the disappearance of public
space, cities were increasingly characterised by covered
shopping malls, private companies were exercising
their right of exclusion, hence curtailing civil rights,
and remaining public spaces were being increasingly
aligned along commercial and private sector interests.
Generally, blaming private actors for having a negative
their perception of shared responsibilities, and to find
out what consequences result from ‘co-producing’
urban spaces especially for municipal planning.
The STARS project thus opened the way to a more
nuanced understanding of urban spaces. It revealed
the complexity of public-private interdependences,
the variety of interests involved, and the challenges
that result from the co-production of spaces, not only
during the building phase but over the whole life cycle
(see also Berding et al. 2010).
2. Bücherplatz, Aachen: A complex Public-Private
Bücherplatz, in the city of Aachen, provides a good
example to illustrate the major findings of the study
(Fig.1+2). It is a small square in the city centre, close
to the historic cathedral, the town hall, and the major
shopping streets. On two sides, the square is framed by
streets with limited vehicular traffic, and the two other
edges are dominated by the Haus der Kohle, an eight-
story office building with a rectangular base hosting
stores and a cafe on the ground floor.
Thanks to its location, the Bücherplatz is a highly
frequented part of Aachen‘s network of open spaces.
It provides numerous places for stopping and resting
either on public benches or chairs provided by the café.
The square was built in 1961 as part of the development
of the multi-level building Haus der Kohle. Even back
then, control and rights of access were important issues
Challenges in Co-Producing Publicly Accessible Spaces
The Example of Bücherplatz in Aachen
Ulrich Berding, Antje Havemann, and Juliane Pegels (RWTH Aachen)
Fig.1 Responsibility Prole: Types of actors and their di󰮏erent responsibilities regarding public space management
Fig.2 Bücherplatz in Aachen
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obligations, but they were also eager to make positive
changes to the square. The suggested design stood
in sharp contrast to the rundown appearance of the
Bücherplatz. Municipal actors elaborated on all these
ideas without including the owner – which later turned
negotiated between the municipality and the private
developer. When granting the building permit, the City
of Aachen obtained a right of way in the land register
for guaranteeing public accessibility. The bookstore,
which has rented the ground floor of the building
for years, gave the square its name Bücherplatz –(in
English, “book plaza”).
It is important to note some details about the
responsibilities and rights shared by the owner and
the city: First, since the square belongs to a real estate
company, it is clearly privately owned. The main tenant,
the bookstore, sublets a small portion of its floor space
to a café, and a bank pays a monthly rent for installing a
cash machine in the middle of the space.
The outdoor space is divided into two sections: on
one side the City of Aachen holds a public easement,
which secures the public right of way; the other side
is in the hands of the tenants and the store owners.
This agreement is further complicated as the portion
of the space that is occupied by the café terrace in the
summer must be quickly vacated for access by fire
trucks in case of an emergency. These complicated
arrangements with different layers of influence are
visualised in figure 3, 4, and 5.
In general, security on the square is provided by the
municipal security personnel, the tenants of the stores,
and the building management of the Haus der Kohle.
Similarly complex and partially overlapping are the
maintenance and cleaning responsibilities: the stores
and the café are obligated to clean the areas in front
of their premises. The bookstore, as the main tenant,
cleans the plaza and tends to the flowerpots and
flowerbeds. The sanitation department of the City
of Aachen, however, empties the waste bins, and the
municipal infrastructure department is responsible for
maintaining the playground sculpture.
These agreements are often not even understood
by the tenants themselves, which became apparent
when we interviewed the municipal cleaning staff,
responsible for the space. They did not know precisely
what their duties were.
3. The Limits to Renewal
When building the square in the 1960s, and later
erecting a playground sculpture, the city and the
private owner cooperated well. But in 1990, the original
owner sold the building and the public square to a real
estate company, and decades of successful cooperation
with the City of Aachen came to an end.
The first conflict arose when the city developed
an inner city concept in 2002, which suggested
improvements for the Elisengarten, a historic park and
its surroundings. When the competition for the area was
announced, the participants were asked to include the
Bücherplatz in their design concepts. The city saw the
competition entries as recommendations rather than
Fig.3 Layer "Rights": Who is property owner? Who has further rights?
Fig.4 Layer "Regulation": Who regulates use? Who sets rules for users? Who has domestic right?
Fig.5 Layer "Production": Who has produced the space? Who maintains it? Who upgrades it?
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4. Lessons from Bücherplatz: Clearer Guidelines
for Publicly Accessible Spaces
The example of Bücherplatz teaches us that private
stakeholders are important partners in building and
maintaining urban spaces in ways challenging to city
planning. When building permits are needed – as seen
in the initial phase of the public-private cooperation in
the case of the Bücherplatz – the municipality can rely
on its planning sovereignty.
But later on, its influence on private property shrinks.
In the case of the Haus der Kohle and the adjacent
Bücherplatz, the initial owner had a personal
attachment to Aachen and felt a sense of responsibility
in improving the character and appearance of the city
– a crucial issue when working to the benefit of the city
and the site. When the owner changed, the relationship
with the city also changed.
out to be a mistake. In preliminary conversations, the
real estate company showed little interest in investing
to upgrade the space, and even pointed to technical
difficulties with the parking garage beneath the
square. The company agreed to a redesign, only if the
city would carry the costs. In their view, the stores and
the café on the plaza were rented out for years even
without a visual upgrading. The city could not find
ways to implement the envisioned integrated design
of the public realm around Elisengarten without the
consensus and participation of the building owner.
The relationship between city planning department
and owner worsened to a point where the renewal
plans had to be shelved, with the result clearly today:
the upgraded public realm halts at the property line of
the Bücherplatz (Fig.7).
Suddenly, municipal power stopped at the property
line. Even though the city had included the Bücherplatz
in its overall planning concept, it’s authority remains
limited. The easement could secure public accessibility,
the agreements about cleaning and liability worked
well, but upgrading and redesigning was never
discussed, and accordingly, unexpected disagreements
The need for municipal and non-municipal actors to
cooperate in planning and producing urban spaces
cannot be ignored; they are part of urban reality now.
The contribution of private actors to urban spaces
becomes more important than ever, as municipal
budgets shrink.
The lessons of the Bücherplatz and other similar cases
are that successful co-productions of publicly accessible
spaces requires all stakeholders to come together
in order to discuss their interests and negotiate
their responsibilities in building, maintaining, and
upgrading a space.
If stakeholders are interested in creating accessible,
attractive, and usable urban spaces, an enduring
partnership can become the basis for key outcomes
in urban space development. In Germany, however,
coproduction is still not acknowledged very much. So
far, public/private relations are negotiated and shaped
on a case-by-case basis – with unequal results.
It is now time to optimise these processes. The findings
of the STARS project as well as experiences made in
other countries (see also Dimmer et al. 2010, Pegels
2010, Pegels 2011) can contribute to this debate by
addressing the following questions:
Which kind of urban spaces can benefit from co-
production, and what role do they play in the network
of open spaces of a city?
Which actors have what interests in urban spaces,
and how can they contribute to the development and
upkeep of a space? What has to be taken into account
when different actors share responsibilities in a space,
and how can a lasting balance be maintained?
*1 STARS – Stadtraume in Spannungsfeldern (= Urban
Spaces in Between Public and Private Activities).
Plazas, Parks, and Promenades in Fields of Tension.
The main goal of the four-year study, financed by
the German Research Foundation and conducted
at the RWTH Aachen University, was to improve
the understanding of the role and relevance of
non-municipal stakeholders in creating urban
Fig.6 Site plan and model show the function of Bücherplatz in its wider urban context
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PEGELS, J. 2011. “Stadträume in Spannungsfeldern
anderswo. Insights from Post-doc Research on Privately
Influenced Public Space in Melbourne” in: pnd-online.
PEGELS, J. 2010. “Privately Influenced Public Spaces.
Die Koproduktion von Stadträumen in Melbourne,
New York City, Tokio und Santiago de Chile” in: Forum
Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung. Verbandsorgan des
vhw. Heft 2. March-April 2010
WEILACHER, U. 2006. Die Zukunft des öffentlichen
Raumes – Traum oder Alptraum? In: Europäisches
Haus der Stadtbaukultur (ed.): 5 Jahre Landesinitiative
Stadtbaukultur NRW. Düsseldorf: author’s edition,
[Ed]. 2010. Stadträume in Spannungsfeldern. Plätze,
Parks und Promenaden im Schnittbereich öffentlicher
und privater Aktivitäten. Aachen.
BEIGLBÖCK, S. 2008. Öffentlicher Raum mit exklusiver
Nutzung. In: RAUM 72/2008: 34–36.
“Systematisierte (Ko)Produktion öffentlich nutzbarer
Stadträume in außereuropäischen Kontexten. Privately
Owned Public Space in New York, Tokio und Santiago
de Chile” in: Berding, Havemann, Pegels, Perenthaler
[Ed]. Stadträume in Spannungsfeldern. Plätze, Parks
und Promenaden im Schnittbereich öffentlicher und
privater Aktivitäten. Aachen.
HAVEMANN, A.; SELLE, K. 2010. Plätze, Parks und
Co. Vorwort. In: dies. (Hrsg.): Plätze, Parks und Co.
Stadträume im Wandel – Analysen, Positionen und
Konzepte. Detmold 2010. S. 12-15
HOCHSTADT, S. 2010. Öffentlichkeit und Privatheit:
Wem gehört die Stadt? In: RaumPlanung 148, Februar
2010: 5–10.
KREYE, A. .2007. Deutschland privat. Wenn der
städtische Raum von der Wirtschaft gestaltet wird,
verliert er seinen demokratischen Charakter. In:
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 02.11.2007: 15.
MATZIG, G. 2007. Event, Event, ein Lichtlein brennt.
Weihnachtsmarkt, Loveparade, Stadtmarathon oder
Bladenight: Wie die Städte ihre Straßen und Plätze
verramschen. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 02.11.2007: 15.
Fig.7 Property line: Not to be overlooked
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PartJapanese Experience
This is especially the case with incentive zoning, where
the most prominent, available planning tools are based
on unified central government standards.
On closer sight, however, one notices that local
conditions vary significantly and that even the
outcome of centralised planning tools are surprisingly
predicated by local geographies, socio-economic
conditions, particular actor-networks, local problem
perceptions and planning cultures as well as
established path dependencies.
In the city of Yokohama, for example, already in the early
1970s a more collaborative planning culture evolved,
where a financially strained local government sought
to mobilise private capital for the complementation
of much needed public infrastructure. Available
planning tools were comprehensively combined in
order to realise a detailed public space conception.
A progressive, long-term mayor politically backed
visionary planners in order to set up a unique
institutional framework, not to be found elsewhere in
Japan. Today, Yokohama stands next to Sapporo and
Kanazawa as a showcase example of urban design
in Japan. In recent years, however, incentive zoning
seems no longer to function well in most Japanese
cities. As many cities are confronted with shrinking
populations, a hollowing-out of the local economy,
1. Introduction Part II
The following part of this magazine details the
discussion of the private production of public spaces
(POPS) on various spatial scales and in different
cities in Japan in order to develop a more nuanced
understanding of the variegated and differentiated
implications of this planning tool. As noted earlier,
public space means different things to different people
in different places at different times. Part 1 showed
that although there are many commonalities in POPS
design, production and maintenance, there are also
marked differences between the discussed countries.
This is owed to distinctive national planning and
governance cultures, each with their own institutional
frameworks, shared perceptions of problems and
probable resources, and means that the respective
actors utilise in order to achieve their objectives.
Part 2 shows that the same holds true on a local level.
As Christian Dimmer and Takefumi Kurose demonstrate
with their chapters on Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and
Sapporo, unique local histories and specific spatial,
socio-economic, and political conditions do make a
significant difference. Many observers have remarked
that the planning system in Japan is too rigid and
centralised, in practice leaving little institutional space
for tailoring plans and projects to local conditions.
and corporate headquarters and high-grade office
functions concentrating in central Tokyo, there is little
demand for extra bonus floor area. The old trade-off of
bonus floor area for public space is no longer working
properly even in huge cities like Yokohama, Osaka,
Nagoya, or Sapporo.
In Sapporo, a planned city with sufficient public
space such as parks, wide promenades and sidewalks,
planners are more critical of incentive zoning. In this
city with long and snowy winters, in the central area
POPS are used to complement a newly developed
underground mall with ample amenity spaces. They
are employed to connect the underground level with
the street level and their design and allocation is strictly
controlled by district plans. Furthermore, planners are
keenly aware of the shortcomings of conventional
incentive zoning and use their discretionary powers
and negotiation skills in order to claim better design
In Osaka, again, from the 1930s on city and private
landowners began to produce publicly usable spaces
in close cooperation in the densely built-up Semba
central business district. This created a unique local
planning culture and a collaborative climate between
city authorities and private developers. It established
a path dependency that produces distinctly different
Fig.1 Mostly unplanned urban growth led to extreme densities in large Japanese cities and a quantitative lack of public spaces such as sidewalks, parks, promenades, or squares
Standardised Diversity: Privately Produced Public Space in Japan
Christian Dimmer (The University of Tokyo)
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could lead to an unpredictable densification of
squeezing ever more buildings floors under a fixed
height cap. As the FAR only states building volume, it
encourages slimmer, less deep, higher buildings that
capitalise on better views and capture as much light
as possible for interior office spaces. With buildings
now no longer required to make use of the entire plot,
valuable open space could be freed on site. With a
FAR designation of 5, or alternatively 500%, a building
filling up a plot completely could be 5 stories high, one
that leaves half of the plot vacant 10 stories high and
one that covers only 1/4 of the site 20 stories tall. Open
spaces created through FAR massing wouldn’t need to
be publicly accessible though, and wouldn’t necessarily
contribute to a better urban environment. It was under
the discretion of landowners to fence off these spaces,
pave them and turn them into parking lots. One year
later, a mechanism was added that allowed local
governments to grant a bonus of additional floor area
if certain portions of the block were opened to public
use. For the POPS that predicated the bonus FA, certain
minimum design standards regarding shape, visibility,
elevation, and relation of perimeter to contact surface
to sidewalk were mandated by generic planning
spatial outcomes in the Semba area to this day. Tokyo,
contrary to all these other cities, is marked by the
absence of a clear centre. Whereas many secondary
Japanese cities have developed fairly detailed spatial
visions for key areas, in Tokyo this is only weakly
developed due to the sheer size of the metropolis and
the overlap between different, sometimes competing,
layers of local government and state authorities. Also,
deregulating planning in Tokyo has often been seen
as a means to boost the national economy. Under
these circumstances, long-term vision making and far-
reaching design control couldn’t fully develop.
After contrasting the provision of privately owned
public spaces in these four Japanese cities, Dimmer
discusses the example of SIO Site Shiodome, one of
Tokyo’s largest recent redevelopment schemes, where
a far-reaching public-private partnership and a close
collaboration between the landowners lead to an
unprecedented integration of the private and public
provision of public spaces and a unified management
scheme, which is often cited as Japan’s first business
improvement district.
Ayane Maekawa shows then from a user perspective,
how different kinds of third places in large-scale urban
development projects are used and that POPS tend to
be less conducive to user appropriation than totally
private lounge settings, because of management,
design and maintenance constraints.
It is also a unique feature of public space in Japan
that little deviation in user behaviour takes place, and
that prohibited activities are far more tolerated by the
public space management if no serious conflicts erupt.
There is a marked gap between prohibiting activities
and actually enforcing these rules. Although privately
owned, many lounge spaces allow for a broader
spectrum of public activities, or, put differently, self
policing and a strong "common sense" regarding
appropriate behaviours in public space reduce the
scope of activities and along with it, the potential for
contestations of space.
Finally, Mireille Tchapi examines how one specific
local community in Tokyo is conceiving the gradual
replacement of its vernacular urban fabric of narrow,
micro-scale community spaces by the alien typology of
tower condominiums and empty, unused POPS. With
numerous interviews she shows that many residents
in this densely built-up, disaster-prone neighbourhood
appreciate POPS and the high-rise developments
that predicate them, because they convey an image
of safety, while fine-grain, human-scale, vernacular
spaces are feared as dangerous in times of disaster.
2. Background
It is important to point out that contrary to the
modern West, most Japanese cities developed mostly
in an unplanned, haphazard fashion, with only
incomplete public facilities such as sidewalks, parks, or
promenades. Incentive zoning in Japan was therefore
seen as a viable tool to utilise private capital for
overcoming this severe infrastructure shortage, while
public funding was critically short and planning lacked
authority to enforce more ambitious schemes (Fig.1).
3. Floor Area Ratio and Incentive Zoning
The foundation for the private production of public
space was laid with the gradual shift from a system of
absolute building height restrictions with maximum
of 31 meters outside of residential areas to a more
parametric one, stipulating a maximum permissible
Floor Area Ratio (FAR) during the early-1960s. In
1963 an exceptional Special Urban Block designation
allowed for abolishing absolute height limits in
specifically designated districts and the stipulation of
building volumes instead (Ishida 1988: 60). Stipulating
a maximum density through FAR, would make the city
more plannable, whereas absolute heights restrictions
Fig.2 LeCorbusier's modernist logic of the "Tower in the Park" applied to Japan: Instead of a dense network of vernacular street spaces, planning
regulations came to incentivise the production of large open spaces and slender high-rise buildings
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finally abolished in 1969, after it had been scaled
down 29 times since 1949 (2001: 263-4). Fragmented
landownership, lack of funds for land acquisition, as
well as weak planning powers vis-à-vis rigid private
property rights further frustrated the authorities'
efforts to create new open spaces. Publications of the
time show that much hope and enthusiasm went into
the new FAR system and incentive zoning (See for
example Tateishi 1973; Yanagisawa 1973).
5. Highly Systematised Production POPS
What followed this pioneering period was a
systematisation of incentive zoning and its codification
in an ever-growing number of planning tools for
achieving widely different objectives and used on
diverse scales. Where the creation of superior design
quality of building and public space was once a
condition for receiving bonus FA or waivers from
building envelop regulations, gradually the production
of POPS became abstracted and automated. Whereas
developers initially had to demonstrate that their
public spaces would lead to a significant environmental
improvement, in later years POPS became only a
pretext to cash up additional valuable FA that could be
sold or rented out at premium prices.
As seen from 1964 onward, the specified block allowed
for the production of Japan's first POPS. Based on
a MoC directive, cities with own building authority
(tokutei gyôsei chô) and a population greater than
250,000 were encouraged to offer FA bonuses and
other zoning concessions to builders if they in turn
agreed to provide plazas, arcades, atriums, through-
block connections, elevated plazas, or sunken gardens,
governed by explicit, yet minimal, design standards. To
adapt the system to local conditions, bonuses could be
adjusted to favour the creation of certain spaces over
others. In reality, such adaptations would not differ
much from city to city. Generally, indoor spaces like
atriums, appearing more private, generate less bonus
FA than open air spaces like sidewalk widenings or
plazas (Fig.3).
In 1969 the Intensive Land Utilisation Area (Kôdo Riyô
Chiku) designation followed. This system that is applied
for whole districts incentivises the production of mostly
pedestrian circulation spaces through FA bonuses
in areas where more densification and efficient land
utilisation is desired. It would be mostly applied around
crowded station fronts but also in other areas where FA
bonuses appeared useful as incentive to induce private
development activities. Modelled after the Specified
Block, in 1970 the Comprehensive Design System (CDS,
manuals. Spaces adjacent to the sidewalk level would
earn higher bonuses than lesser usable space below or
above the flow of pedestrians. Furthermore, different
types of POPS would earn developers higher or lower
bonuses (Fig.3).
4. Innovating Technology, Importing Ideas
This fundamental change in urban planning was
facilitated by technological progress, permitting
earthquake-proof high-rise buildings in this disaster-
prone country for the first time, and by the potent
lobbying of the real estate and construction industry.
A young bureaucrat from the Ministry of Construction
(MoC) who studied at the University of Philadelphia
between 1962 and ‘63 under Paul Davidoff, father of
New York’s ground breaking 1961 zoning ordinance,
brought this know-know to Japan. Subsequently, he
helped to craft Japan’s own version of incentive zoning
in order to facilitate the construction of the country’s
first skyscraper, the Kasumigaseki Building (completed
in 1968). Furthermore, at a time when the ideas of
the Metabolists were in high currency, it was broad
consensus among planners that Le Corbusier's “Towers
in the Park” concept was the superior city model (Fig.2).
The abolition of the absolute height limits, and with
it, the implicit rejection of the low-rise vernacular
city, was therefore uncontested. The environmental
degradation after a decade of rampant, unchecked
urban growth with a rapid loss of open space was also
decisive. Ishikawa details for instance the persistent
encroachment on Tokyo's greenbelt, which was
Sôgô Sekkei Seido) was created through a revision of
the Building Standard Act "in order to effectively utilise
private energies for the urgent redevelopment of
inner cities" (Tateishi 1973: 16). As indicated in Figure
4, this is the most frequently used incentive planning
tool for the private production of public space. The
initial three objectives of the system were as follows:
First, creation of publicly usable open spaces. Second,
allowing for freer, more innovative building designs
through deregulation of building form restrictions.
Third, promotion of large scale development by
merging fragmented plots and to contribute to a
more efficient land utilisation. In the following year,
MoC issued nation-wide application standards for
the system, based on the work of an external expert
commission. Local government could now adapt the
system in response to their unique local conditions,
within this rough guiding framework, prescribed by
the national government. Initially the system was
intended as an exceptional incentive and as a means
for local governments to bargain for better building
design. It was explicitly pointed out that this trade-
off was “not meant as an automatism,” which would
automatically entitle a floor area bonus (Yanagisawa
1973:19). A project, making use of the CDS and most
other incentive planning tools is judged in three steps:
First, does the development meet the minimum
stipulations, entitling its use? Is the building plot big
enough in accordance with above objectives? Is the
fronting street broad enough to handle the extra traffic
caused by the building?
Second, how is the use comfort of the provided public
spaces? Is it a large coherent chunk of open space, or
only a narrow, deep strip, north of a building? Is it fully
visible from the public street so that users are aware of
its existence and make use of it, or is the access hidden
by building parts? Is it at ground level and easily
accessible, or is it elevated or depressed, which would
make it difficult to use in daily practice? Is it a truly open
space, or do building parts cover it and obstruct views to
the open sky, creating a sense of claustrophobia? Every
kind of POPS is then weighed with a specific coefficient,
through which the bonus floor area is calculated in step
three. The highest coefficients were originally assigned
to square-type POPS, which are fully open. Less bonus
floor area is generated through the creation of atriums,
arcades and narrow sidewalk widenings (Fig.3). In the
permission standards, local governments would be
able to create additional POPS and weigh them in a
way so that they better responded to local conditions.
However, Kuniyoshi and Senda (2000) point out that
Fig.3 Example for POPS bonus coefficients in Yokohama City: One square
meter of these respective kinds of POPS generates different FAR bonuses
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or simply Tokku) have been designated in central
areas of large Japanese cities, where many planning
regulations are temporarily waived and projects
are freely negotiated between local governments
and developers. All these discussed systems equally
encourage the creation of POPS and other amenities
but differ in scale and planning process.
Specified blocks, areas of intensive land utilisation and
only few cities nationwide using the CDS have really
customised it. Instead, most municipalities have stuck
to the uniform national standards. Only Yokohama
and Sagamihara offered bonuses for the protection
of natural green spaces and, prior to a recent zoning
amendment in Tokyo, Yokohama was the only city
explicitly promoting the creation of POPS along rivers
and the waterfront (ibid). After the establishment of
the system it has been subsequently changed in order
to utilise it for the alleviation of other pressing urban
problems, by incentivising the injection of private
After a first revision in 1983 the CDS no longer only
encouraged the production of POPS but also of inner
city housing and high-quality residential space. The
background was the increasing hollowing out of
residential downtown functions and the rampant
suburbanisation. The next revision in 1986 created
higher floor area bonuses if projects complied
with district plan provisions, or accorded with the
redevelopment principles and comprehensive urban
redevelopment plans.
The next revision in 1990 introduced FA bonuses for
publicly usable underground, or mechanised parking
facilities in order to counter on-street parking. In 1995,
yet more bonuses were added for the promotion
of residential space in central Tokyo, Nagoya and
Osaka that had been depopulated due to a land price
rally during the 1980s, during the so-called bubble
economy. Finally in 1997, an additional bonus was
granted for the redevelopment of very large plots.
This served not only to create giant POPS but also to
reanimate the collapsed real estate market.
A careful analysis of the permission standards for the
CDS shows that different priorities for the creation
of POPS are given in different cities. Yokohama City
grants bonuses for the creation of natural green spaces
and waterfront POPS, whose production has only
recently been explicitly rewarded in Tokyo. In Tokyo,
in turn, artificial decks and pedestrian overpasses are
bonusable as a response to countless station front
developments and infrastructure projects, which are
less of an issue in other Japanese cities. The highest
bonuses are granted in both cities for open air
sidewalk-type POPS (Fig.5). With increasing length, the
magnitude of the bonus also increases in Tokyo, which
is not the case elsewhere. Despite these variations,
most basic quality requirements such as coherency
and form of POPS, minimum frontage with other
public spaces, or height differences in the elevation, are
everywhere the same and nowhere in Japan are more
concrete quality requirements spelled out, comparable
to those of New York City. In essence, the actual design
quality of POPS lies in the discretion of builders and
architects. Strained, understaffed city administrations
are overburdened with the task of monitoring the post-
occupancy design as well as the maintenance quality.
In 1988 the 'Redevelopment-type District Plan
(Saikaihatsu Chikukeikaku, in 2002 renamed into
Saikaihtasu to Sokushin-ku) was introduced. It sought
to mobilise private capital for the redevelopment
of large brownfield sites, vacated through the de-
industrualisation of Japan and a transformation to
a service economy. Because a larger area is tackled,
an integrated public realm can be mandated that
transcends public/private property lines. As a condition
for higher bonuses, developers provide parks and
sidewalks in the area, which are transferred into
municipal property after completion. Additionally
POPS are provided on private plots as parts of a
larger concept. Finally, since 2002, so-called Urban
Renaissance Special Districts (Toshisaisei Tokku,
Fig.4 Overview of planning tools that incentivise the private production of public spaces in Japan, exemplified for Tokyo:
Although these numbers differ between cities in Japan, the ratio between the use of the different tools is similar elsewhere
Fig.5 Many neighbourhood streets in Tokyo are lacking sidewalks: Bonus
floor area is rewarded if private developers choose to provide these kinds
of public space that often remain isolated and don't connect
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on the actual building plot, but separated by a canal
and a wide street. The POPS is close to Nishioji station
and forms a privately owned station front square.
In late 1998, the company invited the surrounding
residents to take part in four citizen workshops in order
to develop a more responsive design. The globally
active company, which is originally based in the area,
emphasised its corporate social responsibility and
provided a free bicycle parking facility in order to solve
the severe illicit parking problems near the station (See
also Kurose in his chapter on bicycle parking problems
in Osaka).
The park-like station front square was named ‘You You
Park’ by the students of the nearby Shoho elementary
school and has become an important event space for
the local community and the school. Wacoal in turn
benefited from this scheme because the company
was able to build a big and cost-efficient headquarter
building on the western plot, without sacrificing land
for a POPS on site (Fig.6). Instead, the POPS could be
allocated to a piece of land that was cut off by a big road
and couldn’t have been utilised for the development
otherwise. Furthermore, the community agreed to take
on maintenance work for the new park, which reduced
costs for Wacoal (Fig.7).
redevelopment-type district plans, or Tokku are used
for larger areas and require a city planning procedure
and design review process with public participation.
These plans create a more integrated public realm;
harmonising privately and publicly owned public
spaces within the urban context.
In contrast, the CDS applies to smaller developments
on single plots. A building permit is to be granted as-
of-right, if plans comply with building regulations. As
a time-consuming urban design review is not required,
the CDS is the most popular planning tool among
Additionally, privately owned public spaces are also
produced by tax incentives if landowners agree to
preserve valuable green space and open it to public
access for a fixed period of time (Fig.9).
6. POPS with Community Participation
In recent years, a few significant model projects have
materialised which demonstrate that it is possible
to design more meaningful privately owned public
spaces in close cooperation with the surrounding local
One example is the headquarters building of the
Wacoal Corporation in the south of Kyoto. This is a
rare case where POPS is not completely allocated
A second innovative example is the housing project
Garden Hills Forest in Shiki, a suburban community
north of Tokyo in Saitama prefecture. On the site
of a former Keio University dormitory a major real-
estate developer planned to build a large housing
estate. Because the new building would be out of
scale in comparison with the otherwise low-rise
neighbourhood and because the large number of
old trees that would have had to be sacrificed for
the development, a citizen movement formed in
opposition to the project.
Between 2002 and 2005, after 10,000 signatures
had been collected against the project, eight design
workshops were hosted that brought together city
officials, advocate planners, the developer, and local
citizens. At the end of the process, 65% of the valuable
greens were preserved. On private property a 1,200m2
POPS was created and another 450m2 of open space
became a public park (Fig.8). For the provision of the
POPS the developer was granted a waiver of fixed
asset tax and the city guaranteed the maintenance of
the space. A park adoption agreement was set up in
which the community committed itself to maintain the
green, located on the POPS and to use it for community
events. The city pledged to provide tools and funds for
capital improvement.
Fig.6 A significant part of the POPS at the Wacoal headquarters building has been designed and managed as community garden, bicycle parking facility,
disaster prevention and evacuation area and civic plaza; elementary school students have chosen the name 'You You Park' for it
Fig.7 Within the frame of corporate social responsibility Wacoal
employees help maintaining the park (above), while students of the
Shoho elementary school use the space for environmental education
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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The University of Tokyo
TCDSR Tokyo Comprehensive Design System Research
Group. 2002. Tokyo Metropolitan Commented
Comprehensive Design System Permit Principles.
Tokyo: Tokyo Society of Architects & Building Engineers.
YANAGISAWA, Atsushi. 1973. "Explanation of the
Permission Standards for Comprehensive Designs." In
Urban Redevelopment and the Comprehensive Design
System, edited by Zenkoku Shigaichi Saikaihatsu
Kyokai, 19-30. Tokyo.
[Figure References]
Fig.2 Mori Building. 1999. Urban New Deal Policy
- Striving to Recover from the Largest Crisis of the
Postwar Era. Tokyo: Mori Building.
Fig.3 YOKOHAMA, Yokohama-Shi Machizukuri Chosei-
Kyoku Kenchiku Takuchi Shido-Senta Kenchiku
Kankyo-Ka Shigaichi Kenchiku-Kakari. 2006. Urban
Environmental Design System Yokohama: Yokohama
Fig.4 Diagram by Christian Dimmer, data from
Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Bureau for Urban
Fig.5 Adapted from Google Maps
Fig.7 Adapted from Google Maps
7. Discussion
As seen above, incentive zoning in Japan started as a
system that would reward exceptional design quality
of buildings and open spaces.
The burden was on the developer to prove that his
plans would contribute to a betterment of grave
environmental conditions in urban Japan. Only then
would he be rewarded with a FA bonus or waivers of
building form regulations.
In subsequent years the menu of bonusable amenities
grew ever bigger, now including disaster prevention
(storage of disaster prevention gear or fire water), social
(community or day care centres), cultural (theatres,
museums) and parking facilities, historical landmark
preservation, access to subway stations and downtown
housing. The underlying philosophy was thus diluted.
Additionally the operation of incentive zoning
became standardised and design-criteria abstracted in
quantitative parameters. In essence an inversion of the
initial ideas occurred. Whereas only design excellence
of POPS entitled to exceptional planning benefits, later
POPS degenerated into a useful tool for generating
more, valuable floor area.
On the other hand, conscious local governments
like Yokohama, Sapporo and others came to use
redevelopment-type district plans in order to provide
more coherent, attractive public space networks
for sensitive area. Also, more and more landowners
recognise the value of attractive public space, and
support the establishment of informal district design
guidelines that coordinate the evolution of integrated
networks of publicly- and privately owned public
ISHIDA, Yorifusa. 1988. "Chronology on Urban Planning
in Tokyo 1868 - 1988." In Tokyo: Urban Growth and
Planning 1868 - 1988, edited by Hiromichi; Ishida
Ishizuka, Yorifusa, 37-68. Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan
University Press.
ISHIKAWA, Mikiko. 2001. Cities and Green Space:
Moving Towards the Creation of a New Environment.
Tokyo: Iwanami Shouten. Original edition, Toshi to
Ryokuchi: Atarashii Toshi Kankyou no Souzou ni
KUNIYOSHI, Sanechika, and Mitsuru SENDA. 2000.
"Image of the Urban Consolidation and Improvement
Emerging from the Regulations for the Comprehensive
Design System established by the Special
Administrative Agency.” Nihon Toshi Keikaku Gakkai
Gakujutsu Kenkyû Ronbun Shû no. 35:925-930.
TATEISHI, Makoto. 1973. "New Land Use Zoning
and the Comprehensive Design System." In Urban
Redevelopment and the Comprehensive Design
System, edited by Zenkoku Shigaichi Saikaihatsu
Kyokai, 15-18. Tokyo.
Fig.8 When plans for a large condominium block surfaced, a vocal
opposition movement evolved; to diffuse the conflict citizen participation
was carried out during the planning phase and for the management
Fig.9 Citizen Green Space 'Sendagi Community Forest': While Bunkyo ward pays for the maintenance costs, the surrounding community engages in the
actual upkeep of this patch of dense urban forest in the middle of Tokyo; between 9:00 and 17:00 the space is open to the general public
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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The International Experience
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The University of Tokyo
Tokyo’s Uncontested Corporate Commons
Christian Dimmer (The University of Tokyo)
2. Introduction
It is not fair to compare New York City’s 3,467 pages
strong zoning ordinance, which contains POPS
provisions only among many other stipulations,
with Tokyo’s 36-pages short Permission Standards
for the CDS; including definitions and terminology.
This somewhat odd comparison, however, gives
an indication how urban planning in general, and
incentive zoning in particular, works. Many planning
instruments are strictly parametric and generic. It is
worth noting in this respect that despite all neoliberal
rhetoric in political debates, Japan has the leanest
public sector among all OECD countries. In most
government offices, job rotation is exercised to keep
employees flexible, constantly learning, and effective.
What sounds good in theory is bad when it comes to
urban planning where large projects easily run over a
1. Background
As described in the preceeding introductory chapter
to Part II, various incentive mechanisms have been
developed in order to encourage the production of
public space on various spatial levels by private actors
in Japan: from a single building lot to the scale of a full
urban district. This chapter discusses the development
of one particular planning system, namely the
Comprehensive Design System (hereafter CDS) and its
application in Tokyo. Interestingly, in contrast to the
earlier example of New York City, discussed in Part I,
where constant monitoring from academics and civil
society organisations in cooperation with the New
York City Planning Department led to refinement of
regulations and tighter planning control, in Tokyo
the actual text of the regulations has changed only
insignificantly since its introduction to Tokyo in 1976.
decade and require special skills and experience. Much
of the permission standards in urban planning and
construction are spelled out generically in manuals.
Every officer can follow such a checklist-like as-of-
right permission procedure for a project using the
CDS, without much expert knowledge. The lack of
discretionary planning control is exacerbated by the
sheer size of Tokyo – Tokyo Metropolis as administrative
unit has a population of 13.2 million and the Tokyo
metropolitan region 35.7 million – and its rapid, (during
most of its modern history) largely unplanned growth.
3. Urban Japan’s Specic Planning Issues
Against this background, one has to understand the
variegated, extensive catalogue of objectives that
incentive zoning and the creation of POPS came to be
burdened with (TCDSR 2002: 8-11):
Fig.1 Every dot represents one POPS: The comparison shows that POPS in Manhattan are much more concentrated than in Tokyo, where they have materialised over a far wider area
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1) Improving the urban environment, where basic
infrastructure such as sidewalks and parks are critically
lacking: just as in New York, securing “light and air”
through the provision of plazas and open spaces;
complementing pedestrian networks in mostly
irregularly shaped urban environments; providing
additional greenery in a time when many parks were
encroached upon and densification led to the gradual
loss of private green; opening access to waterfronts
through through-block connections.
2) Aside from creating open space, promoting the
dispersion of high-quality, earthquake-proof buildings
and a good quality housing stock; encouraging
mergers of fragmented land holdings for more
efficient, intensive, and profitable land utilisation; in
essence promoting the transformation of a low-rise
vernacular city to one resembling Corbusier’s Charter
of Athens and his “Tower in the Park” model; preserving
historical landmarks.
3) Complementing public facilities and infrastructure;
allocating POPS in station front areas to strengthen
pedestrian circulation; creating access to railway
concourses and subway stations on private property;
offering off-street parking; encouraging the
development of cultural, community, welfare, and
educational facilities; alleviating pollution and saving
energy through encouraging joint heating and cooling
facilities, rainwater infiltration, solid waste and waste
water treatment facilities.
4) Strengthening disaster resilience; providing
evacuation spaces; using sidewalk-widenings and
through-block connections to complement evacuation
corridors; providing disaster prevention facilities and
emergency stocks of food and water.
5) Promoting the development of welfare facilities,
barrier-free buildings, and open spaces for the elderly
and handicapped.
6) Promoting downtown living and countering the
atrophy of inner-city communities, thus establishing
once again a proper balance between work and
residential urban functions, and eliminating the need
for time-consuming commuting.
4. Development of the Comprehensive Design
Not only objectives but also rationalisations for
incentive zoning in Tokyo grew complex and manifold.
Its evolution wasn’t straightforward and neat, but
contingent on Tokyo’s development and its urban
problems. Put into effect in August 1976, the CDS
Fig.2 Historical evolution of Tokyo's 694 privately owned public spaces
that were created through the Comprehensive Design System alone
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was changed to 1/6, now allowing the utilisation of
narrower, deeper plots. As a consequence, this meant
that the provision of urban housing was valued
more highly than legible, easily accessible, well-
proportioned POPS, which now shifted farther away
from the pedestrian flows.
In 1988, a second major revision took place. Its
background was the perceived urgent need for
redevelopment in central Tokyo and the necessity to
provide for more numerous and larger downtown
POPS, especially in the densely populated areas of the
so-called wooden apartment belt and on the numerous
brownfield sites which were opening up because of a
tertiarisation of the economy and the relocation of the
production sector to neighbouring countries.
Based on the 1969 Redevelopment Act, a
redevelopment master plan was introduced in 1986.
Most areas of the 23 wards were zoned as category I
which principally requires redevelopment. Within this
area, priority areas were mapped out where a significant
shortage of infrastructure and underutilisation of
went through several major revisions. In 1983, the
Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) felt the need
to react to the dwindling nighttime population in the
city’s central 23 wards. Skyrocketing land prices had
led to a massive displacement of population from the
centre to the suburbs, increasingly putting stress on
commuters and the public transit system. Additionally
to the provision of POPS, a floor area bonus was added
if developers agreed to build inner city housing and
indeed, since then around 80,000 flats have been
created through this and other housing bonuses. In
order to make the bonus applicable to more cases in
typically strongly fragmented residential areas, the
minimum POPS size necessary for the generation
of bonus FA was reduced from 500m² to 300m².
The minimum required width of the fronting road
was reduced from 9 to 8 meters to promote further
diffusion. Furthermore, while originally 1/4 of the
total perimeter of the plot had to border upon roads
in order to safeguard a shallow, legible public space,
closely connected to street and sidewalk, this ratio
land required urgent redevelopment within the next
five years. According to Hohn (2000: 203) in 1996 as
much as 16.3% of Tokyo’s central 23 ward area was
zoned as category II area, totalling 297 redevelopment
promotion zones. Two new types of CDS were created
in order to induce private investment in these zones
as well as in the category I areas inside Ring Road 7.
Through large-scale POPS of more than 2,000m² the
permissible standard FAR could be further increased
by 50%, or at most by an FAR of 2. By conforming to
the provisions of the redevelopment master plan the
permissible standard FAR could also be increased by
50%, or a maximum bonus of FAR 2.5.
Based on a report of the Tokyo metropolitan housing
policy conference, which dealt with the hollowing-out
of residential functions in the downtown area, the so-
called doughnut phenomenon, the third metropolitan
long-term plan and the metropolitan housing master
plan were issued which sought to address this problem.
The CDS was identified as an appropriate tool to
actively tackle this and therefore, an urban mixed-use-
housing-type was newly created and the older urban-
housing-type was revised in order to further induce
the provision of rental residential space in central city
locations through conditional bonus FAR.
As a consequence of a growing accumulation of office
functions in the central area, another bonus was
introduced for creating mixed-use developments,
containing housing and non-office related business
and retail functions. Since a revision in 1991, this bonus
that would add up to 75% of the standard FAR but
at most to an extra FAR of 3, could be utilised within
the Ring Road 6 and Arakawa River as well as within
designated downtown housing restoration zones.
Since 1996, further FAR bonuses are being granted for
developments with over 75% housing and housing
support facilities. This could double the zoning standard
FAR as bonus, with a maximum extra FAR of 4, if plots
are larger than 1,000m² and developments located
within Ring Road 6. Along with these new standards,
the bonuses for several POPS types were also amended.
While one square meter of sidewalk/ sidewalk
widening-type POPS earned for example 1.3m² bonus
FA, this was changed to 2.0m² if the sidewalk was
longer than 100 meters and the development located
within the 530 hectare designated “central city and
sub-centre zone.” Within the wider central area, marked
by Ring Road 6, the bonus would be 1.8m² and in all
other areas of Tokyo 1.7m². Shorter sidewalks would
generate lesser bonuses. Also, additional underground
parking in public housing developments, contributing
Fig.3 Distribution of POPS in Tokyo central 23 wards: The darker the shade of the underlying map, the higher the disaster risk of the area, and the lower
the ratio of public park area per capita, sidewalks and other open spaces
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to an improvement of the cityscape and off-street
parking were bonusable now. In exclusive housing
zones, where no buildings higher than 10 to 12 meters
was allowed, 20 meter high developments became
possible if the CDS was used.
With the central Tokyo nighttime population rising
again, on the one hand, and further proliferation of
monocultural, exclusive office areas, a new bonus was
introduced in 1998 that would reward the provision
of housing support and commercial functions. For
development in the central core and the sub-centres
75% of the standard FAR could be added as bonus
with a maximum cap of FAR 3. Within Ring Road 6 the
minimum plot size was set at 5,000m² and for plot-sizes
over 30,000m² the bonuses, generated through large
POPS, could be doubled.
Although it appears as if the different kinds of
incentives granted for the provision of public housing
and larger POPS are somewhat context sensitive, it
has to be noted that the area encircled by Ring Road
7 is still 37,400 hectares - 4.3 times larger than the
borough of Manhattan. The area within Ring Road 6
still measures 18,200 hectares – twice the size of all
of Manhattan. Within these zones almost any kind of
urban context can be found, from two-story wooden
apartment areas (See Mireille Tchapi’s chapter in
this volume) with minimum public infrastructure to
state of the art, world-class business centres. Large-
scale developments, stimulated through all these
bonuses, can thus materialise in contexts where they
are significantly bulkier than their vicinity, if minimal
stipulations are met. This can cause severe conflicts and
massive breaks in the urban fabric.
By 1998, the metropolitan government could no longer
ignore the so-called heat island effect. Where there
were zero to five tropical nights with temperatures
over 25 degrees a century ago, now there were 30 to
40 such nights and therefore bonus FA was granted
for the provision of “cooling” roof greening. One year
later, bonuses were given to encourage the renewal
of aging public housing estates through private
capital. Higher bonuses were now also awarded for
Fig.5 Since 2007 developers of large-scale projects "have to consider" the surrounding network of public spaces; as much as this is a step in the right direction, the map is too macroscopic in scale to achieve more meaningful results
Fig.4 Since 2007 a small collection of best and worst practice examples
is offered to developers of projects who will create POPS; compared to
New York City where comparable guidelines have been offered since the
mid-1970s, Tokyo's collection is only 13-pages thin and hard to find on
website of the metropolitan planning department
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the results are remarkable. As of 2011, the CDS alone
produced privately owned public spaces at 697 offices,
residential, and community buildings, totalling 1.9
million m²; amounting to an area equal in size to
11.6 times Hibiya Park, or 55% of New York’s Central
Park. The total open space area created through the
provision of POPS is three times larger in Tokyo than
in New York. A closer look reveals, however, that over
half of Tokyo’s POPS concentrate in the three central
wards Minato (24%), Chiyoda (14%) and Chuo (13.5%)
and that more than 75% are located outside residential
areas. Revisiting the initially-discussed rationale of
incentive zoning –provision of much-needed public
spaces and infrastructure, improvement of the
residential environment– it becomes clear that these
downtown areas were already best supplied with
sidewalks and parks, and also per-capita park space
supply is relatively higher because of low residential
densities. This clustering also does not come as a
surprise because it follows the market logic inherent
in incentive zoning. For developers, it is of course
most profitable to capture valuable FA bonuses in
central areas, where land prices have been among
POPS developments materialising within more strictly
regulated areas, covered by district plans. After several
minor revisions, in 2010, the first “quality stipulations”
were mandated for the design of POPS; namely
encouraging the connection to adjacent parks and
waterfront areas, planting a diversity of trees of greater
height and size as well as greenery spots. Since 2007,
a citywide “green map” exists that, while macroscopic
in scale (1:10,000), shows important urban green that
developers have to take into consideration for their
projects (Fig.5). Also since 2007, a guideline exists for
the greenery provision in POPS. On 13 short pages it
shows for the rst time examples of good and bad
design features (Fig.4). In contrast, government reports
in New York City already discussed in great detail which
design features would contribute to more user-friendly
POPS 35 years ago (NYCPC 1975; 1976).
5. Geography of Tokyo’s POPS
After discussing the history and the logic behind
Tokyo’s incentive zoning and the CDS in particular,
let’s examine its effects. What kind of spaces have
been produced and where? By quantitative measures,
the highest in the world. Conversely, few POPS were
created in the disaster-prone areas where many old
wooden apartment buildings cluster, and where open
space ratios remain extremely low despite all planning
efforts. Therefore, it seems fair to conclude that many of
the objectives haven’t been achieved. Most POPS were
created where infrastructure had been most complete
and where the fewest people live, while very few POPS
materialised in the most disaster-prone, dense, mostly
residential areas(Fig.3).
6. What About Design Quality and Liveability?
Interestingly, quality standards for POPS do exist.
To avoid strangely shaped spaces with unrelated
pieces, shape rules mandate that the majority of POPS
should be visible from adjacent sidewalks, parks,
or from within. Rules also regulate the relationship
between frontage, circumference and depth, in
order to safeguard that plazas are comfortable.
Elevation changes below and above grade, as well as
interior spaces are discouraged by lower FA bonuses.
Recently, standards for universal design and greenery
have also been added. What is clear, however, is that
these standards are geared towards experts and the
underlying philosophy is implicit but never spelled
out in official documents. Government reports like
New York City’s ‘New Life for Plazas’ (NYCPC 1975),
or ‘Plazas for People’ (NYCPC 1976) that address the
usability of POPS in detail have rarely been published
in Japan. Interestingly, planners in Japan did always
have intimate knowledge of new developments in New
York but different mindsets and the absence of public
contestations and critical discourses didn’t lead to
more far-reaching changes to the system. Maybe, mere
empty expanses were considered a sufficient amenity
in a country as vulnerable to disaster as Japan.
Be it as it may, any change to the planning system so
far came as a response to new concrete planning issues
in Tokyo and was rarely driven by a desire to create
high-quality environments. The example of Yokohama,
discussed in this volume, is an exception here. While
the creation of POPS was initially central in the design
philosophy, the menu of bonusable amenities grew
ever wider while the buildings that the CDS produced
grew ever taller.
7. Competition and Changing Awareness
This having been said, the casual visitor cannot help but
to notice that the newest Tokyo POPS are of outstanding
design quality. Spaces in Shiodome (see Shiodome
chapter in this volume), Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown
Fig.6 One of the city's most spectacular recent developments is Tokyo Midtown, where a big park-like POPS (front, right) forms an integrated open space
together with the municipally owned and managed Hinokicho Park; this unified design was mandated by a redevelopment-type district plan that was
legislated before the previously public land was auctioned off to the private development consortium
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
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The University of Tokyo
[Figure References]
Fig.1,2,3 Jan Lindenberg, IIDJ & Christian Dimmer
Fig.4 Adapted from Tokyo Metropolitan Guideline for
the provision of Greenery in POPS, 2007
Fig.5 Courtesy of Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Fig. 6 Adapted from Mitsui Real Estate PR brochure
(Fig.6) and Marunouchi (Fig.7+8) play an important role
for area branding. As Tokyo decentralised over the last
three decades and as ever more high quality business
areas developed, so increased the competition on
the real estate market (See Dimmer 2012). After the
beginning of Japan’s lingering economic crisis in the
early 1990s, tenants have become more price sensitive
and expect higher quality amenity spaces. Attractive
public spaces have become recognised as important
tools for successful urban regeneration since the late
1990s and developers have noticed that with "great
public spaces" more money can be made and the area
image improved. In order to strengthen the area image
within a more competitive environment, quality urban
environments have now become common sense and
area management schemes have been established in
many places. SIO SITE Shiodome and Marunouchi are
prominent examples, which not only provide a unified
public space management, but landowners have also
agreed that their future developments will contribute
to the formation of an integrated public realm,
transcending property distinctions.
8. Conclusion
Most changes in the design of Tokyo’s POPS didn’t
come from contestations of civil society, as described in
the chapters on New York, Hong Hong, or Taipei in this
volume, or from a new quality-of-life approach of the
government. In contrary, POPS have come to be seen as
generators of bonus floor area, or a panacea to remedy
multifarious urban problems. The majority of design
and management innovations were introduced by the
private side and are attributable to the fact that, to
put it simply, better public spaces make more money.
Tokyo’s corporate commons remain uncontested and
largely undiscovered by the citizens, who are rarely
aware of their rights to them. The goal of this volume
is to contribute to a growing awareness and a greater
public use.
DIMMER, Christian. 2012. ‘Re-imagining Public Space:
The Vicissitudes of Japan’s Privately Owned Public
Spaces’. In Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and Social
Perspectives, ed. Christoph Brumann and Evelyn
Schulz, 74–105. Routledge
HOHN, Uta. 2000. Stadtplanung in Japan. Geschichte
- Recht - Praxis - Theorie. Dortmunder Vertrieb für Bau-
und Planungsliteratur, Dortmund.
NYCPC, New York City Planning Commission. 1975.
New life for plazas. New York.
NYCPC, New York City Planning Commission. 1976.
Plazas for people : streetscape & residential plazas.
New York.
TCDSR Tokyo Comprehensive Design System Research
Group. 2002. Tokyo Metropolitan Commented
Comprehensive Design System Permission Principles.
Tokyo: Tokyo Society of Architects & Building Engineers.
Fig.8 Marunouchi Park Building marks the apex of recent POPS design in Tokyo: framed by a replica of the historical Mitsubishi No.1 building that
contains a museums, on one side, and, restaurants on the other, this space offers ample green, public art, as well as movable chairs and tables
Fig.7 Similar to North American BID schemes, area management associations are curating events that take place across property boundaries: On the
roadway of Naka avenue in Marunouchi and on the adjacent public sidewalks temporary events are frequently carried out
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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2. Changing the Rules of the Game
Asukata, who would serve as mayor for 15 years,
assembled a multi-disciplinary team of young
professionals from within and outside of the public
administration, whom he entrusted with the
development of a comprehensive renewal strategy. As
head of the restructured urban planning administration
he won Tamura Akira over, who had previously worked
in the private sector. In 1965, the team around Tamura
presented an integrated, long-term revitalisation
programme that centred on the famous 6 Big Projects.
Symbolically most significant was the initial restoration
of the historical Kannai area and its integration with the
new city centre around Yokohama station, from which
it had been cut-off by a Mitsubishi shipyard (Fig.2.)
Together with the other projects, 2) land reclamation
for relocating factories from residential areas to a new
landfill; 3) Kohoku New Town as a new sub-centre
to curb uncontrolled sprawl; 4) a subway system as
public transit backbone; 5) a highway system to drain
traffic from the city centre; and 6) a bay bridge as a
link to Tokyo (Yokohama 1965: 48–67), these 6 Big
Projects formed a comprehensive urban regeneration
strategy that would inform the development of the
1. Background
With a population of 3.5 million, Yokohama is Japan’s
second largest city. After the opening of the country in
the 19th Century, it became Tokyo’s port and Japan’s
gateway to the West. The city has therefore always
taken pride in its distinctly local culture. This identity
was threatened by the rapid urban growth that set
in during the 1960s, and the massive concentration
of heavy industries between the cities Yokohama
and Kawasaki. Furthermore, the allied occupation
of Yokohama’s historic Kannai centre delayed war
reconstruction until the late 1950s, depriving the city
of its traditional centre and funnelling the main thrust
of urban growth to the fringes. In only two decades, the
population doubled from 1.5 million in 1963 to three
million in 1983, and the sprawling suburbanisation led
to the morphological absorption of Yokohama into the
greater Tokyo metropolitan region. Political pressure
increased with this relegation to a bed town of Tokyo as
well as worsening environmental conditions. In 1963,
the progressive Asukata Ichio was elected as mayor on
the promise to promote sustainable urban growth and
grass-roots democracy.
city to this day. Already the title of the plan was a
strong statement against the established top-down
governance principles of the time, as it called for
“the citizen to design future Yokohama”. Despite its
importance, the document was pleasant to look at and
easy to understand for every citizen (Fig.1).
For a seamless realisation of the showcase projects and
to facilitate lateral coordination, Asukata and Tamura
reorganised Japan’s typical vertically segmented
municipal administration. With unprecedented
political support by the mayor, Tamura established a
planning and coordination office in 1968 that aligned
the agendas of all related departments and promoted
internal teamwork.
Two years later, Japan’s first municipal urban design
bureau was set up to ensure that all major projects
would comply with the stated objective of “pursuing
publicness” in all new urban design projects and create
“places where people can come in contact with each
other and communicate” (Nishiwaki et al. 1992: 25).
The backbone of this public space strategy was
the vision of a densely woven pedestrian network,
linking the city’s major parks, historical and cultural
assets, shopping streets, as well as the waterfront.
The Yokohama Formula
Collaborative Planning Culture and Comprehensive Public Space Vision
Christian Dimmer (The University of Tokyo)
Fig.1 Mayor Asukata's 1965 blueprint for “a new Yokohama” also formally marked a fresh beginning: clean visuals and easy explanations
invited ordinary citizens into the planning process, and, by that, broadened the public sphere
Fig.2 The symbolically most significant first project sought to connect
the new central city around Yokohama station with the old Kannai core; a
comprehensive public spaces network would connect important areas
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4. An Additional Planning Layer
Another singularity of Yokohama is an additional,
informal planning layer, into which incentive zoning
is embedded. Within so-called Machizukuri (or
Community Development) Council Districts (MCD),
detailed urban design visions were initially developed
in public deliberations between the urban design
bureau, local residents, and the business community
(Fig.4). Informal district guidelines were then legislated
to facilitate the incremental realisation, and in sensitive
areas, these were further backed by the stricter district
This extra-legal administrative guidance addressed
both adjacent buildings and public open space, as
it stipulated wall setbacks on private land, vitalising
Furthermore, by actively involving the citizens and the
business community in its planning and management,
not only would physical public space be created, but
the formation of a vital public sphere would also be
encouraged. Incrementally, this network would be
complemented through a few strategically placed
public projects like promenades, greenways, squares,
and cultural facilities as well as through carefully
guided private developments.
3. Yokohama’s Independent Incentive Zoning
In order to implement this vision and to provide for a
development in-line with the urban design principles,
the city produced its own variant of incentive zoning.
The name ‘Urban Environmental Design System’
(UEDS) stresses this unique character but it was only
one component of Tamura’s strategy to combine all
available tools into a far-reaching, comprehensive,
unique local planning regime that became known as
the ‘Yokohama formula’.
As the rapid population influx of the 1960s caused
unchecked, haphazard development, municipal
planning could no longer keep up with providing basic
infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, and parks.
At the same time, the first disputes over access to
sunlight had erupted as a consequence of the abolition
of the system of absolute height limitations in 1970,
now permitting the construction of buildings higher
than 31 meters almost everywhere.
Worse, the tense budgetary situation did not allow
countering these conditions through internal
financing, and mayor Asukata’s objective to curb the
influence of the central government allowed him
only minimal utilisation of national subsidies. The city
therefore embraced the new incentive planning tools,
which were rolled out concurrently with other planning
innovations such as the senbiki growth control system,
new land use zoning, and height control areas, from
the late 1960s on.
The coordinated utilisation of these planning tools
combined with guided private development would help
to secure scarce public funds and shield the city from
the influence of the conservative national government.
The UEDS would also add to the city’s open space stock,
provide greenery and, through exceptional waivers
from building form restrictions, reward building design
excellence. Without building height caps, however,
the system allowed for unpredictably high buildings,
depending on how much land developers assembled
–thus inevitably compromising other public goods.
Unparalleled, Tamura’s team designated citywide
height control areas and re-established in effect height
caps that the national government had just abolished.
These were combined with the lowest permissible FAR
designations under the Building Standard Act.
Exemptions thereof were only granted if in turn POPS
or other bonusable public amenities were created, or
historical landmarks preserved.
Height caps and low FAR values meant also that more
buildings than elsewhere became subject of a design
review process, in which urban designers could exert
To preserve the city’s character as a port town,
additional incentives were offered for the provision
of POPS facing river promenades or the sea, or natural
green space preservation in the hilly woodlands.
Fig.3 Section of privately created open spaces along the Yamashita Park promenade, with the white dotted line showing the property boundary; the
open spaces created on the private building plots are part of an integrated public realm that spans across property lines; for a unified appearance the
city provided the paving materials to the private landowners
Fig.4 Machizukuri Council District (MCD) in the vicinity of Yamashita Park and Nihon Ôdori; informal administrative guidance by the city commenced
here in the early 1970s in order to convince landowners to provide much needed pedestrian circulation space near this park of citywide importance
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building functions and storefronts along the sidewalk,
allocation of parking lots off important pedestrian
areas, massing of buildings in order to maintain a sense
of human scale in public space and reduce shadow fall,
promotion of greenery as visual amenity, and control
of advertisement signboards around ‘dignified’ civic
In general, these MCD rules seek to complement
scarce public space around important parks, symbolic
buildings, and important road intersections.
The vicinity of Yamashita Park is an early example,
where multiple landowners contributed significant
parts of their property for the widening of the adjacent
park promenade (Fig.3+4). Significantly for incentive
zoning, within MCD an additional design review takes
Before projects enter into the building permit process,
proposals must comply with district rules and respect
the local character. Unlike Tokyo, this system enhances
the probability that POPS do not materialise out of
context, but contribute to the city’s long-term public
space vision.
5. POPS in Yokohama
With the exception of the Senba district in Osaka, and
Sapporo’s station front underground mall concept,
discussed in other chapters of this volume, there has
been no bolder municipal attempt to embed the private
production of public space into a comprehensive
planning framework.
Available instruments such as lowest possible FAR
designations, citywide height control areas, MCDs
backed by district plans, specified block, and UEDS
were used to restrict incentive zoning.
The Asukata administration politically prioritised good
urban form, developed a precise spatial vision around
an integrated public space system and readjusted the
planning administration to assist its realisation.
More importantly, the citizens were actively invited
into the planning processes from early on. Compared
to other Japanese cities, the results of the last 40 years
are encouraging. Some 524 POPS were produced
citywide at office, residential, and community facility
buildings untill 2011, equalling 47% of the total area
of New York’s Central Park. In the vicinity of Yokohama
station alone, the UEDS created a cluster of 48 spaces
that complement the public space system, while it
helped to preserve historical assets in the Kannai area
and widen main intersections and the park promenade
around Yamashita Park (Fig.3+4).
Fig.5 Dots with item numbers mark 133 POPS that have been surveyed in central Yokohama; dark lines are designated urban promenades, dark patches
are major public parks, and hatched, grey areas mark MCDs; most POPS are located in city areas with an additional layer of design control
Fig.6 Detailed study of an MCD north-west of Yokohama Station, where 29 POPS materialised in close proximity and contribute to a widening of the oth-
erwise narrow public sidewalks; beyond facilitating circulation, these spaces contribute little to invite more meaningful public activities
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
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[Figure References]
Fig.1+2 Yokohama City. (1965). ‘Yokohama’s City
Planning – Yokohama’s Future Made by Its Citizens,
Yokohama-Shi Somu Kyoku
COORDINATION BUREAU. (1981). Development Process
of Port City Yokohama, Yokohama, p.101-2
Fig.4 Adapted from MCD guideline (accessed 9/2007)
Mesh Statistics, Yokohama City, Yokohama.
However, even within this sophisticated framework,
certain problems remain. An own survey of 133
downtown spaces in 2004 (Fig.5) found that many
POPS were unsatisfactorily maintained, or did not
invite public activities due to small size, adverse layout,
hidden location, missing amenities or encroachment by
shops and parking (Dimmer 2008: 301). Only one fifth
offered a pleasant stay and encouraged more diverse
social activities. Four fifths were pure circulation spaces
like substitute sidewalks, sidewalk widenings, through-
block connections or arcades (Fig.7+8). Since their size
correlates with that of the overall development, the
biggest spaces are located in large suburban housing
estates, where residential densities are relatively low
and natural green spaces and big parks are found.
Downtown POPS in turn tend to be much smaller
(Fig.9). Consequently, the best design quality, network
integration, and maintenance were found in districts
where local business and landowners were keenly
interested in high-quality environments, or showcase
spaces of citywide importance like Nihon-Odori and
Yamashita Park (Fig.3+4). In Minato Mirai 21, large
projects produced some of Yokohama’s biggest and
most spectacular POPS (Fig.8). Here, the landowners
– among them Mitsubishi Real Estate as owner of
the former shipyard – developed a detailed design
guideline in cooperation with the authorities and
concluded a development agreement.
6. Afterthought
The quality of POPS aside, incentive zoning is a
planning tool that only works when there is a demand
for a bonus of additional floor area on the real estate
market. However, Japanese cities outside of Tokyo
are confronted with eroding land prices and bearish
markets. In these cities, the trade-off of additional
floor area as exchange for the creation of public space
no longer works, if it ever has. Here, there is a need to
think of new, creative strategies if governments want
to continue pursuing the provision of privately owned
public spaces.
Parts of this essay appeared in: Dimmer, Christian.
2012. ‘Re-imagining Public Space: The Vicissitudes of
Japan’s Privately Owned Public Spaces’. In Urban Spaces
in Japan: Cultural and Social Perspectives, ed. Christoph
Brumann and Evelyn Schulz, 74–105. Routledge
DIMMER, C. (2008). ‘Renegotiating Public Space:
A Historical Critique of Modern Public Space in
Metropolitan Japan.’ Department of Urban Engineering,
The University of Tokyo.
NISHIWAKI, T., Kitazawa, T. and Kuniyoshi, N. (1992).
‘Possibilities in Urban Design – 20 Years of Urban
Design in Yokohama and Prospects for the Future. SD
Space Design, 22 (Extra Issue), 25–32.
YOKOHAMA CITY. (1965). ‘Yokohama’s City Planning –
Yokohama’s Future Made by Its Citizens, Yokohama-Shi
Somu Kyoku
Fig.9 Distribution of public parks (left columns) and POPS (right columns) across Yokohama cit y wards in relation to population density: most POPS are
located in the densely populated downtown but their median size is very small compared to those, produced in large suburban housing estates, where
the supply with public parks is already sufficient
Fig.7 Many downtown POPS are small and good for little more but pe-
destrian circulation
Fig.8 In the Minato Mirai 21 redevelopment area many large and spec-
tacular POPS can be found: This indoor through-block connection passes
through the corporate showroom of the Nissan headquarters building
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the new Building Standards Act and all POPS were still
maintained and expanded in the area. A second layer
of POPS in the area was later added through the CDS
and other contemporary incentive zoning systems
such as the District Plan or the Urban Regeneration
Special District. In most cases, new POPS and old ones
are treated in an integrated fashion and it is difficult to
notice the different boundaries (Fig.1+2).
3. Detailed Design Guidelines for POPS in Semba
Very few cities in Japan seek to harmonise new large-
scale developments within the specific urban context.
Osaka is different. Based on the above-discussed
historical precedent, most streets in Semba have
their own detailed design guidelines for new projects
1. Background
After the construction of Osaka Castle in the 16th
century, the city became the political and economic
capital of Japan for a short while. Although the
government functions were taken over by Edo
(today’s Tokyo) at the beginning of the 17th Century,
Osaka remained the central market place for rice
and kept its position in the Japanese economy. After
Tokyo and Yokohama, it is the third largest city of the
country, with a night time population of 2.67 million.
The much higher daytime population of 3.69 million
shows its importance as the business center of West
Japan. Considering the high density and land values
in central Osaka, it is not surprising that developers
secured an additional floor area bonus, beyond what
is allowed by the zoning, for 908 office and residential
buildings as of December 2011. A condition for
receiving this extra floor area is the provision of POPS.
Although Tokyo is the far larger city, Osaka has more
POPS that have been created by utilisation of the laxer
Comprehensive Design System (CDS). According to the
data of Osaka City, more than 600 cases are designated
for condominium towers across the city and more than
200 cases for office highrises, mostly in the central area.
2. Historic POPS in the Semba Area
Osaka’s history as mercantile capital and the presence
of a close-knit business community becomes clear in
Semba, one of the oldest business districts in the city.
Unlike anywhere else in Japan, POPS have been
systematically created in Semba since the 1930s. As
the Semba area has been urbanised for centuries and
was already densified to its limits, landowners suffered
from the limitation of building height under the former
Building Standard Act. Under the act, in commercial
land use zones the building height was limited to up to
1.5 times of the width of the fronting street and to an
absolute maximum of 31m.
In Semba at that time, most streets were 8m or 6m wide
and therefore the building height limit was 12m or 9m.
In 1939, landowners and the Osaka city government
agreed to set buildings 2m back from the property
line. The space between the property line and the
building line became one of the first privately owned
public spaces in Japan, officially stated under the law.
While landowners were now allowed to assume a
wider street for the computation of their maximum
building height, and enjoyed additional floor area, the
city could introduce wider streets in this dense area
without buying any plots from private owners. This
so-called ‘Semba Building Line’ has been kept under
utilising the CDS. For each street, it shows detailed
design principles for both sidewalk-type and plaza-
type POPS, such as preferable width, connection to
subway exits and landscape details, such as the kind
and size of street trees.
Additionally, unofficial administrative guidance is
carried out by the building control department in
order to improve the connectivity between POPS and
other adjacent public spaces. Building owners, for
example, often erect walls between their POPS and the
neighbouring plot in order to hide the unsightly side
face of the next building. These walls are inevitable as
long as there is a building right next to a POPS. However,
once another open space develops here, usually these,
now useless, separation walls tend to remain and
obstruct the pedestrian circulation between POPS.
City officials in Osaka are very aware of this problem
and have begun negotiating with property owners.
In some cases, they have succeeded in removing the
wall, while in other cases long boundary walls have
to remain because of structural reasons. Recently, the
city government has begun asking developers to build
two separated boundary walls; one for permanent
structures and another for temporary structures along
sidewalk-type POPS, which can be removed when
future POPS emerge on adjacent sites.
Creation of POPS and Cooperative Planning Culture in Osaka
Takefumi Kurose (The University of Tokyo)
Fig.1 The Semba Building Line designates different wall setbacks from
the property line and mandates the creation of street corner squares
Fig.2 Two types of POPS in the Semba area (Semba Center Building)
Fig.3 Continous sidewalk-type POPS doubles the width of the public
sidewalk along Mido-Suji, Osaka’s most important business street
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building setback from the property line was agreed
on in each block. To ensure liveliness, plans also
required the allocation of shops, exhibition spaces,
and hotel lobbies on the ground floor along the
central boulevard. In this way, an integrated network
of privately and publicly owned public spaces has
been created in Nishi-Umeda in cooperation with the
4. POPS at Tower Condominium Projects
Osaka, like many big Japanese cities, has an additional
FAR incentive program for residential developments
in order to promote the repopulation of once
hollowed-out downtowns. The difference between
ordinary incentives and residential development extra
incentives is shown in figure 4. Compared to non-
residential developments (1), residential developments
(2, 3 and 4) receive higher FAR bonus for the same
amount of POPS created.
Like in Tokyo, the population in central districts of
Osaka has decreased rapidly from the 1960s to the
1980s. New planning policies, aiming to increase
the nighttime population in the central areas, were
introduced by the national government in the early
1990s and most of the large cities revised their local
ordinances and regulations in order to comply. The
additional incentive program was created at that time
and has been enhanced under the ‘Urban Renaissance’
policy of the early 2000s.
In numbers, the policy may have been successful as the
population of Chuo ward in central Osaka increased
by 42.4% between 2000 and 2010; from 55,324 to
78,790. However, the POPS created at the foot of new
high-rise condominiums, developed under this new
incentive, tend to be very small compared to others,
created at office developments. Also, these spaces are
not really used by citizens other than those living in the
respective building in many cases, because of stricter
security policies by each housing operator and designs
that discourage use or make it difficult to find these
5. Interconnecting POPS with District Plans
Osaka Station is the city’s central transit node, located
in the Umeda district. As the station is connected to
various subway and communter lines, more than 2.5
million people are using the hub every day. Comparable
to central stations in other big Japanese cities, the
surroundings of Osaka station are the most dense
urban areas in the Kansai region and several POPS play
an important role in supporting huge pedestrian traffic
flows in the area.
The Nishi-Umeda area, west of the station, is one
example for an extensive pedestrian network that has
been created by a combination of land readjustment
and the strategical allocation of POPS based on a
comprehensive redevelopment-type district plan. In
the past, the area was a container yard of the Umeda
freight station. The development plan was prepared
after the container yard was abandoned and the nearby
Hanshin commuter line that ran through the site
was put underground. Between 1984 and 1992, land
readjustment was carried out and a redevelopment
master plan drawn up in cooperation between city
government, landowners and other stakeholders.
As a public contribution from landowners, whose
land values increased tremendously through the
redevelopment project, one park, four streets, one
bus stop, five sidewalks along a central east-west
boulevard, and two plazas have been negotiated
into the district plan. One plaza complements an
underground pedestrian concourse, and the other
one widens the boulevard. These public spaces that
were paid for by the private sector were transferred
into public property after the completion of the
development. They are thus similar to conventional
POPS as they were previously owned and planned for
public use by private landowners.
In order to further widen the public realm, and to
handle the additional pedestrian traffic, a minimum
Fig.4 Comparison of different FAR incentives based on ratio of POPS area
to size of total building plot
Fig.5 Square-type POPS at a high-rise condominium in Chuo ward
Fig.6 Signboad showing the extensive underground pedestrian network
into which the Nishi Umeda development had to be integrated
Fig.7 Nishi-Umeda redevelopment district plan mandates an integrated
network of privately- as well as publicly-owned public spaces
Fig.8 POPS-like public spaces and POPS in Nishi-Umeda district
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7. New Challenge: Planning POPS with the
A through-block-type POPS (Fig.10+11) was created in
front of a shinto shrine in Sonezaki, Kita-ward, in order
to open up a vista from the main street. In general,
there are special regulations on how to deal with POPS
adjacent to religious facilities which are not designated
important cultural properties.
However, as shrines and their approaches are still today
important elements in the life of the surrounding
community and often key urban structures, in most
cases, POPS designers and landowners respect
religious facilities.
In some cases, a shrine even utilises its unusable
development rights and sells them to a adjacent
high-rise development, like Hikawa Shrine in Tameike-
Sanno, Tokyo.
6. Public Space and the Bicycle Problem
According to city officials, major conflicts involving
POPS are complaints about noise by people gathering
there at night, garbage, dog waste, and illicit bicycle
Bicycle parking is an especially serious issue in the
narrow, densely populated public spaces near railway
and subway stations in most Japanese cities.
Fig.9 shows how the public sidewalk is choked with
illegally parked bicycles. As the adjacent POPS is
available to the right, people assume that the sidewalk
can be completely (ab)used for parking their bikes.
Usually POPS are more strictly managed by private
property owners than public sidewalks.
In Osaka, however, the city government requests
private owners to create temporary bicycle parking for
all members of the public within POPS in order to solve
this problem. The city also rents POPS from landowners
to build public bicycle parking, or permits landowners
to create bike parking therein. As POPS were originally
evaluated as green spaces, sidewalks, or plazas, such
a temporary occupation for a public purpose can be
tolerated on an exceptional basis. This policy might
be an important step for a post-occupancy adaptation
of POPS after their completion. In some other cities,
projects located near central stations that were
permitted under Urban Renaissance Special District
designation, public bicycle parking is evaluated as one
of the public contributions during the planning stage.
8. POPS and Historical Landmarks
Teki-Juku is an important historic landmark in Osaka. It
was opened as a private school in 1838 by Koan Ogata,
a physician and scholar of Dutch studies, and became
the origin of Osaka University. It is located in the centre
of the Kitahama business district, Chuo-ward.
The site has been designated as national historic site
and the building became recognised as an important
cultural heritage site in 1964. Still, the surrounding
plots were owned by private owners and it was
sandwiched between office buildings at both sides.
Osaka City and Osaka University have tried to create
open spaces around Teki-Juku since then and one
adjacent plot was turned into a public park in 1981.
The land on the other side became a POPS of the
Nissay Imabashi Building project in 1986, using the
Comprehensive Design System (Fig.12+13). The new
building that was built together with this POPS is
14-storeys high and designed with simple warm color
tiles. Considering that the project was completed in
1986, at the beginning of the Japanese asset price
bubble, it is clear that the project must have been
challenging for the city and the developer.
Fig.10+11 In order to preserve the important visual access to the Tsuyu no Ten Shrine in Kita ward the developer designed a throughblock-type POPS
Fig.12 Aearial photo of Nissay Imabashi Building and Teki-juku
Fig.9 Illegal bicycle parking on sidewalks and privately owned public spaces is one of the gravest public space management problems in
metropolian Japan
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actors in Osaka. Since the 1930s, the Semba Building
line has created important sidewalk spaces in one
of the city’s densest areas, and since then a unique
planning culture has evolved.
Although the city is troubled with some common
issues such as uninspired design, lack of maintenance,
and illegal bicycle parking, some private stakeholders
have tried new, innovative ideas to enhance the value
of their POPS for the surrounding community.
Also, the city government is keenly aware of
management and design problems and has made
great efforts to react to these challenges by constantly
adapting their local ordinances and regulations for
The institutional framework for the provision of POPS
in Osaka has developed into a distinct form and differs
in many ways from regulations in other cities, or the
guiding principles of the national government.
[Figure References]
Fig.1+3 adapted from Website of Osaka city
Fig.2 Based on the administrative guideline for
Comprehensive Design System by Osaka city
Fig.7+8 Based on Nishi-Umeda Redevelopment District
Plan and existing situation
Fig.12 Based on aerial photo by Google maps and the
signboard of Nissay Imabashi Building
9. POPS and Urban Agriculture
Another innovative example of POPS management
is its partial use for urban agriculture at the Shin-
Umeda City development, north of Osaka Station. The
41,800m2 project site features a giant designated POPS
of 26,400m2 (Fig.14). It includes various types of open
spaces in the site, like plazas, green spaces, sidewalks
and an urban farm.
Although the project was based on the city’s official
incentive zoning regulations, the amount of POPS
exceeds the necessary amount of open space required
for the claimed FAR bonus by far. The agricultural
area was created based on the concept of traditional
Japanese satoyama landscapes: nature and human
culture in harmony (Fig.15).
Children from nearby elementary schools and
kindergartens enjoy rice paddies and vegetable
farming here. In this satoyama area, a small forest
and water flows were also created, and characteristic
fauna and flora such as fireflies and medaka fish were
introduced into the biotope.
10. Matured Treatment of POPS in Osaka
As shown in this article, there has been a long tradition
of creating publicly usable spaces together with private
Fig.13 The park-like POPS next to the historical Teki-Juku landmark offers a wide spectrum of amenities to its visitors in this busy part of central Osaka
Fig.14 More than half of the building plot of Shin-Umeda City is occupied
by privately owned public spaces that offer a rich program to visitors
Fig.15 A large chunk of Shin-Umeda City's privately owned public space is occupied by an urban farm that was inspired by Japanese satoyama
landscapes and is cultivated by students of nearby elementary schools and kindergardens
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
POPS in Sapporo: A City with a Vision and a Masterplan
Takefumi Kurose (The University of Tokyo)
2. Construction of a New Public Underground
Sapporo has two city centres; one is the traditional
commercial centre Odori with its famous parkway,
where three municipal subway lines cross. The city hall
and headquarters of major banks in Hokkaido are all
located here.
The other centre developed around Sapporo Station,
with numerous large office buildings and hotels. Here
several JR lines and one subway station intersect. In
2003, a part of the central station was redeveloped into
a gigantic complex of department store, hotel, cinema
and office facilities. With several other redevelopments
taking place in the area, Sapporo station evolved as the
city’s new central business district.
After long discussions between city, citizens, the
business community, and all adjacent landowners,
the city decided to connect the two centres around
Sapporo station and the Odori area through a public
underground concourse. Extensive underground
station and shopping networks had already
been developed in both areas, yet they remained
disconnected from each another. During the long and
snowy winters people were thus still required to walk
over slippery sidewalks in order to reach the other
centre. By establishing a new underground link, the
city is seeking now to connect the two nodal areas and
combine them into one strong, unitary, easily walkable
city centre (Fig.4). The city prepared two district plans
shown in figure 1 and 2 to promote redevelopment and
better connectivity to the walkway.
For example, the Odori Central Interchange District
Plan for the crossing point of Sapporo Ekimae Avenue
and Odori Parkway set several requirements with an
FA incentive of 2.5 (the maximum FAR permitted by
zoning is 8.0).
At that time, several buildings were under
consideration of redevelopment and this district plan
clearly influenced these projects. Its requirements were
very detailed, such as mandating the building use of
the ground floor and the underground level, or a direct
connection to the underground walkway with more
than 2/3 of the property line (abutting the concourse),
being opened up for entrances to the walkway.
Hokuyo Odori centre at the northeastern corner of the
crossing, completed in 2012, is one of these projects.
Shops, a three-storey atrium, and an underground
plaza-type POPS are widely connected with the
walkway and many citizens enjoy sitting here on
movable chairs and tables (Fig.3).
1. Background
Sapporo is a regional centre in Japan’s northernmost
main island, Hokkaido. The city has a population of
over 1.9 million that has nearly doubled between 1970
and 2010 and is host to the regional government of
Hokkaido. As the city was planned from scratch in the
early-modern Meiji Era, it developed for the most part
in an orderly grid structure like Kyoto or Nagoya.
Different from most other major cities in Japan, there is
thus sufficient public infrastructure such as roads, parks
and other public spaces in the central area.
Another peculiarity is that the city is located in the
subarctic climate zone, just as Chicago or Toronto. The
city therefore spends over 190 million US$ per year for
snow clearance of roads and other public spaces and
also the operators of POPS are required to keep them
accessible in winter. This duty is even stipulated in the
local technical standards for the CDS.
3. Small-scale Through-Block Connections for a
Large-Meshed Grid City
POPS have been proactively used in Sapporo, and not
only for major urban structures like Odori Park Avenue
or the underground walkway to Sapporo Station.
Several through-block connections have been created
by interconnecting and combining POPS on abutting
plots. The urban grid of Sapporo is larger than in other
Japanese cities and therefore pedestrians have to walk
long detours where through connections are absent.
Through two adjacent blocks near Sapporo Station,
the POPS of the Asty45 and the Nissay Kitamon-guchi
Building were connected to form a shortcut from the
station to the Hokkaido Government Hall (Fig.5).
4. POPS in Suburban Housing Developments
Sapporo experienced rapid urban growth between
the 1960s and the 1990s and expanded massively into
the suburban area. Some large housing developments
have provided POPS in order to receive additional FA
or relaxed height limitation. Most problematic in these
housing developments is accessibility and openness of
courtyard-type POPS. In most cases, huge green spaces
are surrounded by these buildings and even with a
POPS sign it is difficult for non-residents to access
these. Entrances to these courtyards are often small
and appear like entrances to private gardens. This is
not an issue unique to Sapporo, but common to large
residential developments, permitted under the CDS, in
other cities and in downtown as well as in suburban
settings (Fig.6).
Another example is Hiraoka central district, permitted
in 1993. The project site is located in Kiyota ward, 10km
southeast of the city centre and about 2 km from the
nearest subway station. The area was planned based
on a district plan for intensive land use utilisation in
residential areas. More than 10-storey high apartments
with POPS and parks emerged in this suburban, almost
exclusively residential area with low-rise detached
houses. The open spaces that have been created are
hardly used by anybody but the residents. The project
is partly undeveloped, leaving large vacant lots open.
The district plan envisions a public open space network
after completion that is welcoming to people from
outside of the neighbourhood. However, the POPS
within the housing blocks have the same accessibility
issues although it is well planned and maintained.
The quality of POPS and their usability will improve
through design review in the planning stage. The
fundamental question, however, remains. Are these
POPS and FAR incentives necessary and effective, and
Fig.1 Sapporo Ekimaedori North Block district plan seeks to facilitate
the integration of the new city centre that is eveloving around Sapporo
Station with the old core around Odori Park
Fig.2 Odori Central Interchange district plan
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
6. Strong Public Projects and Coordinated POPS
Compared to other major cities in Japan, officials in
Sapporo seem to have a more concrete spatial vision
especially for the city centre. Several district plans with
detailed stipulations that are conditional for granting
FA bonuses indicate their skills and good relations to
the private sectors. The city also utilises huge public
projects to realise this vision, such as the underground
walkway or the Sosei River revitalisation.
Although these public projects and guided private
developments proved effective in the city centre,
new solutions need to be found for the shrinking and
ageing urban periphery. To respond to these issues,
POPS regulations and the planning system need to
Every single new project will need to prove that it
contributes to the strengthening of urban functions
and the realisation of the vision.
[Figure Reference]
Fig.1+2 Website of Sapporo City: http://www.
who profits from them? Looking at the planned but
unfinished urban infrastructure in the suburbs in a time
of demographic change, traditional POPS like plazas or
amenity green spaces might not really be useful. What
is needed here are community centres, kiosks, nursery
facilities, and community gardens.
5. New Initiative at the Edge of the City Centre
Like other large cities in Japan, Sapporo experienced
a construction boom of condominium towers at the
fringe of the city centre during the 2000s; especially
between Sousei and Toyohira river. This was originally
an industrial area, thought to be outside of the city
Sapporo Factory, an historical beer factory made of
bricks and converted into a shopping and cinema
complex in 1993, was the first redevelopment project
in the area. The development introduced a new type
of shopping complex to Sapporo and attracted many
people on weekends. However, as the location is
far from Sapporo Station as well as Odori Park, it is
difficult to attract customers here during the week. No
other shopping facilities followed. Instead, high- and
middle-rise apartment complexes were built here. The
population increased by more than 200% from 2000
to 2012. Land use conversion itself from industrial
to residential was in line with the City’s compact city
concept. Also, the integration of the Odori Centre and
the eastern fringe along with the revitalisation of Sosei
River followed this policy. Even car lanes were buried to
make the river park more accessible.
However, as it was an industrial area, basic
infrastructures for residential uses such as sidewalks,
parks and green, retail or community facilities, and
clinics were lacking. Because height restrictions were
lacking, several super-high-rises grew almost as tall as
the landmark, Sapporo TV Tower.
As a response, the city government designated a
district plan. It promoted POPS along sidewalks as
well as designated land uses such as retail, medical or
welfare facilities on street level (Fig.7). The city also set
a basic design guideline for all projects here, including
minimum setbacks from the property line of 0.5m, or
maximum height limitations of 45m.
Not all projects have created POPS based on the plan
though. Those that came before 2006 lack public
amenities that the latter are mandated to provide
Fig.3 Underground plaza at the Northeastern corner of Odori crossing,
created through a district plan; atrium and escalator connect under- and
above ground POPS
Fig.5 Through-block-type POPS at Nissay Kitamon-guchi Building
Fig.6 S-Town Project near Shin-Kotoni Station is a typical block-type
residential development, created through the CDS
Fig.7 Mid-rise apartment with sidewalk-type and plaza-type POPS and a
clinic along the street; completed after 2006 and based on a district plan
Fig.8 One of the highest residential towers in Sapporo provides limited
setbacks and the blank wall of the machine room faces the sidewalk;
construction of the development started before 2006
Fig.4 Wide shop frontage along underground walkway and smooth
transition between public space, POPS and private shop space, created
under Special Urban Renaissance District
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
Beyond the quality of the public realm, the SIO Site
Shiodome is significant for the following reasons. First,
an integrated, cooperative, partnership-type planning
process evolved, setting a striking example for a new,
more inclusive planning culture in Japan. Second,
a far-reaching town management and branding
strategy was devised in which a coordinated design
and management of the public and private realms
are central. Third, one of Japan’s first BID schemes was
developed in order to manage the ‘soft’ aspects of
urban space such as policing, cleaning, upkeep, event
management and area promotion. Fourth, similarly to
the role Kanna ascribes to his Starchictects (2011: 77-
104) in the making of “Dubai, the City as a Corporation,”
Shiodome’s area management made intensive use of
the brand value of star architects. By commissioning
Lord Richard Rogers, Kevin Roche & John Dinkloo, Jean
Nouvel, and the Jon Jerde Partnership, building owners
sought to capitalise on the image value of these
famous names. Their contributions were literally little
more than superficial. While Japanese architectural
firms were responsible for all the actual realisation
plans, only the façade designs and the overall concepts
were contributed by starchitects.
3. Planning Process
The location of SIO Site Shiodome looks back on a long
and turbulent history. Here in Shimbashi, Japan's first
railway station was built in the early Meiji period to
connect Tokyo with its harbour Yokohama. For nearly
half a century it assumed the role of the capital's
central passenger terminal, which it lost with the
opening of Tokyo Station in 1914. The earthquake of
1. Background
POPS are often cited as a key witness for the current
rampant privatisation of public space in contemporary
cities. Semantically, the term privatisation suggests a
process in which public assets are reduced and handed
over to private actors, thus somehow diminishing the
public realm. This is, however, rarely the case with
reference to incentive zoning: a planning tool that
creates new publicly usable spaces on private land
that was not necessarily accessible before. Clearly, no
existing public space is taken away here or privatised,
but instead a new specific kind of admittedly privately
controlled yet publicly usable space is added to the
city’s public realm. In Tokyo alone far more than 800
POPS were newly added to the city’s public realm; an
area equal in size to 55% of New York’s Central Park.
2. Public Private Partnership at SIO Site Shiodome
The 31-hectare central Tokyo redevelopment project
SIO Site Shiodome is a good example in this respect.
It represents a redevelopment of a previously
inaccessible brownfield site. Beyond that it is also
an example for an advanced, cooperative planning
process that evolved during the redevelopment of a
former railway freight yard. In the western section 80
individual landowners jointly redeveloped an existing
mixed-use neighbourhood into a human-scale, Italy-
themed quarter (G+F block in Fig.1). In the adjacent
tower block section, to the east, some of Japan's
biggest corporations have erected their representative
headquarters as part of a unified development
concept. Importantly, privately- and publicly-owned
public spaces are part of an integrated overall design.
1923 destroyed the old station building and gradually
the vicinity turned into a freight distribution centre
for the nearby Tsukiji fish market. However, because
of the motorisation of the 1960s and 70s, the role of
the railway in freight distribution declined increasingly.
Consequently, railway operations were suspended
here in 1987 after the Japan National Railway Company
(JNR) was privatised and the land was auctioned off
in order to pay off the company’s debt. In 1991, the
creation of a new cosmopolitan multi-functional
business city along the following objectives was
proposed. First, the creation of a new, state-of-the-art
international business centre for the world city Tokyo.
Second, the provision of downtown housing in order
to recover residential population in central Tokyo.
Third, integration of various transport modes and the
provision of attractive urban amenities (Nishikawa
2003: 49).
4. Designing a Unied Public Realm
It was further proposed to divide the overall site into
four zones with varying graded functions: Closest to
Shimbashi station the zones A, B, C would form the
so-called Ginza-Shimbashi block, where international
business functions would be allocated. The zones D
(north) and E would take up cultural facilities and
hotels (Fig.1).
Block D (south) and H would be used for residential
developments and the Hamamatsucho Block I, at
the southern perimeter, would include business,
commerce and residential functions in proximity to
the Hamamatsucho Station. The POPS of the Blocks
A, B and C (Block A 1,500m2; B 1,800m2; C 1,400m2)
Branding the Corporate Image City: Public Space in Shiodome, Tokyo
Christian Dimmer (The University of Tokyo)
Fig.1 The area development council, made-up of all landowners, public authorities and the urban design coordinator, drew up a comprehensive scheme in which POPS are complementing an integrated public space network
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
While TMG has been trying to transfer responsibilities
and costs to the private actors and lower its existing
maintenance standards, landowners in Shiodome
have been trying to raise the standards in order
to adequately maintain their sophisticated public
spaces. From an international perspective, however,
TMG's minimum design and maintenance standards
for public facilities are still significantly higher than
in most comparable large cities worldwide, especially
New York. Here standards are often lower and therefore
business communities are urged to react and to take
the initiative for area management into their own
hands. In Japan, the situation is different. Following
its traditional line of redistributive welfare politics,the
public side still takes up the lion's share in the public
realm and, until now, there has been little need for local
business communities to engage more actively in such
management affairs of public amenities.
KANNA, Ahmed. (2011). Dubai, The City As Corporation.
University of Minnesota Press.
NISHIKAWA, Y. (2003) Redevelopment of Shiodome.
Japan Railway & Transportation Review, 35, 48-55.
[Figure References]
SHIGAICHISEIBI-BU. (2002). Shiodome Land
Readjustment Project, 3-4.
Fig.2 Adapted from Google Maps
(Fig.1: circle right) cluster around the central public
underground pedestrian concourse, where they form a
large subterranean open space of 5,200m2; mediating
between pedestrian spaces above and below ground
spaces. The respective landowners decided the detailed
design of these spaces, whereas the master plan only
applied to the public realm. Between Block D-south
and H (Fig.1: ellipse left) a public park was allocated on
a narrow strip of land, which was too unfavourable to
allow building there, and which was squeezed between
an elevated expressway and the main railway artery.
The POPS of the residential developments, adjacent
to the north and the south would double the size of a
then joint public-private open space (Fig.2).
Complementing much needed urban infrastructure of
city-wide importance lend further impetus and urgency
to the project. The elevated Yurikamome monorail
was to serve a planned World City Expo in Tokyo Bay
that was later cancelled. Later, Ring Road 2 was also
complemented by running through the northern part
of the district. This massive concentration of transport
infrastructure above ground (monorail), on and below
ground made it necessary to design a complex system
of public underpasses as well as decks and bridges,
which would connect the different junctions.
5. Public Space to Showcase World City Tokyo
The objective for the Shiodome development to create
a state of the art international business centre in the
heart of the world city Tokyo, necessitated also high-
quality public infrastructure such as parks, promenades
and plazas. This included for example the creation of
Japan's widest underground pedestrian mall, which
would help to smoothly feed over 60,000 employees
every day from Shimbashi station into the new shiny
office towers of the corporate headquarters. For this
purpose, a close integration of publicly managed
underground mall and adjacent sunken-garden-type
POPS was taken care of.
Tokyo’s new Ring Road 2 would cut through the area,
and serve the new districts as an arterial road. To
handle all the required traffic functions, a complex five
storied transport infrastructure core had to be above
and below ground: the Yurikamome line, connecting
to the waterfront sub-centre Odaiba, would run on
elevated tracks on top of a ground level road. Under the
road would be a 40-meter wide underground walkway,
below which an underground road would connect
the parking facilities throughout the district. Finally,
three storeys below ground level the Oedo subway
line would run. Consequently a labyrinth of elevated
pedestrian decks, underground malls and people
movers would be necessary to facilitate a smooth
pedestrian circulation. Parks would be developed both
in the east and the west that would be expanded in size
through the allocation of bordering privately owned
public spaces (Fig.2); and the 3 northernmost office
blocks would be connected below ground through a
giant sunken-garden- type POPS of 5,200m2.
6. Managing Publicly- and Privately-Owned Public
In order to provide a high quality, unified management
for the public realm, the landowners established an area
management organisation. Normally, the design and
management differs in adjacent publicly- or privately-
owned public spaces. No design coordination usually
takes place to harmonise spaces and contribute to the
creation of an integrated public realm, transcending
property lines. At SIO Site, on the other hand, design
and management of POPS were harmonised with
one and another in terms of allocation, connectivity,
and materials. Nearby, publicly owned public spaces
like sidewalks, decks, underground concourses and
parks were jointly planned and later managed in a
unified fashion. For the first time in Japan, the public
sector and the local landowners shared the costs for
the production and maintenance of the public realm
as a whole. While in the POPS on the private building
plots, the property owners bear the costs, and in the
public realm the public side covers the maintenance
costs up to certain stipulated minimum standards
and covers the construction cost almost completely.
Public services, which exceed the minimum standards
of Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), are then
borne by the property owners. This solution is in
essence comparable to the business improvement
district (BID) schemes in the USA and in fact SIO
Site Shiodome is often cited as Japan’s first BID. In
Shiodome there are for example 40 different kinds of
trees which need to be adequately maintained. TMG
expressed to the landowners that two kinds of trees
are enough and rejected covering any costs beyond
that standard. The underground passage is 40 metres
wide instead of the 10 metres for comparable standard
underground concourses. For this reason TMG only
provides maintenance costs for 10-metre width while
the landowners finance the upkeep of the remaining
30 metres width. TMG maintains that five times
cleaning per week is sufficient, whereas the corporate
landowners insisted on daily cleaning; also on the
weekends. Fig.2 Adjacent POPS complement a park and form a unified public realm
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
4. Types of Staying Spaces
In Minato ward, a total of 189 of these staying spaces
existed in 2010. They are located within 31 big
redevelopment projects of over 1 hectare size. Three
types of staying space in such mixed-use developments
can be distinguished:
(1) Extended restaurants are open-air cafes that have
been created by the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance
for Creating an Elegant Cityscape’ (2003, Tôkyô no
Shareta Machinamizukuri Suishin Jôrei).
(2) Event spaces that have been provided based on the
same above regulation. Category 1 and 2 spaces
are run by a management organisation that is
set up by landowners and shopkeeper of the
(3) Others spaces are fully privately provided and
managed, without any legal obligation. They differ
from POPS in that they are conditioned by zoning.
5. Urban Living Space
Among these three types of staying spaces, category 3
has the greatest potential to be inhabited as own space,
because people feel more free here than in the more
strictly regulated other two types. Furthermore, there
are indoor, semi-outdoor & outdoor spaces, of which
fully indoor spaces have the highest performance as
staying spaces. I have labelled these interior spaces as
urban living space (ULS). In the following part two of
these urban living spaces will be discussed exemplarily.
6. User Activities in Urban Living Spaces
The pictures in figure 1 show two urban living spaces,
where user behaviour has been examined in depth:
Building S and Building M. An urban living space
in Building S is located on the 2nd floor, next to an
entrance for office workers working on the upper
floors of this building. Another urban living space in
Building M is located on the ground level floor, next
to an outdoor POPS. Like in the other case, this space
is close to an entrance for office workers working on
upper floors of this building. In Building S, many office
workers use the ULS on weekdays, and on weekends
there are fewer workers, but it is still used by some.
Most of the users are in their 30s, and most of them
are alone, both on weekdays and weekends. In both
ULS the most frequent activities are eating, chatting,
business meetings, shop staff breaks, working and/
or studying, reading books, using mobile phones,
sleeping, and some people are just sitting without
doing other activities. The most frequent activities
in each space during weekdays and weekends are
1. Background
In the centres of large Japanese cities, especially in
Tokyo, many urbanites spend the daylight hours away
from their homes.
Is it possible for city dwellers to feel that they belong to
some sort of community in a public space, while being
away from home?
To explore this question my master’s thesis focused on
daily user activities in some selected spaces in Tokyo.
My hypothesis was that in the city centre, urbanites
not only need public spaces for festivity and events,
but also for inhabiting them as their own spaces; for
making them their temporary home.
In this respect, it is interesting to see that many city
dwellers in Tokyo find their own spaces not in public
spaces such as parks, but in privately owned spaces
such as lounge settings.
The objectives of this research was to examine staying
spaces that are located in privately owned settings
in Tokyo, comparable to Oldenburg’s third spaces; to
understand the actual use of these spaces; and based
on this, give an account of how these spaces can be
temporally used by city dwellers as their own.
To make this point clear, the study did not look at POPS
that are officially created through incentive zoning but
at settings that are fully privately controlled but that
nevertheless allow for public interaction.
2. Current State of POPS & Private Spaces
As most articles in this magazine suggest, POPS are not
necessarily intended as comfortable spaces for people
to stay. On the contrary, many activities that conflict
with the commercial nature of the development are
In Tokyo, some private interior spaces are opened to
the public by the private sector, without being legally
obliged to do so. Opened private interior spaces
have become a popular tool for area management
and image branding. Prominent examples are the
Marunouchi Cafe in Marunouchi, or the Shibaura
House near Tamachi Station.
3. Research Object
From among the different kinds of third-space-type
settings in Tokyo, I focused on such spaces that were
both equipped with movable chairs and tables that
anybody could freely use as staying spaces. The case
studies are located within massive urban development
projects with offices and mixed urban functions in
Minato ward, Tokyo.
Usability of Privately Owned Publicly Usable Interior Spaces
Ayane Maekawa (The University of Tokyo)
Fig.1 Urban Living Spaces are offered as an amenity by many developers;
in appearance they are similar to indoor POPS, but are fully privately
controlled without any stipulations to safeguard their publicness
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
The instability and ephemerality of urban living spaces
is noteworthy. Activities in ULS show some degree of
diversity of usage, and each individual can get their
small temporary own space in the city. On the other
hand, the management can easily clear out undesirable
users. Thus, there is an asymmetrical relationship
between users and controllers.
Urban living spaces can legally tolerate some city-
dwellers, but others can and will be excluded from
here, because the spaces are under private control.
Finally, the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance for Creating
an Elegant Cityscape is aiming to turn POPS into
venues for festivities and events. Although it is good
to create an attractive city, this ‘festivalisation’ of public
space should not overlook that high-quality urban
living spaces that individuals can freely inhabit and
appropriate are also needed.
discard and to jointly maintain, causing additional
management costs.
8. Usability in Urban Living Spaces
As a conclusion, urban living spaces are mostly seen as
“amenities for workers in the building”, without direct
benefits for the building management. Often, they are
located in places open to the general public. Although
the management provides for only a few things to
happen here, users are allowed to use them freely, but
within fixed rules.
It became also clear that many managers find it difficult
to make use of POPS as meaningful staying spaces.
Private spaces are much easier to manage and are
not limited by red tape. The management can change
the setting and the site rules easily, according to their
working and/or studying, reading, using mobile
phones, sleeping, and just sitting. These activities
could be called “personal activities”. It becomes clear
that such ULS allow a variety of activities.
Although these activities themselves are not so original
and interesting, there are always some users around
and they spend their time for personal activities in ULS.
7. Management of Urban Living Spaces
In the following section, I will highlight some
management issues of staying spaces. In addition to
Building S and Building M, Building I is included which
is part of the same project as Building M (Fig.2). This
is based on interviews with the building management.
In Building S, the purpose of setting up staying spaces
is to increase the total number of sitting for the
delicatessen section on the first floor. The targeted
users are office workers of the same building. ULS are
seen therefore as an amenity for the workers of this
building. Rather than yielding direct benefits for the
building management, their availability improves the
overall attractiveness for tenants, workers and clients.
When asked about problems with undesirables,
lingering around and causing a nuisance to others, the
management replied that the security personnel urges
such persons to leave, citing the announcements on
the tables.
In Building M, staying spaces were provided for similar
reasons. This ULS was created because of a dead area
next to the emergency exit, which couldn’t be used for
stores. In order to utilise this otherwise commercially
unusable space, tables and chairs were set up here.
Like in Building S, undesirables are shown out with
reference to the stated site rules. The management
suggested, however, that between 19:00 and 23:00 it
is difficult to judge only by their appearance whether
a user is a homeless person or not. In general, the
management wants to maintain the staying place as
long as users don’t cause problems. Often the word
“hospitality“ is cited. It is difficult, however, to put
chairs and tables outdoors, because in this case the
rules of formal POPS would apply and time-consuming
permission processes would be necessary.
Building I has also similar purpose of for provision.
No problems were reported to this day, although the
management had been putting chairs and tables
out since 2010. Here too, it is difficult for them to put
furniture on formal POPS, because these are jointly-
owned by all the landowners within a project and it is
difficult to reach a unanimous agreement.
Once put in POPS, chairs and tables are difficult to
Fig.3 Location of case study Urban Living Spaces in relation to large outdoor POPS
Fig.2 Overview of major activities in Urban Living Spaces in the buildings S and M during weekdays (WD) as well
as on Saturdays (WE1) and Sundays (WE2)
Sustainable Urban Regeneration
Vol. 25_2013_01
Privately Owned Public Spaces
The International Experience
Center for Sustainable Urban Regeneration
The University of Tokyo
Resident’s Perception of POPS and Vernacular Outdoors in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Mireille Tchapi (The University of Tokyo)
more global outdoors features eliminates distinct
urban singularities of old neighbourhoods and a
the particular way, these had formed social life; thus,
affecting irretrievably the identity and spatial memory
of these local communities.
This paper looks at one particular old, dense
neighbourhood called Wakaba and contrasts the
perception of residents, between the production of
local-style outdoors along small lanes and alleys on
private land (vernacular POPS) with the typology of
homogenised (global-style POPS) that have newly
penetrated the fine-grained neighbourhood. This is
a first attempt to better understand the residents’
perception, their attitudes and expectations;
expanding from the private plot to the public realm of
the street, and their opinion on the conflict between
the different outdoor typologies. It does not claim to
be representative, but tries to shed light on the often-
underplayed grassroots perspective on the spatial
transformation that comes along with the proliferation
of global-style POPS.
2. The Wakaba District
The Wakaba district developed during the pre-modern
Edo era into three spatial units, filled with numerous
shrines, temples, and their cemeteries. The district
became thus associated with death and evolved as one
of the three slums of the city. The hollow of the deep
valley created a spatial constraint to any development,
and as a result small houses on introverted plots
developed in extreme densities along small lanes,
perpendicular to the main street (Fig.1).
This urban frame has undergone many deep social,
functional and spatial transformations since WWII,
and is now marked by an aging population and small
manufacturing activities. Over time, the district identity
has changed. A new, larger supermarket caused the
gradual death of small local retailers. Condominium
towers, their POPS, and asphalted, private parking lots
have replaced some of the most vibrant urban spaces
between small houses and along lively lanes.This has
changed the atmosphere of the area and the patterns
of social interaction. A variety of different types and
uses of the outdoors can be found here: car and bike
parking, greenery, representative entrance spaces for
condominiums, outdoor storage, a sunbathing spot,a
garbage disposal area, dead spaces with no apparent
use, and urban wastelands awaiting development. In
these vernacular open spaces each owner’s personality
and a tacit agreement with the respective neighbours
are manifested through chosen materials (pavements,
1. Background