January 4, 2018

Japan: Workshop on revitalising Hirado through heritage

In a five-day workshop, Japanese architecture students joined forces to propose a redevelopment and redesign plan for the historical centre of Hirado.

In the week of 20 November, twelve architecture students from five different Japanese universities gathered in the only three-story machiya (a traditional wooden townhouse) left in the old city centre of Hirado. Their goal was to propose a redevelopment and redesign plan to the city officials. The workshop was initiated by the Japan and Netherlands Architecture Cultural Association (JNACA) and organised by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, the Dutch Embassy in Japan and the Dutch architectural firm Space and Matter.

Heritage as an asset?
The central question the students worked on was: How can heritage be a positive asset in a redevelopment and redesign strategy? During their research the students found out that the town of Hirado is coping with a shrinking and aging population, and an increasing amount of vacant real estate. There is, however, a growing interest in the Hirado Island as a tourist destination, thanks to the historic town centre, its natural surroundings and local food products famous in Japan. The workshop addressed the potentials of developing open spaces in the main shopping street, Hirado Castle and the waterfront.

The final presentation was held at the reconstructed Dutch Trading Post. The 60 residents present greeted the advice of the students with positive remarks. The vice-mayor promised to discuss implementation of the advice that was given during the presentation.

Dutch Trading Post
The small town of Hirado was the location of the Dutch East India Company’s first trading post in Japan. Reconstructed at the beginning of this century, the trading post is now a landmark that symbolises the connection between the Netherlands and Japan.