FIXES

Non-Intentional Design: Investigating alterations of space/objects at the public/private boundary in suburban Tokyo, Japan. A resource by a-small-lab.com. Contact: Chris Berthelsen chris@a-small-lab.com

Video: Improvised Public Seating

Lack of public seating in Tokyo necessitates improvisation for a morning smoke, drink and relax after the tiring commute. Perhaps this deficiency in urban furniture is actually a blessing, allowing for more flexible and frequent seating opportunities. Less predefinition can equal greater malleability.

Materials: Metal Railing
Location: Shibuya, Tokyo

Hand Made Shopping Street Map

Hand made map showing shops and attractions in the center of Nagoya’s shopping district, Sakae.

Various fonts, paper, and hand written annotations, along with fading, wear and tear evoke the temporality of commerce.

I wonder what rules and regulations hold for the those allowed to add to the sign. What are the penalties for unauthorised editing?

Hand Made Shopping Street Map
Hand Made Shopping Street Map
Hand Made Shopping Street Map
Hand Made Shopping Street Map
Hand Made Shopping Street Map
Hand Made Shopping Street Map

Materials: Paper, Marker, Laminator
Location: Nagoya, Sakae

Blue Tyre Bumpers

Cut-off tyres guard against parking mishaps.

Blue Tyre Bumpers
Blue Tyre Bumpers
Blue Tyre Bumpers
Blue Tyre Bumpers

Materials: Tyres
Location: Nagoya

In Training

Training by the train tracks. Frugal use of street furniture.

(click image for animated .gif)

In Training

Location: Akishima, Tokyo

Coin Parking BMX Training Update

As noted in Deadspace Parking as BMX Training Course these income-generating asphalt plots become obstacle courses for budding and/or PRO suburban Tokyo BMXers from 12:30am onwards. Tonight as I return in the Dark Hourz I find the same man in a different coin parking space. I wonder whether he moves around to avoid detection or whether these spaces offer a valuable diversity of terrain that I have not before detected….. I need to look at those wheel clamps, judder bars and smooth asphalts more carefully.

Deadspace Parking as BMX Training Course

We often decry Tokyo parking lot deadspace as an unimaginative and underused default money-making use for vacant lots but this stance exposes our own prejudices against concrete and blinds us to the diverse possibilities that the rugged terrain may offer.

Here, a half-empty suburban Tokyo pay-parking lot is the scene of a solo BMX training session in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

It is easier to record the remnants and artifacts of human(e) use of the city than it is to record use-in-action, but this example encourages me to spend more dark hours wandering the streets.

I wonder how these deadspaces by design are used when prying eyes are asleep: Deadspace by Design ONE & TWO on Tokyo Green Space.







The site in daylight:








Keeping Onions Tasty

Simple hanger made of Tokyo DIY essentials plastic twine and s-hooks (Tokyo’s superglue) keeps onions tasty in early autumn.


Materials: Plastic Twine, Hooks
Location: Akishima-shi, Tokyo

Robust Homeless Village made of Refrigerators

This village constructed by homeless people took over a large part of Nagoya’s central Shirakawa Koen. As you can see, the defensive wall around the outside of the village was constructed from an array of broken down refrigerators and tree stumps. A very robust set-up that was unfortunately no match for the ‘city beautifiers’ who attempted to destroy what was left of Nagoya’s soul in the run up to the 2005 Aichi Expo.



Materials: Refrigerators, Tree stumps
Location: Shirakawa Park, Nagoya

Poo Security

My wife is the poo expert in our house. She is the self-declared ウンチ・ファインダー(Poo Finder). This does not mean that she appreciates it in any way shape or form… imagine her horror to find errant and especially smelly poo in our apartment carpark – a rare and shocking occurence in a city where plastic poo bags are king, and apartment dwellers wipe their pooches bums after every ablution. toilet stop…. It is also very inconvenient as it takes up two bicycle parking spaces in our cramped residential grounds.

This rock construction (made specifically out of white stones for good night visibility) is her attempt at poss-safety (as it was beyond her powers to get close enough to dispose of the offending material).

Look closely at the last photo – I think that these are the offenders. As I was taking these photos they turned the corner, possibily to give us a second bombing… not sure what they have against us, probably our screaming children and wayward terrorist-looking man-about-the-house.

Thanks to Ayu Berthelsen for this great insight into housewife FIXing techniques.




Materials: Rocks
Location: Akishima-shi, Tokyo

Early October is Ginan Season

Early autumn foraging. Making the city your pantry.

It’s hard to miss the ginan (ginkgo nut) season – stinky parks and boulevards, grimy eldery citizens on their hands and knees across the city. Listening (for once) to my pleading wife I had always refrained from foraging and limited myself to picking up clean nuts from local vege shops and friendly neighbours. Today, emboldened by an off-the-cuff lesson by a local retired tantric meditator and astral spectrum rider (also an expert at losing his pension packet at the races) I picked up a few on the way home from a morning tea at Showa Kinen Koen.

It’s as simple as the yogi assured me. Pick them up, wash them off at home, fry them up while still in their shells, nibble with salt and shochu.

I’m pleased to belatedly add the ginan to my foraging schedule, alongside favourites Mulberry and Tokyo Poppy Seed.





(Originally posted on Tokyo-DIY-Gardening)

(This post is part of our ongoing Tokyo Local Fruit project)

PET Bottle Planters

Going through a dusty 2003 hard drive I find this fantastic example of PET bottle-on-bottle planters at a gardening exhibition in Nagoya.

The top image features PVA glue planters. The middle image shows how to create flat floral wreath from 2L PET bottles and sturdy wire. The last image features upright 2L planters, with the fine touch of a bottle-in-bottle construction to store the watering can for the planter-sculpture. I think the cut-away bottle hanging from the bottom is a scoop for soil and fertilizer.



(Originally posted on Tokyo-DIY-Gardening)

Memorial Asagao

Quick notes from memory-infused morning glories

Mr. Kushimoto in Shibuya gives us an early morning lesson in memory-infused gardening (see Personal Impact of Urban Green Space) en-route to breakfast at Knee High Media Japan.

His very ordinary plot of asagao (Morning Glory) links him to his Noh teacher who received the seeds as a gift but had no space to grow them in his tiny apartment and passed them on to Kushimoto. This Noh teacher lives next-door, in an apartment building that was once part of the Kushimoto family estate (now broken up into quarters, and soon to be fragmented further – see e.g. Schematic of scattered land ownership over time in a typical Japanese village).

Mr. Kushimoto used to have a garden that spanned the front of his home, but when his brother turned his inheritance into an income-producing parking lot dirt became scarce – the compromise being the deep concrete planter leading up to the entrance to Kushimoto’s property. This planter proved a more productive spot than the shallow and junky infill soil of the original plot (see last photo).

Now, Mr. Kushimoto lives on the 1st floor of his two-storey house (son and family on 2nd floor) and limits his gardening to decorative asagao, irises and roses – he informs us he has no need for home-grown vegetables because he never learned to cook and his wife passed away a couple of years ago (her name is, however, forever etched on the mailbox plate).

The asagao blooms in the morning, withers by afternoon and goes to seed soon after (a process very lovingly described by Kushimoto) (see second to last photo). I love the mix of intergenerational property metamorphosis, spousal memorial, ongoing teacher-student friendship and loyalty, long-term attention to soil quality and daily change brought out in this simple early morning encounter.





(Originally posted on Tokyo-DIY-Gardening.org)

Storage for Umbrella

Secondary storage. Storing your umbrella on your bicycle means you are always weather-prepared.

Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

Secondary Storage in Bicycle Basket

Secondary storage. Shopping bags stored in bicycle basket.

Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

Clean up after your pet

Laminated sign cautions pet owners to clean up after their loved ones doings.

Materials: Laminated Sign
Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

Secondary Storage: Bicycle Cover

Secondary storage. Bicycle cover is stored wrapped around parking port post when not in use.

Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

Extra Bicycle Security

Extra security by chaining bicycle to parking structure. Uncommon.

Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

Forward Parking

Perhaps these residents park their bikes further into the parking structure than planned (notice the front wheels over the back pole) to (1) keep their seats dry and/or (2) allow more room for thoroughfare.

Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

A Clothesline at the Right Height (2)

All apartments are fitted with built-in washing lines which are below the line of the railing. Unfortunately, these are too low, meaning that sheets and futons have to be hung carefully to prevent them from resting on the balcony floor. This resident has erected his own (more common style of) washing line at a more practical height.


Location: Setagaya, Tokyo.

This example is a note for a pamphlet on “Hand Made Aspects of Mass Produced Housing”. Subscribe to my somewhat-frequent letter HERE if you want to keep in touch easily.

Google Docs for Burning Eyes

When burning eyes threaten to fail, extreme zooming is the key to completing Google Spreadsheets work.
Sometimes you just can’t find the energy to escape, and palliative measures are the only way to go…….

Location: Shibuya, Tokyo

Mega-Cities: Design Anthropology and Urban Landscapes
I'm delighted and honoured to have my FIXES work included in Jared Braiterman's Tokyo University graduate seminar on mega-cities.
You can download the syllabus [HERE]


Thanks to the URBAN DESIGN Lab 西村・北沢・窪田 都市デザイン研究室, Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo for making this a featured resource of their lab [LINK]

Vision Plus 2010
Thanks to the organizers of the conference for selecting this project as a featured resource, even though I was not able to attend.




Article: Small Places of Anarchy in the City: Three Investigations in Tokyo on This Big City

Article: The Non-Intentional Landscape of Tokyo - read at This Big City

Article: Framework for Neighbourhood Creative Climate - read at This Big City

Tokyo Green Space from Jared Braiterman is a great inspiration [LINK]

Urban Bricolage by @ehooge is an inspiring site on a related theme [LINK]

Treepolis by Christoph Rupprecht inspires me with investigations into informal green space, cities, and urban ecology with a focus on Australia and Japan [LINK]

Everyday Structures by @alanwiig is another fine site in the same vein [LINK]