Passing through the first floor lobby of the CU Denver (Dravo) Building offers an interesting look at ideas for a great modern city following war and destruction. But that’s just part of the overall exhibit, “Struggling Cities: from Japanese Urban Projects in the 1960s.”

There’s more to see at 1250 14th St. as the exhibit is set up in three parts. In the lobby are the introduction with a brief history of urban planning and three ambitious urban projects in Japan during the 1960s. In the Dean’s Suite is a section on world cities in the 1960s-70s. The items displayed in the ‘Octagon’ examines Tokyo as an example of a megacity whose rapid urbanization has caused drastic change and raises key issues about cities that may also apply to Denver.

This exhibition presented in cooperation with the Consulate-General of Japan at Denver highlights the various experimental ideas on the city that flourished in Japan in the 1960s. Using a combination of diverse media – from architectural scale models to photographs and slides, along with animations and other audio-visuals – this exhibition examines multiple circumstances that have affected the formation of multiple contemporary global cities. In particular, it identifies poignant characteristics of those circumstances as they are manifested in present-day Tokyo.

“It provides a broad historical perspective on city design from the ideal to the real,” explained Taisto Mäkelä, PhD, chair, Department of Architecture. “The focus, however, is on Tokyo with its uncontrolled growth, especially since the end of WWII, that has resulted in the world’s largest city. Future population projections claim that it will continue to grow and maintain this title. Problems and challenges such as congestion and pollution are not new but have always existed in urban settlements.

“Our students gain an appreciation of architects provocatively trying to “solve” these problems through design. The proposals, however, for Tokyo by Kenzo Tange or Arata Isozaki were unrealizable mainly due to their massive scale. Today, they strike us not just as ambitious but audacious,” Mäkelä said.

“There is another side to urban growth that also needs to be addressed, especially today,” added Mäkelä. “How do you manage the overwhelming, uncontrolled growth of slums that are such a significant aspect of urbanization? How do you deal with such dangerous levels of congestion, pollution and crime? Much of this growth is spontaneous, out of the control of designers at any level. How do we address such apparently overwhelming problems outside usual urban design disciplines?”

The exhibit is serving as a reference for many classes in the College this semester. But other students and visitors passing by are pausing to look at the models, watching the video and studying the texts, Mäkelä said. “Whenever someone visits the College, I ask them if they have looked at the exhibition and if so, what did they think?  The response is always positive and thanking us for hosting it.”

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