Empire by Design: Railways, Architecture, and Urban Planning in Tokyo, Taipei, and Seoul

by Tristan Grunow

Institution: University of Oregon
Year: 2015
Keywords: Built Environment; civil engineering; Imperialism; Japan; Railways; Tokyo
Record ID: 2061525
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/18735


This dissertation examines the spatial and built forms of Japanese power. As it sought to consolidate control of new territory, the Meiji government followed a design forged in Tokyo as it attempted to build legitimacy through public works projects, namely railways, Western-style architecture, and urban improvements. The first half of the dissertation traces the emergence of hegemonic urban space in Tokyo from the initiation of the Ginza Bricktown project in 1872 to the opening of Tokyo Station in 1914. Chapter II shows how popular resistance to the Ginza Bricktown project led to a more pragmatic urban planning system in Tokyo. Thereafter, rather than imposing preformed cityscapes onto the city, Japanese urban planners would attempt to reduce costs and avoid popular resistance by strategically widening streets and improving urban infrastructure when and where possible. Chapter III illustrates how the lessons of the Ginza Bricktown paved the way for the re-creation of Tokyo as the imperial capital. As the discussion of Tokyo Station - the so-called "Gateway to the Imperial Capital" - demonstrates, it was the cooperation of government planners, architects, and local forces that ultimately produced imperial space at the heart of the imperial capital. The second half of the dissertation demonstrates how Japanese colonizers attempted to establish hegemony in the colonies through manipulation of the natural and built environments of Taiwan and Korea. As Chapter IV argues, Japan pursued railways in Korea from the mid-1890s in an effort to validate Japanese claims to Korean territory. Chapter V shifts the focus to consideration of the built environment in Japanese colonialism. As in Meiji Tokyo, Japanese planners sought to project Japanese imperial power in the colonial urban built environment through programs of Urban Planning (Shiku Keikaku) in Taipei in the 1900s, and Urban Improvement (Shiku Kaishū) in Seoul over the next two decades. Learning from the opposition such projects incited in Tokyo, colonial planners in Taipei and Seoul pragmatically adjusted their plans to make implementation more feasible. As the case study of Seoul will demonstrate, the centerpiece of these projects was the production of imperial space.