CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Where’d You Learn to Drive?

On a rooftop, actually.

The image (of a “super driving school”) comes from the Japanese architecture firm Atelier Bow Wow. It is one of many urban oddities found in their fascinating study Made in Tokyo, an offbeat and highly recommended “guidebook” I’ve only recently gotten around to reading. The rooftop-driving-school in Kanamachi is part of a category they call “da-me architecture,” or “no-good architecture”: “Anonymous buildings, not beautiful, and not accepted in architectural culture to date.”

A number of these odd buildings seem to have an unusual relationship to cars and roads (in particular, the expressways, which as the book points out were put up rather frantically ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, and thus are “mainly sited over public land, parks, the palace moat and rivers”); as the authors note, “traffic space has introduced into architecture in order to allow the execution of the highly developed goods transportation systems.” An “expressway patrol building” in Roppongi abuts directly on the freeway, its parking lot bleeding into a line of highway traffic. There’s a car park buried underneath a city park in Shibuya; also in Shibuya is the aptly named “bus housing,” a big apartment complex built over a bus terminal. If you went looking for a driving range (golf, that is) in Meguro, your best bet would be the roof of the taxi office. In Nishikahei, meanwhile, there’s a set of tennis courts within the spiral interchange linking the expressway to the Kannana (seventh) traffic ring road. And at the giant AutoTech department store in Kitamachi, you can head to the store’s in-house bowling lanes while you wait for your car to be repaired.

Not to mention the famous automated parking garages, for cars and bikes alike.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 1:34 pm and is filed under Cities, Traffic Culture, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Where’d You Learn to Drive?”

  1. Greg Devine Says:

    I taught in Japan for a few years and I had a student who had inherited his family’s pottery business just as the ceramic mine his family owned ran out of ceramic. So, he filled it in, paved the top of it, created a driving course and opened a driving school.

    The business went well until the birth rate started to dwindle and the dearth of teens started to negatively affect his business.

    Another interesting thing about driving in Japan – in the towns that weren’t as heavily bombed as the big cities, the roads are still quite narrow yet people will drive large SUVs on them. In my wife’s hometown I’ve had a few scares while driving and seeing a Hummer squeeze through a narrow gap between buildings. It’s also interesting to see in these situations the right of way is observed, or not. Seems to be the biggest car gets to go first.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

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May 19, 2009
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Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
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Metropolis and Mobile Life
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