This paper explores the adaptability of buildings in Japan from the perspective of three distinct practice typologies:
large general contractors, large architectural design firms, and small design ateliers. The paper illustrates the cultivation
of adaptability in Japan revealing a maturing of concepts into current innovations, trends, priorities, and obstacles
in relation to adaptability in design. The paper contextualizes the situation by reviewing the evolution of residential
development in support of building adaptability, and the ways in which these policies and concepts have shaped
practice and transcended residential design. This evolution is then explored through non-residential case studies undertaken
by the three practice types, and supported through a review of critical themes emerging from the interviews. The
importance of particular physical characteristics are examined including storey height, location of services, planning
modules and structural spacing/spans. The interviews expose the critical relationship between adaptability and different
social variables - the state of the market, the role of planning regulations and other legal frameworks; as well as,
the misconceptions and variations in the perceptions on the role and meaning adaptability has in practice. The paper
is concluded by revealing the lessons learnt, including the unfolding of dependencies outside the ‘black box’ of adaptability
(e.g. practice culture, material and, stakeholder mindsets) and the requirement of effective communication of
concepts to allow an informed conversation between professionals and with clients and users. Like many other philosophical
design concepts in complex processes, adaptability benefits from a mutual understanding, good relationships,
communication, integration, and shared goals amongst team members.
Keywords: Adaptability, Japan, Design Practice, Design Parameters, Office Design.
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