Tracings + Findings: the Machiya

Kanazawa, Japan

2016

Kanazawa, a medium-sized coastal city spared from both natural and man-made disasters, boasts much of its original architecture. Because of the Shinkansen's (high speed rail) recent expansion to this historic city, it's a vibrant hub for regional and international tourism.

To better understand Japanese preservation efforts, we explored the machiya, a traditional Edo-period building that housed a business in front and dwelling space in the rear. Though many machiya still exist in Kanazawa, more than 200 are demolished annually. We met with experts involved with the machiya's life-cycle including generations-old shop keepers, architects specializing in historic renovation, traditional craftspeople and artisans, as well as city policy-makers, including the city's former mayor, who, over his two-decade tenure, paved the way for international urban historical preservation.