Beate Löffler


► Short CV

Beate Löffler received an engineering degree in Architecture (University of Applied Studies in Potsdam) and majored in Medieval History and the History of Art (TU Dresden) afterwards. Inspired by onsite experiences in Tokyo, she did a doctoral study on Christian church architecture in Japan, which was completed in 2009. As leader of the research group Urban Systems in East Asia at the IN-EAST School of Advanced Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen, her current postdoctoral research project is focused on the transcultural exchange of architectural knowledge between western nations and Japan as a medium of cultural communication.

► Research Interests
  • History of Architecture and Building Construction
  • Japanese Studies
  • Urban History
  • Discourses on Architecture and Urban Development
  • Cultural identity in relation to architecture and religion
  • History of Sciences and Knowledge Systems
  • Global History
► Postdoctoral Research Project

Asynchronies of the Japanese city: innovation and persistence

The city of today resembles a ‘living organism’ involved in continual processes of change and adaptation. Yet most cities date back for centuries at the same site, are still located on the banks of the same river or the slope of the same hill, even if they outgrew the initial setting. Today’s urban life happens in streets that were surveyed on behalf of one or another ancient emperor, in houses whose foundations date back a millennium and celebrate heroes or saints in temporary patterns that might be formed by long gone centuries and obsolete political systems. 

If we aim to understand the workings of innovation in an urban environment, especially with an attempt at development planning, it makes sense to look at the urban asynchronies and to ask for answers in cities like Tokyo that seem to adopt to change much faster than their European counterparts.

Based on the hypothesis, that the dynamics of Japanese cities might result from cultural perception as much as from actual changes in urban fabric, the project looks at modern Tokyo as a case study. It superimposes four levels of potentially different time patterns: Long-term developments like infrastructure or land reclamation, medium-term phenomena like dwellings and refurbishment of urban space, narrations of identity and city marketing, and the social practices of perceiving the urban within the fields of urban studies.

After relating the evidence on the built environment to narrative sources, I expect to find an intermingled discourse of contradicting perceptions and explanations in regard to the persistence of built environment. This should point towards the argumentation strategies for and against urban innovation and help improving development strategies that integrate citizens’ needs for cultural stability.