From the outside, the Japanese city seems a mere coexistence of random architectures in a field of maximum freedom. There is no planning, no public realm. But Yokohama deviates from the Japanese norm; through its commitment to urban design it could become a laboratory for defining a “Japanese” public realm. The point of departure for the project was the unique conditions we found on the site: two markets with a colossal number of parking places; the arrival on the site of railroads, cars (via the new highway) and ships, and the proximity of the imminent massive development of Minato Mirai 21 – a tremendous injection of density in an already congested urban condition.
OMA has avoided designing individual buildings, with their inevitable limitations and separations. The proposal is for a continuous and formless project which engulfs the site like a kind of programmatic “lava”. Three layers of public activity are manipulated to support the largest variety of events with a minimal amount of permanent definition.
Noticing that the peak hours of the market fall in the early morning, we proposes a complementary spectrum of events, which would exploit to the maximum the location and its existing infrastructure, to create a 24-hour “peak” composed of a mosaic of heterogeneous 21st century life.
Some parts are used as roads, some as parking places; minimal interventions provoke theatres, cinemas, clubs, restaurants, churches, sportplaces and other programs; the new givens of access, communication, artificiality, and technology are frozen in a momentary configuration.
Covering the southeast corner of the site, this programmatic tapestry leaves an area of the former docks intact; a series of ideal conditions exist there for an intense housing development: sea views, openness, and density. Toward the city is a site for a small centre, which together with the housing will give a degree of a three-dimensional anchoring to the site.