A Review of MONU #24|On Domestic Urbanism

dezain.net blog
6 min readJul 10, 2016

Mitsuhiro SAKAKIBARA( Architect / Researcher )


MONU, the latest issue of which is themed “Domestic Urbanism” (#24), is exactly what its name stands for: a “Magazine ON Urbanism”. Bernd Upmeyer, who runs an architectural office called BOARD (Bureau of Architecture, Research, and Design), is the editor-in-chief of the magazine that is published biannually out of the Netherlands. The feature title on the cover of each of its issues forms a term containing the word “urbanism”, and the curious word combinations, such as “Clean Urbanism” (#11) and “Transnational Urbanism” (#22), lend to the appeal of the magazine’s design and content. As the theme of domestic urbanism suggests, the latest issue focuses on the “things that are usually hidden and private” within the domestic realm and examines their relationships to the city. Here I will provide a simple review of the latest issue of MONU while drawing on some Japanese examples that tie into the theme.

A research by Uzo Nishiyama

The first such example that comes to mind when reading this issue is the work of architectural scholar Uzo Nishiyama, who conducted an enormous amount of research on domestic living and laid the foundations in the 1940s for an approach to housing planning that was better adapted to people’s actual lifestyles. He advanced his ideas through texts such as Korekarano sumai (The Housing of Tomorrow, 1947) as a counterproposal to the unrealistic housing policies proposed by the Jutaku Eidan (Housing Corporation) for solving the housing shortage problem in the country during and after World War II. A more modern example that comes to mind is the work of sociologist Chizuko Ueno, who has explored the relationship between domesticity and society, the relationship between room layouts and domestic gender issues, and the roles of the architect through discussions with architects and architectural scholars like Riken Yamamoto and Shigebumi Suzuki.

Books related to Chizuko Ueno and the discussion with some architects

This issue of MONU shows that there are many more diverse topics that can be explored through the theme of domestic urbanism. Its content includes articles that discuss subjects familiar to Japanese readers, such as “Chantal Akerman, Yasujiro Ozu, and the Poetics of Intimate Space” by photographer/filmmaker Sander Hölsgens, which examines interior scenes in the films of Akerman and Ozu, and “Socialist Urban Planning and the Housing Question: At Home in Skopje” by architectural scholar Jasna Mariotti (a specialist on post-socialist cities), which discusses the urban planning of Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia (the city center was built based on a master plan by Kenzo Tange).

Sander Hölsgens “Chantal Akerman, Yasujiro Ozu, and the Poetics of Intimate Space”

It also features research like “The Minor Composition of Threshold Domesticities” by architect Lucía Jalón Oyarzun, which looks at elements such as rooftops and external staircases that occur in the intermediary zones where urban and domestic spaces mix. A piece that I found to be particularly interesting is “The Fridge, the City and the Critique of Everyday Life” by urbanist/writer Justinien Tribillon, which explains just how much the refrigerator has changed the way people consume the city. An example of a similar analysis to this is presented in historian Andrew Gordon’s Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan (2013). This book focuses on a highly domestic element, the sewing machine, to examine issues such as fashion, the social advancement of women, and the modernization of society and makes the argument that the introduction of the sewing machine to Japanese households transformed consumers into producers.

Justinien Tribillon “The Fridge, the City and the Critique of Everyday Life”

As suggested by the range of topics mentioned above, the theme of domestic urbanism appears to have great potential for drawing connections between architecture and a variety of different fields. Interesting examples of topics for thinking about this theme can also be found in the context of Japan. For instance, there is a feature titled “Kakucho suru ‘watashinchi’?” (“The Expanding Concept of ‘My Home’?”) in the April 2008 issue of Kenchiku Zasshi (Architecture Magazine) that looks into the manga kissa (lit. “comic café”) and their private booths, which previously had not been given much attention from an architectural perspective. Considering how the manga kissa has become a ubiquitous commercial/spatial typology that can be found in almost any Japanese city, one could say that the domestic space we have known as the living room has been externalized from the home into the city.

Andrew Gordon “Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan”

More recently, the idea of turning domestic spaces into public spaces has been gaining ground in Japan with the rise of home-rental services such as Airbnb. However, such services are subjected to regulations because there have been instances of spaces being used for unpermitted purposes and of spaces becoming a source of problems with neighbors. While the aforementioned booths of the manga kissa technically are not examples of “sharing economy” spaces, they have also continued to be subjected to regulations because of a law on entertainment businesses known as the Fūeihō (Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Law). Both of these spaces can be seen as examples of domestic spaces that have become political arenas, exactly as Andrés Jaque discusses in the MONU interview titled “The Home as Political Arena”.

The bounds of the domestic are continuing to expand further with the explosive spread of smartphones and tablets. The domestic is no longer something that can or should be shaped into a common generalized mold as in the days of Nishiyama. Rather, it is something that can be defined differently by each individual. What we should do is examine how these variously defined realms of the domestic are encroaching into the realms of the city and society — and vice versa — and identify the boundary zones where they meet, for it seems that that is where we can observe the latest forms of living that are actually taking shape and find the keys to thinking about the roles of architecture/housing today. This issue of MONU presents a variety of concrete approaches for how we can go about this and opens the door to new research on domestic living.

Table of Contents of MONU#24



最新24号を「ドメスティック・アーバニズム」なる特集テーマで届ける『MONU』は、その名の通り「アーバニズムに関する雑誌(Magazine ON Urbanism)」。自身BOARDという建築/リサーチ組織を運営するベルント・アップマイヤーが編集長となり、オランダから年2冊を継続的に届けてくれている。




今号において、写真家/映画監督サンダー・ヘルスゲンスによるシャンタル・アケルマンと小津安二郎による映画内室内シーン分析「Chantal Akerman, Yasujiro Ozu, and the Poetics of Intimate Space」、ポスト社会主義都市を専門にする研究者ジャスナ・マリオッティによるマケドニア共和国のスコピエ都市計画についての論考「Socialist Urban Planning and the Housing Question: At Home in Skopje」など日本にゆかりのある対象に関する記事や、都市と家庭とが互いに浸食し合う中間領域にある屋上や外部階段などの要素に着目する、建築家ルシア・ハロン・オイアルツンのリサーチ「The Minor Composition of Threshold Domesticities」といった記事の中でも個人的に最も興味を引いたものがある。冷蔵庫がいかに都市の「使い方」を変えたのかに関する、都市計画専門家ジャスティニアン・トリビロンの議論「The Fridge, the City and the Critique of Everyday Life」だ。




より近年では、本来はドメスティックである空間をパブリックにするエアビーアンドビーは日本でも市民権を得ているが、許可を得ない業として利用する人々が現れたり、近隣とのトラブルが起きたりすることから規制の対象となっている。先に触れた「まんが喫茶」の個室はシェアリングエコノミーの一例ではないが、風営法の関係で社会的規制の対象とされ続けてきた。実際のところ今号で建築家アンドレ・ジャックが「The Home as Political Arena」で語る通り、「ドメスティック」が政治の舞台となる一例だと言えるだろう。