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Tokyo Olympic Legacy: Navigation Infrastructure

Image courtesy of Flickr user Shuets Udono

Read this blog post in Japanese.

Tokyo is the second largest city in the world. Futuristic, vibrant and dense, this thriving metropolis is set to host their second Olympic Games in the summer of 2020, and it will make substantial infrastructural investments in preparation for the games. Hosting the Olympic Games require hefty investments, and many cities have been criticized for letting massive structures go to waste. But the Japanese are renowned for their resourcefulness when it comes to space. The city already boasts great examples of positive Olympic legacies, such as the Tokaido Shinkansen, the high-speed railway and a network of toll expressways in and around the greater Tokyo area; both were built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and have been dutifully serving the community since.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government envisions Tokyo becoming a disaster resilient global city, raising overall disaster preparedness and community awareness through comprehensive measures for the year 2020 and beyond. The infrastructure developments for the Olympic Games is the perfect opportunity.

How Gensler Can Help Make This Vision a Reality

Taking heed of the challenges ahead, Gensler began its design research by looking at past Olympic Games around the world. This includes the successful commercialization of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and the promotion of sustainable, eco-friendly land development of the London Olympics in 2012.

As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Tokyo offers a highly complex transportation and navigation infrastructure. According to our survey, over 80% of foreign visitors in Tokyo have found the city’s navigation system unhelpful, especially since most information isn’t translated to serve non-Japanese travelers. Since the number of foreign visitors is expected to increase threefold during the Olympics, it is crucial to create a wayfinding and navigation system that caters to international visitors.

Gensler designers developed a multi-scale signage and wayfinding system that can serve the athletes and spectators during the Games and be repurposed into city-wide communication tools. The team identified 5 scales of navigational systems within the existing built environment: XS (personal scale), S (street scale), M (main road scale), L (district scale), and XL (city scale).

Image © Gensler

(XS) Personal Scale: Mobile devices for real-time translations and directions.

Create a multi-language navigation app that can be downloaded by both Tokyo residents and Olympic visitors. The app can provide interactive information, with potential integration of augmented reality, real-time information and instant signage translation, all powered by an icon-based, intuitive search engine. Instead of updating all of the existing signage into multiple languages, a massive and expensive feat, users can read the street signs easily with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology.

(S) Pedestrian Scale: Vending machines as wayfinding and disaster relief tools.

Japan has the highest ratio of vending machines to landmass in world, with more than 5.5 million vending machines nationwide. Together, they can hold three-days-worth of water and other beverages for the entire population of Japan. During the Olympics, high-tech vending machines with digital displays can serve as dual-purpose information centers for the games and as a source for free Wi-Fi. After the games, they can serve as community message boards and communicate real-time disaster relief information in times of need. The vending machines can also serve as dispensing points for emergency kits, food, and water.

(M) Street Scale: Bus stops as communication hubs.

Bus stops have long been used for advertising, and they can be enhanced to provide free Wi-Fi. During the Olympics, bus stops can be repurposed as small public viewing spots, broadcasting live events from nearby stadia. They can also provide interactive maps with event details and transportation routes. In the case of a large-scale emergency, the digital screens can be used to display evacuation routes.

(L): District Scale: Integrate digital displays into building facades, convenience stores.

Digital displays installed on key building façades can broadcast general information such as weather and traffic updates. They can also work on different scales, syncing with mobile devices to provide featured content. Convenience stores in particular are an opportunity—Japan has more than 51,800 convenience stores, mainly concentrated in Tokyo—that can also become an integral part of an enhanced navigational infrastructure.

Image © Gensler

(XL): City Scale: Install super-graphics at major intersections to broadcast to the masses.

Oversized graphic billboards and digital displays are common throughout the city of Tokyo. The Shibuya Crossing alone hits 500,000 pairs of eyeballs each day. During the Olympics, they can become major public viewing spaces. In case of emergency, large-scale digital signage—including those at Shibuya Crossing—can become a critical visual communication tools to provide disaster relief information to a broader audience.

This dual-purpose system provides simple and clear navigational information during the Olympic Games and beyond, providing evacuation information in case of natural disasters or acts of terrorism and building resiliency into the city long after the games conclude. We are looking to conduct pilot study in one small area or development site in order to evaluate feasibility and usability of the system. If you are interested in collaborating with us to implement the idea, please contact info-tk@gensler.com.

Hisayuki is a well-rounded project manager with a wealth of architectural and interior design experience in both Japan and the U.S. Not only bilingual, Hisayuki’s keen understanding of the business culture and work process in both countries allows him to deliver a variety of projects that surpass the expectation of Gensler Tokyo’s global clients. Beyond project management, Hisayuki is an avid champion in design process optimization through the use of new technologies. He leads Tokyo’s multidisciplinary “G5” team to great success with his profound sense of responsibility and steadfast mentorship. Contact him at hisayuki_araki@gensler.com .