Getting Lost in Tokyo


  • Raymond Lucas



This paper explores the potential for using alternative forms of inscriptive practice to describe the urban space of the Tokyo Subway. I begin with an account of the process of getting lost in Shinjuku Subway Station in the heart of Tokyo. This station represents a limit condition of place, being dense and complex beyond the powers of traditional architectural representation. The station is explored through serial translations, beginning with narrative, moving to a flowchart diagram, Laban dance notation, recurring motifs and archetypes, architectural drawing, photography, and cartography. As Claudia Brodsky Lacour and Tim Ingold describe, the form our inscriptive practices take are crucial to the ways in which we conceptualise those places. How much of the experience of a place is lost in the traditional inscriptive practices of the architect? This description of the urban space of the Tokyo subway forms the basis for an extended study exploring the description of this experience of place, and the power of such description to theorise space. The ultimate aim of this is to shift the focus of urban design away from geometric principles and towards the experiences that might be enjoyed in such places.

Author Biography

Raymond Lucas

Raymond Lucas is currently researching multimodal representations of urban space at the departments of Architecture and Design, Manufacture & Engineering Management, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. The research is part of the United Kingdom AHRC/EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century cluster. This project looks at the broad range of sensory experience and looks to find notations appropriate to this fuller description and design of urban space. He has recently been engaged in research on the extent of the human voice in determining space at the University of Edinburgh. The Inflecting Space project was a collaboration between architecture and music supported by the AHRC looking at applications of sound design to public space. He holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Aberdeen with the thesis Towards a Theory of Notation as a Thinking Tool. This work examined creative inscriptive practices ranging from architectural drawing through movement notations to diagrams and painting.