The burgeoning social scientific debate about urban commons rarely focuses on the visual aspects of public space, the most elementary shared good in cities. In the former Japanese capital of Kyoto, however, the townscape has been intensely debated over the last decades. Reacting to widespread discontent with the previous laissez-faire policy, the city now boasts one of the strictest building codes of the nation. For the details of implementation, however, volunteer bodies of concerned citizens are relied on: developers have to discuss construction plans with these ‘local townscape councils’ before starting their projects. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in 2019/20, the presentation will review a number of cases and analyse the reasons for their diverse outcomes. The significant number of successes relate to the townscape councils being less lay and local, the developers being more local and the state being less absent than they are often imagined. Together, the involved actors sustain an informal grey zone that appears to be productive for the upkeep of an urban commons.
Co-convenors Juliana Buriticá Alzate, Jenny Guest, Hugh Whittaker