Dezeen Magazine

Tokyo has cells for living, working, eating, entertainment and sex says Martin van der Linden

In his latest contribution to Virtual Design Festival, video blogger Martin van der Linden uses some of his favourite architecture books to explain the order behind Tokyo's apparently chaotic urban landscape.

"When first-time visitors come to Tokyo, they are often overwhelmed by its chaotic urbanity," he says. "Buildings jumbled together with no sense of coordination between them."

To illustrate, van der Linden refers to the Kyoichi Tsuzuki book Tokyo Style, which features photographs of the city's cramped and messy 1K apartments.

"In Japan, apartments are classified according to the number of rooms that they have," he explains. "So you have the 1K, meaning one room with a kitchen and the 3LDK, living room, dining room, kitchen with three bedrooms."

Because of the high density of small living spaces, van der Linden says that the city has developed into a series of cells for everyday life activities.

"Life in Tokyo is dispersed from cell to cell," he says. "Where the Tokyoite lives, where they work, where they eat, where to entertain themselves, even where they have sex," he says. "These 1K rooms, and other activity-based cells are what forms the urban collective or what Tokyo essentially is."


Van der Linden makes a connection between Tokyo's urban layout and the writings of German architect and urban planner Ludwig Hilbersheimer, specifically his book Metropolis-Architecture, which theorised about the relationship between architecture and the city.

"The idea behind Metropolis-Architecture is that the city and architecture are one – literally one organism," van der Linden explains.

"Hilbersheimer wrote that Metropolis-Architecture is considerably dependent on two factors," he says. "The individual cell of the room and the collective urban organism."

Van der Linden argues that Hilbersheimer's principles of Metropoli-Architecture are found in the architecture and urban planning of Tokyo.

"So here in the largest conglomerate of the world, we can see it all coming together – Hilbersheimer's cell and its relation to the city," he says.

Virtual Design Festival has teamed up with van der Linden to present a selection of his best short architecture movies.

"Even after 28 years, I found Tokyo endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy making videos of its architecture, and its rather mysterious urbanity," he says in a specially created video introducing the collaboration.

About Virtual Design Festival

Virtual Design Festival, the world's first digital design festival, runs from 15 April to 30 June 2020. It is a platform that will bring the architecture and design world together to celebrate the culture and commerce of our industry, and explore how it can adapt and respond to extraordinary circumstances.

VDF will host a rolling programme of online talks, lectures, movies, product launches and more, complementing and supporting fairs and festivals around the world that have had to be postponed or cancelled and it will provide a platform for design businesses, so they can, in turn, support their supply chains.

Find out more here or email [email protected] for details or to join our mailing list.