Public Access 公共へ開く


There is a public path that makes its way through the ground floor of buildings in the middle of the block in midtown Manhattan. It starts somewhere around 51st street and goes to 57th street between 6th and 7th avenues. The reason I said “somewhere” is that I do not remember it very well. In the summer we do not use it, but in the winter it is thankfully protected from the snow. This path goes through private buildings and in some places passes by the entrance lobby and security desk. By offering this space to the public the owner of the building gained a bonus to build higher and maintains the ownership of the space. It is not just these paths but also if you provide small parks you can get a bonus of additional floor area. The City wants park and public space to make the city more livable instead of totally dividing it into private properties and the owner gets more floor area to generate money from their valuable site, so everyone wins. The sign tells this is open to the public. The other reason I do not remember is that the sign is too tiny to find. I believe a very limited number of pedestrians know of this path and use it. The doors in NY are crazy heavy to open so I have to balance which is better; risk dipping your foot into a slushy pond at the next intersection or fighting with this door.



The Japanese building code adapted this idea a long time ago; Kokai-kuchi. It is very similar to the idea in NY, and the problem of visibility is also the same. One of the examples is the head quarters of TOYOTA which took the advantage of this system in the middle of Tokyo more than 10 years ago. It has a large rear garden near Korakuen Garden. TOYOTA must have been allowed to build a larger floor area than that allowed by the normal zoning code, but this open “public” space is not visible from the street at all. It is like their private garden. A tiny sign about 1ft X 2ft and the security guards discourage the pedestrians. Nobody thinks that the garden behind is public. It makes sense to have a garden where it looks like an extension of a famous historical garden to create a calm space and it is very private, not busy or crowded. No one knows it is open to the public. No architects, no pedestrians. Even the guards standing in front do not know it.



The white square sign says it is a period of “special vigilance”, which has been there everyday for the last 10 years as I know. @ Tokyo
白い四角いサインは「特別警戒中」のお知らせ。( 知る限り10年前から毎日なのだが… )@外堀通り

Public Access 公共へ開く」への2件のフィードバック

  1. And I thought Hong Kong specialised in interconnected passageways across buildings as well as carefully blocked public space whose original purpose was to allow developers to increase plot ratios. One difference between New York and Hong Kong is that the interconnected passageways essentially connect buildings by the same developers, with occasional connections supplied by publicly built flyovers that extend the networks. Two architects at Hong Kong University mapped above-ground passageways across the city, very entertaining.

    • In such a vertical city like Hong Kong linking buildings at the level that encourages walking is a great idea, they become the “streets”. In NY they do this at the very long blocks (like 6th to 7th). This winter the have been very popular but once the weather is warm again, there is no substitute for New York City street life!


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