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Clouds Over Osaka

Clouds Over Osaka negotiates the conflicts of gentrification by providing programmatic development without the destruction of the historic context; creating a light cloud that encloses new spaces above the city and interacts with the roofscapes at an involved yet discrete scale.

Published onAug 21, 2020
Clouds Over Osaka


a collaboration between Benji Magin, Tony Gao, and Aybüke Altuğ

Initial interventions float above major contextual arenas.

Isometric of the ‘below’ condition

Isometric of the ‘in-between’ condition

Isometric of the ‘above’ condition

Section of the ‘below’ condition

Section of the ‘in-between’ condition

Section of the ‘above’ condition

Intervention’s presence is barely felt within the arcade.

The ‘clouds’ are barely seen from streetways.

Future expansion of clouds as demand and space fluctuates.

The implications of gentrification of the modern world leave historically rich and storied areas devoid of their original character, often harming the lives of residents themselves as well as the prevalence of local architectures. There exists a conflict of interest between the invasive, such as developers and travelers, versus indigenous locals who are now seeing their neighborhoods converted to serve touristic endeavors.

The crossroads of historic architectures and modernity within a globalized world is evident through the Nishinari Ward of Osaka, Japan. Being a deep-seeded slum, it evokes an essence of nostalgia from generations prior and is known for its cheap urban engagements. The area has historically been occupied by day laborers and the working class due to its affordable lodgings. The rise in demand for low-cost travel accommodations has brought swathes of backpacking travelers looking to enjoy the facades of the roji streetways and the existing market arcades at a low cost. These travelers raise the prices and force many day laborers out of their rent capacity and into homelessness. Additionally, developers have capitalized on the area by tearing down the historic homes and inserting hotels and hostels. The struggle between the day laborers and the tourist industry have resulted in the destruction of ancestral homes, the displacement of the local populous, and the overall globalization of an otherwise unique architectural typology. We aim to address this dichotomy by creating a light cloud that encloses new spaces above the city to negotiate the conflicts of gentrification while providing programmatic development without the destruction of homes and tradition.
By existing from the rooftops, interaction with the site is direct yet discrete, occurring largely out of view from the public eye while still directly inhabiting the historic context. In the realization of this ‘second layer’, three prominent sections of the site were identified as each having unique urban conditions and thus required three different means of approach: from below, in-between, and above. The below condition consists of a void in the fabric of the city through which the intervention comes to the street level for direct interaction. This carries the highest level of public interaction and thus garners programs such as cafes, restaurants, and a vertical garden. The in-between condition traverses the market arcades and subsidizes the storefronts and market stalls below by supplying amenities above. This ties the two realms together programmatically and encourages an economic integration between local businesses and tourists. The final relationship is understood from above, which mediates the intersection of two market arcades and provides capsule housing lodging for travelers to inhabit. The shifting of the roofscape below jostles the lodging masses to different heights and displacements, causing pathways to weave around existing roof structures. The imposed structure fits into the crevices of the surrounding context and is then wrapped in a mesh exterior. The resulting forms are thus semitransparent clusters which seemingly float through the roofscapes, offering an immersive understanding of Nishinari while remaining largely undisruptive.

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