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Studying cities in terms of disaster prevention, urban culture, and the like from a multipronged perspective encompassing physical infrastructure and human aspects

It goes without saying that cities are complex entities. Many of the problems existing in urban environments and city living cannot be overcome simply by applying the results of research in individual fields. The Research Institute of Science and Technology’s Research Division for Advanced Disaster Prevention on Cities studies cities in a multipronged manner. The division brings together numerous specialists. Professor Takahashi specializes in building structures and has researched and developed technologies for seismic base isolation, vibration control, and earthquake resistance. He developed the world’s first oil damper brace for building vibration control and applied it to buildings. Recently, he has been working to bring high-performance ropes made of high-strength aramid fiber into practical use as building structural members. Professor Takahashi says, “We modified an oil damper used on the Shinkansen and incorporated it into buildings. The aramid fiber we developed is mainly used to reinforce existing houses. It can also be used to reinforce buildings after earthquakes and old houses.” On the other hand, Professor Ito’s research is in urban planning. Her interests cover a broad range, from physical aspects, such as infrastructure development and urban architecture, to human aspects, such as urban branding strategy. Part of her research focuses on civic pride as an important concept for urban and community planning.

Giving back concrete scientific knowledge for urban planning to communities

Professor Takahashi and students in his laboratory are currently involved in an undertaking called the “Toyama Sento Vacant House Project.” The project is renovating a building previously used as a public bath (sento) in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture, for use as a center for community interaction. The restoration of so-called “old Japanese-style houses” is something at which Professor Takahashi, who specializes in building structures, excels. Professor Takahashi says, “When we go to clean a building up and TV stations come to cover us, we attract a lot of attention. I hope that the revitalization of buildings will stimulate people and help revitalize their city.” Professor Ito conducts studies to get a picture of civic pride in various communities. She is attempting to shed light on civic pride as an indispensable concept in urban and community planning. She says, “People should not be forced to live in a community that they cannot engage. Instead, they should take action to improve their communities on their own. ‘Civic pride’ is the pride that comes from working to create a better future with such a sense of ownership. Although it may sometimes lay dormant, everyone should have this feeling.

Integrating knowledge to develop a model for urban revitalization planning

The Research Division for Advanced Disaster Prevention on Cities has been involved in creating a revitalization plan for Tokyo’s Kagurazaka district. This activity aims to build social momentum for local revitalization by discussing the community’s future and widely disseminating consensus-related information in cooperation with local universities, government, businesses, and private citizens. As part of this process, the division conducts concrete studies and analyses, presents improvement proposals and other results, and makes policy recommendations to the governor of Tokyo. Looking ahead, the division will promote collaboration in disaster prevention with the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Shinjuku and Katsushika wards. In fact, it has been tasked with making Tokyo University of Science-initiated proposals for a “disaster preparedness-based city.” These proposals will include establishing disaster-preparedness containers and developing a pre-disaster emergency risk assessment app. Professor Takahashi says, “This is a pioneering project undertaken at the laboratory level, so it’s pretty small. I like small activities, but I also like big ones, such as those aiming to revitalize towns and entire communities. So I want to proceed with the cooperation of other professors in the research division.” One gets the sense that visions of a new city are already forming in the professor’s head.

Faculty of Engineering, Department of Architecture
Professor Osamu Takahashi

■ Main research themes

Professor Takahashi specializes in building structure. He aims to shape society based on structural technologies, including structural design, structural analysis, seismic base isolation, vibration control, and earthquake resistance. He developed the world’s first oil damper brace for building vibration control. Recently, he has been developing an earthquake risk assessment app called “Higai Navi.”

Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Architecture
Professor Kaori Ito

■ Main research themes

Professor Ito specializes in urban planning. She is involved in urban analysis and urban design.

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