This essay considers an in-progress investigation of the ways in which visitors (in particular, foreign visitors) to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park navigate its conceptual and physical spaces. In this study the 1949 design of the Park by modernist Japanese architect Kenzo Tange is conceived as a precursor to rather than a determiner of the contemporary landscape of the Park. Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau, and in a departure from conventional architecture and architectural history considerations of the Peace Park, this essay reframes it as a ‘space’ rather than ‘place.’ It positions the Park as an activated geography that is generated through a continual process of cultural production rather than perceiving it as a static locus: the result of a singular artistic gesture. It asks what potential is offered through this re-conceptualisation and outlines the methods that have enabled it. Accordingly the essay is illustrated by pieces of data collected during field and expanded-field research. These are representative samples of the body of material that will be the subject of future analysis.
These lines are lines I draw repeatedly (Figure 1). Dashed, the silent sight line from the centre of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum beneath the Peace Memorial Cenotaph to the Atomic Bomb dome. In the upper left hand side, I mark out the T-shape of the Aioi Bridge. The distinctive bridge served as the target for the atomic bomb dropped on central Hiroshima by a United States military plane, the Enola Gay, on 6 August 1945. The lines I draw sketch the space dedicated in memory of this event: the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
From the Aioi Bridge I trace a letter D. It is stretched and truncated across its girth. Its linear contours represent the banks of the river that flow beneath the Aioi, splintering on the prow of the Park that points towards the bridge. The eastern tributary of the river flows on beneath the Motayasu Bridge that crosses the river just below the Dome. Its western branch stretches further, almost due south, before passing beneath the steel arches of the Honkawa Bridge that remain remembered but undrawn. The twin river-lines continue on to the paired bridges on the Heiwa Odori, the 100-metre wide Peace Boulevard that forms the southern base-line of the Park. From there, where my drawing stops, they gradually ebb in my mind through the city and out to the dark silver waters of the Seto Inland Sea.
From park-side springing of the Aioi I make a diagonal track. A set of marks in graphite makes its way down through the Park to the centre of the main Museum building. I imagine myself standing in its elevated corridor looking down across the Park. From the east bank springing of the Motoyasu, I draw a similarly broken line that imperfectly mirrors it. This line arrives at the same point in the glazed Museum corridor, forming a wedge, a cone of vision opening to the north, centred on the Atomic Bomb Dome. From the Dome a similar wedge originates, opening to the south to hold the central Museum building in its beak.
The two wedges intersect beneath an arch that was never built. I ghost in its anticipated location nonetheless. The wedged path-lines inscribe instead a space around the arch’s diminutive ancestor, the Peace Memorial Cenotaph, at the centre of the Park. Bent and slanting up across the page between the Honkawa Bridge and its counterpart spanning the Motoyasu, here I make lines to connect bridges. Approximating an ancient pathway it winds itself through the Park, through memories borrowed from photographs of tightly packed streetscapes, towards the Hiroshima castle. I am fully aware that this imaginary landscape is incomplete and imprecise but I assiduously cling to the lines that I feel I can rely on, and, in my continual exploration of the master plan, to the disciplinary tics of my architectural training.
These lines, I know from my historical investigations of the design development of the Park and its physical evolution over time, have remained more or less intact over a period of sixty-six years. I trace them, their wavering and settling, in the remnant architectural drawings. I trace them through the historic photographs of almost every annual Peace Commemoration Ceremony on 6 August from 1952 to the mid 1990s. In these images I observe the way the evolving ceremonial use of the Park effects subtle change on the master plan first initiated on paper. The master plan is painstakingly, painfully, inscribed across the landscape over the years, from the time construction commences in 1951, slowly erasing rubble and the make-shift housing of survivors. Finally in 1958 the lines become fully visible on the ground, from the air (Figure 2-6).
The lines I draw are those that have remained relatively stable from the time that up-and-coming Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and his collaborators Takashi Asada and Sachio Otani were awarded first place in the competition for Park’s design on the fourth anniversary of the atomic bombing on 6 August 1949. As parallel investigations employing alternative methodologies have revealed, however, these lines that I so plainly see emerging from my research and from my historical and disciplinary vantage point, are not necessarily visible to all who enter the conceptual or physical space of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Or, when they are visible, this does not necessarily mean they are instrumental to any conscious navigation of the space despite largely determining the possible pathways proffered to its visitors. For others, alternative journeys, alternative memories and operations shape the Park.
My mid-stream conclusion in this regard is jogged by the provocations offered by the Double Dialogues conference ‘Precursors into the Future’ held in Cardiff, 19-21 September 2014. Exploring the design origins of the Park and the artistic influences and influence of its architect Kenzo Tange I came to the realisation that it was the precursory relationship of the design to the actualised site of the Park that was most fascinating to me. I realised that this conceptual shift enables a complete re-framing of research and articulation of its methodologies. As such, this essay takes this conclusion as its premise, positing that the 1949 design by Kenzo Tange and his team is the precursor to rather than a formal determiner of the contemporary landscape of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
This fairly fine distinction owes much to the work of Michel de Certeau, specifically to his seminal book The Practice of Everyday Life (1984). It has a philosophical debt to the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari insofar as that I interpret any manifestation of the Peace Park in the present as an actualised iteration of which Tange’s originating design is just one (albeit formative) virtual predecessor. Further, it takes an important cue from the pre-emptive, the precursory, words of Kenzo Tange himself who wrote in 1954: ‘Already since the beginning we rather find the significance of this building within the construction process, than from an ideal image given to it’ (2004: 73).
Practices of Place and Space
In The Practice of Everyday Life Michel de Certeau argues for a more serious consideration of the contribution made by the everyday end-users of cultural material: language, literature, urban environments, popular media. Rejecting the idea that the only role for the audience in cultural production is their mere ‘consumption’ of ready-made cultural artefacts, de Certeau proposes that the practice of everyday life upon the fields such products offer entails a transformative form of cultural production in its own right. In other words, de Certeau is interested in what ‘the cultural consumer “makes” or “does”’ (1984: xii) with the cultural products of which they partake. His framing of these practices is specifically spatial, as illustrated in his declaration: ‘Everyday life invents itself by poaching in countless ways on the property of others.’ (1984: xii)
De Certeau links the practices he explores with the practical but cunning modes the ancient Greeks called métis. Going further, he connects it with the territorial and self-preserving ‘operational logic whose models may go as far back as the age-old ruses of fishes and insects that disguise and transform themselves in order to survive’ (1984: xi). Similarly spatially localised and ‘deterritorializing’ intelligences are observed in Deleuze and Guattari’s work: the stroll of the schizophrenic (1983: 2), the nomadic and rhizomic operations of animals and plants, the mutual ‘mapping’ of orchid and wasp (1988: 5-12), and the migrations of sea creatures and pilgrims (1994: 85). Deterritorializations of this type do not only effect an adaptive change in the body and behaviour of the subject. On mass, over time, these actions and physical transformations effect change on the territorial realm itself.
The two key arts of (spatial) practice that de Certeau expands on in the body of The Practice of Everyday Life are the ‘practice’ of urban environments through walking and navigation and the tactical use of language and practices of readers. His focus is upon the myriad ways that everyday users of urban and literary spaces covertly commandeer portions of those places, places that are structured by processes of social and cultural production that lie largely outside of their control or influence (de Certeau, 1984: xiv). In articulating what he sees as the creative and quietly revolutionary potential of everyday practices de Certeau effects an apparent reversal of the traditional use of the terms ‘space’ and place’ (Cresswell, 2002: 24; Augé, 1995, 79-80).
In de Certeau’s revised lexicon space is not mere Cartesian extension or the container of place: a definable location within that extensive field. In his inversion de Certeau makes both place and space strange, makes them uncanny. He contrasts the place-forming strategies of those subjects, disciplines, institutions and governing bodies which produce cultural material with the everyday tactics of doing (such as speaking, moving, dwelling, reading, cooking) of everyday users. Such tactics transform place, through practice, into space.
Where de Certeau’s place is stable, each of its elements ‘situated in its own “proper” and distinct location’, space is constituted through movement. It is a lived and fluctuating geography rather than a locus. It is composed of and activated by its moving parts and overlapping operations. For de Certeau, space, in relation to place:
is like the word when it is spoken, that is, when it is caught in the ambiguity of actualization, transformed into a term dependent upon many different conventions, situated as the act of a present (or of a time), and modified by the transformation of successive contexts. (1984: 117)
Following de Certeau we can similarly regard the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park design, like the unspoken word, as an abstract precedent to its (spatial) actualisation through use. The space of the Peace Park ‘speaks’ only through such activation. Its physical form and its apprehension by individual visitors is reconstructed in the ‘speaking.’ The lines I see from the extraterrestrial perspective of my research disappear and emerge in new forms. Both strategic and tactical practices temporally and spatially reformulate the Park (Figure 7-11).
Interrogating the map
De Certeau’s widely cited example from the start of his chapter, ‘Walking in the City’ has become ever more poignant since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre. This poignancy is redoubled when considered alongside the aerial view of Hiroshima from U.S. military aircraft in August 1945 and the powerful planametric basis of Tange’s master plan. In these passages de Certeau aligns the god’s eye view of Manhattan obtainable from the 110th floor of one of the twin buildings with the false strategies by which ‘the space planner urbanist or cartographer’ define a defensible zone within a broader geographic arena (1984: 91-93).
This place, the optically totalitarian ‘panorama-city’, delimited within a wider environment that is understood in terms of its hostility or otherness, is a visual “theroretical.” De Certeau rejects knowledge base of maps for their reduction of the temporality of the experienced world into a flattened and solely ‘spatial sequence of points’ (1984: 35). For him, such practices result in the production of an image very existence ‘is an oblivion and a misunderstanding of practices.’ (de Certeau, 1984: 94).
The spatial reality of the city begins instead in the streets and with the practices of inhabitants who dwell and operate ‘below the thresholds at which visibility begins’ (de Certeau, 1984: 94). These inhabitants perform the streets into existence by walking them. The grounded and incrementally obtained knowledge and power of the walkers, the poetic and utilitarian users, undoes the authorial “proper” and sedentary strictures of place. As de Certeau famously writes:
To walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper. The moving about that the city multiplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experiment of lacking a place—an experience that is, to be sure, broken up into countless tiny deportations (displacements and walks), compensated for by the relationships and intersections of these exoduses that intertwine and create an urban fabric, and placed under the sign of what ought to be, ultimately, the place but is only a name, the City. (1984: 103).
Considering the historical, geometric and ‘practiced’ breadth of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in light of de Certeau’s theories of space and use enables an important clarification of my research. In response to them I can state that my investigation is explicitly concerned with the spatial configuration or ‘anthropological’ (de Certeau, 1984: 93; Merleau-Ponty, 1962) activation of the Park through the various architectural and non-architectural practices that shape it. This, contra de Certeau, does not involve a complete distancing of my study from the ‘cartographic impulse[s]’ (Buchanan, 2009: 115) of my ‘home’ discipline. Rather, through employing a range of methods I attempt to interrogate myself, to make my disciplinary home uncanny.
The reconstitution of the architectural landscape in this way involves a multiplication rather than an avoidance or suppression of maps. The range of architectural products and styles (drawings, architectural artefacts, writing) under analysis in my research is expanded. The space between these products and the differing and evolving stories they tell about the Peace Park enables us to see that the instituted design of the Park, despite its surface resemblance to the earliest design proposal by Tange and his team, was subject to many forces. Its executed form was not entirely predetermined by the architect’s preliminary design but unfolded from it through multiple iterations and interpretive modifications that continued beyond its apparent physical completion.
Similarly, the temporal scope of analysis is enlarged. Instead of adhering to the restrictive, historically defined dating of the Park design of 1949 to 1955 the entire gamut of Kenzo Tange and his associates’ professional engagement with the Park – between 1946 and 2002 – is considered (Roberts, 2013). This makes it possible to re-position the Hiroshima Peace Park as the outcome, not simply of a singular architectural design, but of a diverse set of architectural practices, products and virtual iterations composed of both strategic and tactical manoeuvres. It enables a re-conceptualization of architecture as not merely a form of cultural production exploited by the powers that commission it, or as an aesthetic or environmental ‘given’, but as a practice engaged in conversation with these and other forces.
Tracing pathways: physical and remembered
Alongside considerations of the architectural basis of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park my research involves the uses made of the landscape by its visitors. As part of a period of iterative and quasi-ethnographic fieldwork in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park during the month of August 2013 I interviewed both English-speaking and (with the aid of a translator) Japanese visitors about their visit to the Peace Park.
I use the modifier ‘quasi’ here for three reasons. Firstly, the ethnographic tendencies of my research depart from the traditional subject/object relations associated with this term. I am not a stranger observing a ‘native’ population in their ‘natural’ habitat. Rather, the studied group of which I, the researcher, am very much a part is pointedly not in any sense at home. As visitors, those who use the Park (even if they are Hiroshima citizens) are largely homeless within its spaces. Those who do dwell within it, on its park benches and beneath the broad reaches of its trees, are the truly homeless. My study is not so much of the population I interview as of their relations with the site that they visit. Second, my fieldwork is not, as I describe later in this article, strictly restricted to the defined physical field of study. It also encounters past visitors off-site, asking them to journey back to a remembered Peace Memorial Park. Thirdly, the timeframe in which in-situ fieldwork was conducted was substantially less than the long-term process typically associated with ethnography. Visitors to the Peace Park are largely a transitory group and their experiences are short-term in terms of the actual time spent in the Park. Accordingly, in-situ fieldwork was only a month in length. Research in what I term the ‘expanded-field’ continues over a longer time frame but is intermittent, reliant on the emergence and voluntary contributions of subjects.
This second or extended field of research was prompted by the many accounts of visits to the Park spontaneously offered to me by people who heard about my research (both at academic seminars and informal, everyday, conversation). Talking to them it became evident I must increase my scope, must expand my spatial field. This expanded-field work involved interviewing people weeks, months and years after their visit or visits to the Peace Park. In conversation with them, together we re-traced the landscapes they remembered and their incursions into them.
In tracing both in-situ and remembered journeys through the Park I seek to investigate the ways in which visitor pathways inscribe, reconstruct and interpret its spaces. I seek to understand how visitors physically and conceptually navigate the Park. To some extent these parts of my investigation are more faithful to the letter of de Certeau’s theoretical frameworks. They, in accordance with his injunctions, engage everyday practices, explicitly prioritising the tour over the map. They reveal embodied spatial stories layered with personal references and reflections rather than scientific representations dependent on an abstract overview (Figure 12). Performing the ‘labour that constantly transforms places into spaces or spaces into places’ these stories, as de Certeau suggests, structure the relationships between them (1984:118).
The tour, as described by de Certeau, is a narrative description of space that is largely reliant on operative (doing or going) terms. For example: ‘You come in through a low door’ (de Certeau, 1984:119). The map is either a visual representative mode of a place detached from the historic conditions of its production, or, as a description, is predicated on articulating static relationships between elements. The verbal map presents a ‘tableau’ of place in which the narrator’s or any implied body is absent For example: ‘The girls’ room is next to the kitchen’ (de Certeau, 1984:119).
I take my leave from de Certeau’s approved practices when I plot the verbally articulated tours or stories I have gathered back on a geographically accurate map. I refashion his guidelines anew. I ask those interviewees who have visited the Park in past, after letting them take me on a verbal tour of site, to draw their own cognitive map. This to some extent prompts them to have recourse to their ‘knowledge of the order of places’ (de Certeau, 1984:119), their map knowledge (Figure 13). This knowledge challenges my own, offering pathways to elsewhere.
Contemplating the Peace Park using de Certeau’s conceptual tools enables new considerations of it. Wilfully and reflectively departing from them prompts other possible discoveries. Echoing Deleuze and Guattari, I too would state: ‘It is a question of method: the tracings should always be put back on the map. (1988: 13). The ‘impasses’ must be recast in-situ to unlock future conversations, ‘possible lines of flight’ (Deleuze and Guattari: 1988: 14).
Returning the narrated tour to the map becomes a way of broaching the nature of the conversation (or lack there of) the spatial stories of individual visitors have with the architectural design that is their precursor. The maniform acts of mapping create a tour. In the recorded versions of the cognitive maps made by past visitors I watch the lines appear on the page, one line after another.  They speak to me as they draw. Reviewing these interviews I write down their words. At different times these are words I remember (sometimes less than faithfully) or glean from my notes. At others they are the words, the pauses, the background noises I hear in the recording. I write them down in the choppy fragments that are spoken, my own life intersects as I write these expanded-field notes. On the page, from a distance, it begins to look like poetry: a different kind of map. I track through sequences of holiday snaps, following in footsteps of past visitors to the Park using their photographs, a map and my own memory: they were here, and then here, and then here.
In multiplying maps, peeling them from precursors, I enact my own somewhat restless movement between methodological practices: my own tour. In multiplying maps I can begin to discern, to fathom the difference, the space between these differing Peace Park reconstructions, representational modes and my own spatial assumptions. The multiplication, while erasing a singular ground, gives me grounds to think against myself.
*The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of the Hiroshima Municipal Archives Director and staff in regards to access to and the assembly of photographic research undertaken using their collection.
Interviews and cognitive map drawings are recorded using a Livescribe smartpen. This technology records sound as well as notes and drawings made at the time of recording in one digital file. Replaying the sound also replays the linked written text or drawings.
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