Connection is a multifaceted concept that can be observed on three different scales: humans & non-humans, communities and cities. Our modern urban existence leads us to disconnect from ourselves, our communities, and the cities we inhabit. Understanding these disconnections is important for reclaiming and redesigning connections. To find ways to connect and highlight grassroots initiatives we started a three-episode journey as the 5th Designing Cities for All: RE-generation fellowship. This time we partnered up with SHIBAURA HOUSE under the theme of (Re)Designing Connection to explore practical strategies and innovative approaches for reviving the lost essence of connection on both individual and collective levels, fostering a more inclusive city for and with all.

SHIBAURA HOUSE is a unique building with a complete glass exterior built in Shibaura, Minato-ku, an area in Tokyo, Japan undergoing redevelopment. It is a community space, but also the headquarters of a 70-year-old company. The company’s business has changed enormously to keep in harmony with the changes in times and the social environment. Today, it simultaneously operates the original creative business, along with new cultural creative projects that are rooted in the local community.

This exploratory journey, led by the community space SHIBAURA HOUSE invited us to recognise the current disconnections society is suffering from. Throughout this fellowship, we invited speakers from all around the world to bring examples of how we can connect on different scales. Each episode aimed at bringing examples from a different scale of connection (human & non-human, communities, cities). The panellists discussed how we can use these personal and grassroots initiatives to (re)design connections and reclaim lost connections.

Episode #1: The Nexus of Humans

How do we recognise and sustain our connection with other humans, non-humans and nature through different cultural explorations?

The first episode aimed at exploring the concept of connection on a personal level. With all life forms, there is an interconnectedness between humans and non-humans. We included a wide range of guest speakers from the cleaning rituals of monks explained by the monk and author Shoukei Matsumoto, to the Japanese practice of tea ceremonies shown by the tea instructor Herman Soshu Somsen. Moreover, the creator of the Humans of Amsterdam Debra Barraud, showed us examples of connection through personal stories and the professor of genetics and well-being Meike Bartels helped us grasp the idea of ​​​​​​​​connection at biological levels.

Intrigued by the topic?

Learn more about individual connections by reading A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind . In this Japanese bestseller, Buddhist monk Shoukei Matsumoto explains the traditional meditative techniques that will help cleanse your house and your soul. Live clean. Feel calm. Be happy. We remove dust to sweep away our worldly cares. We live simply and take time to contemplate the self, mindfully living each moment. It’s not just monks who need to live this way; everyone in today’s busy world needs it.

Episode #2: The Communities of DenCity

How do we foster community connection in today’s dynamic urban life?

The second episode explored connected communities in over-populated cities. In today’s dynamic urban life, fostering community connection is essential. In this sense, SHIBAURA HOUSE serves as a model for community improvement and brings examples of their in-field practices. To give grounded examples, SHIBAURA HOUSE presented their initiative “Moon Kitchen” which gets the community of Shibaura neighbourhood hands-on for organising different activities together, creating a sense of community. In addition to the Japanese example of communities in DenCity, we hosted Jose Richard Aviles, an equitable transportation planner analyst to bring examples of community forming in the US and Petra Heck, a curator at Stichting NDSM-Werf with examples from the Netherlands of using art to bring communities closer. Lastly, SHIBAURA HOUSE brought another example of community connection from Taipei, “Alife“. Alife offers a variety of lifestyle solutions to battle problems that are rooted in over-population. Their services include life planning proposals, multi-type living spaces (residence, industry, work), and life services that respond to the times. The second episode brought various examples of connecting communities in densely populated cities ranging from community-led initiatives to research-based policies.

You might be wondering, what is Moon Kitchen? Here is the answer.


Intrigued by the topic?

Learn more about connections of communities by reading Palaces for the People. In the book, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values ​​​​​​​​​​​​but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centres, churches, and parks where crucial connections are formed. Interweaving his own research with examples from around the globe, Klinenberg shows how “social infrastructure” is helping to solve some of our most pressing societal challenges. Richly reported and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People offers a blueprint for bridging our apparently unbridgeable divides.

Episode #3: More Than Cities

How can we cultivate meaningful connections between individuals and their communities in rapidly urbanising environments?

The final episode looked into connecting cities against shifting neighbourhood dynamics due to rapid urbanisation. To answer this, we invited Yinka Danmole as a creative director, the co-founder of Pop-Up City, Joop de Boer , a municipal project manager, Neeltje Pavicic , and editor & journalist, and the co-founder of ForCities, Mariko Sugita . Moreover, speakers examined the potential for bridging urban disconnects and inspiring a reimagined sense of neighbourhood and beyond. Lastly, they revealed how we can extend these intimate connections to reinvigorate urban spaces and encourage global unity.

Intrigued by the topic?

Learn more about connecting cities by reading Tokyo Ueno Station. Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese Emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history. But his life story is also marked by bad luck, and now, in death, he is unable to rest, doomed to haunt the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo.

Through Kazu’s eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society’s inequalities and restrictions spiralled toward this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach. A powerful masterwork from one of Japan’s most brilliant outsider writers, Yu Miri , Tokyo Ueno Station is a book for our times and a look into a marginalised existence in a shiny global megapolis.

In September, Designing Cities for All: RE-generation continues, collaborating with Play The City ! This fellowship will further explore inclusive cities from a gamification perspective. Stay tuned and check our website for more information!