The capitals of Berlin and Tokyo have both been savagely destroyed in the middle of the 20th century during the Second World War. The reconstruction of these two cities has happened in very different ways, this because of economic, political, real estate and, most importantly – to my opinion – because of cultural reasons (in the practice of architecture and urbanism).
While Tokyo rapidly became the biggest and most dense metropolitan area of the world (10% of economic growth per year during the sixties), Berlin’s reconstruction plans have been slowed down – when not stopped – by the Cold War.
Today, to our European eyes, Tokyo is super dense, super modern, super technological, super consuming, super capitalistic and futurist, whereas Berlin is “poor but sexy,” big, full of voids, alternative and artistic.
However, this “poor but sexy” Berlin has become, in the last 10 to 15 years, less poor and less sexy. Squats are closing, investors buy plots of land in the center of the city and rents are increasing. The numerous Berliner waste lands are the subject of conflict of interest between social and cultural associations and big housing companies. Berlin is changing and losing what makes its specificity, its uniqueness. The cultural and alternative richness of the city of Berlin is linked to the fact that it is far more affordable than the other capitals of the world. In order to preserve Berlin and to respond to the evolving lifestyles and living wishes of the population, it is necessary to densify, or at least to build housing and to think public space differently.
I believe that architectural and urban solutions can be found in Tokyo and could better fit to our European lifestyles (mobility, sustainability) as well as to the aspirations of the millenial generation (sharing economy, network growth, the city as a village): smaller, lighter, more experimental living units, a higher density, the more subtle distinction between the private and public space, and solutions rooted in the local condition.