The Floating Bridge of Dreams
Re-imagining Kyoto’s Bridges: The Winning Proposal of the 1998 International Urban Competition
for “A Future Vision of Kyoto for the 21st Century”
With the following proposals we wish to inspire the citizens and the government of Kyoto to give its inner city a unique new urban face in the New Millenium by reviving and extending its historical reputation as hana-no-miyako, A Capital as Garden.
We suggest that Kyoto City resolves that the forty-eight bridges over the Kamo River, presently hardly attractive and merely utilitarian, will be gradually replaced by new ones of modern design and structural excellence over the next hundred years, and that the edges on both sides of the river will be transformed into one of the biggest Urban River Gardens existing in any city so far.
These proposals were originally entered by the Institute for East Asian Architecture and Urbanism in Kyoto under the title of yume-no-ukihashi, The Floating Bridges of Dreams, into the 1998 International Urban Competition for “A Future Vision of Kyoto for the 21st Century”. They were awarded one First Prize at that time. Dream-Team mates were Tina Langner-Teramoto and Chin Shokin.
‘Origin seems always to be Present’ in Kyoto; thus, any awareness of and dream about Kyoto’s future implies an awareness of and an allusion to its past. Yume no ukihashi was the title consciously chosen for this probably largest urban renewal project in Japan: it is the title of Lady Shikibu’s final volume in the Tale of Genji and therefore can connect us back historically to Kyoto’s origin in Heian culture. Existentially, this title will always remind us now and in the future that human life is but a fragile passage from here to there, from one existence to the next, from this form to that form, over bridges made of the stuff of dreams.
To make Kyoto citizens and visitors more conscious of the heritage of Kyoto’s ‘eternal present’ we offer a new city logo representing the essence of Kyoto’s geomancy: an image of a horseshoe range of mountains surrounding the city, and the Kamo River bringing the spirit of the mountains – nature – right into the center of town. This logo speaks about Kyoto’s many-layered genius loci which has been tangibly surviving up to our days and is worth protecting in the future, that is:
• its natural genius loci, the placement of Kyoto into nature, preserving a respect for and harmony with nature which is still felt at any point in the city,
• its religious genius loci, a chain of Buddhist Temples, Shinto Shrines and former aristocratic estates and gardens along the foot of the mountains, giving Kyoto its cultural-historical patina and attraction,
• its urban genius loci, a grid-pattern as urban infrastructure embedding the cho, the unique neighbourhood of Kyoto, the breeding ground of the Kyoto’s traditional arts and crafts.
We respect the above unique features of Kyoto in our proposals and we suggest to amplify and revive another one, a forgotten feature of Kyoto, the genius loci of playfulness, perhaps best rendered as asobi-no-kokoro in Japanese, which also has an intimate connection with the Kamo River. This Spirit of Playfulness was located around the Shijo Bridge where Kabuki Theatre and other forms of traditional entertainment were first performed during Edo times.
We suggest that the new bridges be of contemporary form, designed by the most talented engineers and architects of our time, and not of a form imitating bridges of the past, Japanese or foreign. In principle a bridge is not necessarily just a one-storey utilitarian passage for cars and pedestrians, but could be of many stories, have roofs, and support shops, restaurants and bars, as many renouned bridges in Venice or London once did. Bridges and the urban scenery on both sides of the bridgeheads have been to a great degree the focal point of the best civic architecture in many famous historic European cities in the past and the present.
The new bridges in Kyoto should, however, not only be architectural attractions by themselves, but clearly reflect the local urban characteristics of the district they are placed in: thus, we dream of the creation of a Pottery Bridge around Gojo, of a Science Bridge on Imadegawa close to Kyoto and Doshisha University, of a Bird and Flower Bridge near the Botanical gardens, a Rainbow Bridge in the very north, climaxed by the Floating Bridge of Dreams, an elegant pedestrian bridge connecting the traditional Gion Quarters with Pontocho in the heart of the city.
Every night these bridges, floodlit and mirrored in the river, could become a spectacular new attraction for Kyoto’s urban center. Led by the new Floating Bridges of Dreams the edges of the Kamo River underneath them should be transformed into one of the longest urban landscape gardens, varying in character from segment to segment. Perhaps only a future International Garden and Flower Exhibition could muster enough energy, talent and finance for the realization of such a project.
It is neither accidental nor frivolous that we tied our vision of the urban revival of Kyoto to its main river and its bridges, since urban waterfronts and riverbanks have become the coveted new frontiers of urban development in many cities in the world. The greatest hurdles to overcome in any urban renewal, namely the enormous land values and private land ownership rights, do not exist here. The river and the bridges are already owned by the city of Kyoto and by the country and are available for free.
For a PDF: Floating Bridge of Dreams