University of Tokyo - Department of Architecture

Chiba Laboratory

Construct a new design theory derived from the relationship
between the urban space and the natural environment
Research Theme

Our laboratory aims to construct a new design theory that is derived from the relationship between the urban space and the natural environment, rather than the logic completed within the building itself. The potential order of the site is revealed especially from the perspective of the social system of open space in the urban areas and that of the landscape feature in the natural environment, in order to discover the ideal relationship between the context and the space for people to gather, throughout practical projects.
For example, “Bicycle Urbanism” and “Tokyo Surfing” are ideas of alternative usage to regain a space for human beings from the city, which has been systematically and constructively created where economy and consumption are prioritized. Next proposal called “Enefarm Project” is a suggestion to find value in the unevenness of the environment as a critique of the conventional way of thinking to homogenize the environment to achieve the ideal condition. In another project with the title of “5 LAYERS OF SKY”, various time axes are brought into the urban space to intervene in the city. Some of the representative projects of the Chiba laboratory are listed below.

Bicycle Urbanism
-Bicycle backlane-

By making Hacher Street a bicycle priority road while encouraging people to switch from cars to bicycles by utilizing the surrounding parking lots and vacant lots, Cat Street, which is not currently strictly prohibited from vehicles to enter, will be transformed into a pedestrian paradise. This is an attempt to expand the possibilities as a boundary space by overlapping two unique parallel roads that appeared spontaneously and a network of bicycles and pedestrians.


A proposal to reinterpret the sky above the Tokyo Expressway (commonly known as the KK line) as a series of open spaces and launch a linear complex that includes commercial facilities and offices. The rooftop will be the longest and the highest slope for a hill climb in the city center with a total length of 2km, an altitude difference of 200m, and a gradient of 8%. The sense of accomplishment of climbing up a hill (and going down a hill) will be all the more amplified by the “tool” of a bicycle, which also induce new activities through the bicycle.

Tokyo Surfing

This project is collaborative research to think about the future of the Tokyo Bay Area. It is difficult to access there from the city center with small mobility such as bicycles and pedestrians, and the inflow of people is limited because the area is occupied by logistics, such as container yards and piers along the coast. On one hand, there are many huge and uni-functional buildings which stand in huge blocks. On the other hand, however, once events are held, a great number of people flow into this area. While pursuing research, we came to think that we could positively capture the characteristics of this area, and then deal with “human living” and “logistics” simultaneously with a new relationship. In this project, six proposals were made on the area as the extension of the research.

DNP Project

A project for future lifestyle proposal with Tategu (house parts like doors, windows, or even furniture).
While tategus such as sliding doors (fusuma), grid sliding doors (shoji), etc. have been important elements adjusting the living space and the living environment, the diversity of tategu is decreasing because of the rise of mass production. Research and investigation on all kinds of tategus were conducted, from traditional tategus to contemporary ones, the materials and technology used for them in order to reveal how tategu affects people’s communication and what it means to us. Based on these analyses, an alternative housing vision for a new lifestyle is designed throughout the proposal of new materials and tategus.


“5 LAYERS OF SKY” is a modern stall with five fabrics designed by Yoko Ando, which stands up to a height of 8m. Just as a stall usually raises a nobori and opens up fittings to provide a space, here five pieces of fabric sometimes melt into the sky and other times diffuse light to create a soft space for people to gather. The structure is made of minimum stainless steel pipes so that it can be basically assembled manually without using heavy machinery, and the turret is assembled and lifted just like rewinding the Daruma doll game, and the pipes are added in sequence to complete the whole structure. The “5 LAYERS OF SKY “, which is made by laminating two fabrics of different colors, changes its expression every moment during the day, and it looks as if the cut-out sky has fallen into a vacant lot. Such a place where people gather under the faint nature will be all the more valuable when it stands in an urban area.

Enefarm Project

A future lifestyle proposal requested from Shinkenjuku Jutakutokushyu (Japan architecture magazine). Based on the new technology of fuel cell cogeneration system, this project is seeking new lifestyle possibilities. We proposed a large scale of collective housing that meets the best efficiency of the fuel cell cogeneration system. As expected from the environment of the huge volume, the bad and extreme phenomenon occurs such as over-heated west side, which gains too much west sunlight and serious condensation on the north side, where the sunlight never shines into, however, these unevennesses will be regarded as new possibilities for the people living there with various lifestyles. Instead of providing perfect environmental conditions for all people independently, an alternative lifestyle will be achieved with more comfort, less cost, and less waste of energy by sharing living environment and fuel cell cogeneration system with each other. Published in Shinkenjuku Jutakutokushyu magazine March 2012.


For more detail:
Principal Investigator: Manabu Chiba