Student Name: Valeriya Velyka, Maria Antonieta Ramirez

School: California College of the Arts

Studio: Advanced Studio-Common Ground

Instructor: Christopher Roach, Julia Grinkrug

Japantown captures it’s lively culture through annual events and gatherings. However there are plenty of unutilized spaces that could host microevents bringing more profits for the local economy and create a sense of community. Our proposal activates the street and local business by developing more open accessible spaces. Through plug in programs the six commercial blocks form a network where culture and commerce can both benefit and thrive. Moving forward into the future, our vision for Japantown wishes to provide a networking platform for the local business, while creating meaningful spaces for community empowerment.

CCA_Maria Ramirez & Valeriya Velyka_JapantownSF Section Perspective 2

San Francisco’s known Japantown is located in the Western Addition between Geary and Sutter St. The existing ground of Japantown expresses a rigid organization of cultural assets, with a hierarchy of public access. Understanding the relationships among seemingly disconnected systems and spatial conditions, allows for activation of the ground floor. The scope of our work represents the history, present and potential future of Japantown. 

CCA_Maria Ramirez & Valeriya Velyka_JapantownSF Exploded Axon w assets 4

Today, a typical walk through Japantown’s historic six blocks contains spacious sidewalks, vibrant signage, and smells that range from savory to sweet.The open courtyard plaza with a striking five-tiered Peace Pagoda hosts events year round. Underneath it’s welcoming appearance there is a history of repeated injustices. After the Japanese Attack on Pearl harbor, Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps whether or not they were new citizens. After WW2 thousands of black and japanese families were relocated into San Fracisco’s Western Edition. Despite these challenges, the community managed to preserve their identity and created organizations that preserve Japantown. 

CCA_Maria Ramirez & Valeriya Velyka_JapantownSF Temporal Diagram 5

Commons Village rethinks the typology of the mall by addressing the practice of commoning. The practice of commoning is typically organized by the users and requires active participation. The commons plays a big role in social infrastructure creating unique forms of co-ownership and co-governance. Our vision for Japantown wishes to provide a networking platform for the local business, while creating meaningful spaces for community empowerment. The project aspires to achieve this goal through business assistance, art incubators and activation of the public space through green access. 

CCA_Maria Ramirez & Valeriya Velyka_JapantownSF Ideologic cards 6

We visualize the project in phases of gradual realization, starting from new housing to create density then activating commerce. The reconfiguration of the mall utilizes a circle grid to break down the hierarchy. This allows for the creation of more nodes within the network and fosters more multi-use spaces. In addition, the porosity of the plan encourages the public to explore the other blocks of Japantown. 

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CCA_Maria Ramirez & Valeriya Velyka_JapantownSF Site Longisect 8
CCA_Maria Ramirez & Valeriya Velyka_JapantownSF Comic narrative 9