Three new building projects promise to propel Tsukuba into the new Century with an enhanced 'international face'. For the last few months, the Tsukuba Convention Center has been going up around Takezono House, and the construction of an 11 story hotel next to it has just recently begun. The third big building project is a new millennial extravaganza call 'Media Park City', which is being built in the adjoining town of Ina and is due to open by the spring of 2000.
Due to be open for business by June 1999, the Tsukuba Convention Center (which will go by the name 'Epokaru (Epochal) Tsukuba') will feature a main convention hall with a seating capacity of 1258 complete with the latest and best in the way of audiovisual equipment, including a six-language, simultaneous translation system and a 400-inch, high-definition TV screen. For especially large conferences, closed-circuit TVs will allow direct hook-ups to other conference rooms giving a total capacity of 2500. This will allow large conferences to be together for opening and closing ceremonies while divided up into interest groups for bulk of the conference.
The information packet includes the interesting description of another technological marvel, namely that the luxurious seats in the main hall are designed so that "the back rest of the chair in front of you when in a reclined position serves as a writing desk." (It's a bit hard to picture how a "luxurious" seat back can be transformed into a writing desk, but presumably, there is a hard surface that swings over the reclined chair back, provided, of course, no one is already sitting in the chair!) When writing desks are in place, the seating capacity drops to 450 on the main floor, with the balcony (which doesn't have this option) remains at 358.
The other main room of the convention center is a multi-purpose hall designed for poster sessions, displays and receptions, but it can also be set up for seating with a 670 person capacity. There is also a medium-sized convention hall that seats 200 along with two large and 15 smaller conference rooms, with the larger rooms holding 144 persons when set up as a 'school' and 231 when set up as a 'theater' (using the Japanized English terms).
The main convention hall (to the right in the picture) will be connected to the rest of the facility by walkways at three levels, and the other facilities will all surround a large open atrium in the center, reaching up to the top (4th) floor. The atrium will have a glass ceiling and the entire facility will be enclosed in glass on the front side, giving the interior space a warm, bright atmosphere. On the upper floor, plans call for a "social salon", a room for social gatherings, that looks out onto a rooftop garden above the 3rd floor of part of the building.
11 Story Hotel
While the artist's conception of 'Epochal Tsukuba' do not show anything to the right of the convention center, there will in actuality be an 11 story hotel directly connected to Epochal on the ground floor. The hotel will have 188 rooms, 150 of which are to be single rooms. Thus, the maximum capacity will only be about 230 people.
The rooms will all have internet access ports ready for guests to plug in their computers, along with the obvious cable TV and other such amenities. There will also be a 90 seat restaurant. The construction is being funded by a combination of public and private funds (the 'Daisan Sector' system of Japan), and upon completion, the facility will be leased to a private company to be called the 'Tsukuba Gakuen Hotel'.
'Media Park City' To Be Developed East Of Tsukuba
To be located just a few kilometers to the southeast of the Yatabe Interchange on the Joban Expressway, 'Media Park City' promises to be a joint public/private venture of millennial proportions. Plans call for three distinct sections focusing around the theme of communication technology.
The first section to be built will be a 'museum park' built with an architectural style reminiscent of the Edo Period of Japan and will be appropriately called 'Edo Tech'. The first phase of this park is scheduled to open in the Fall of 1999, with a completion date for the entire park of the Spring of 2000. The park is to feature a variety of hands-on multimedia experiences designed to heighten visitorŐs understanding of communications technology.
Next to 'Edo Tech', Ibaraki Prefecture will be building educational and research facilities focused on 21st Century communication technology. These facilities will have a close working relationship with the private companies to be located in the adjacent high-tech industrial zone. Present plans call for completion of these facilities in about 2003.
As the development site is located in a relatively undeveloped area of eastern Ina, related infrastructure construction projects will also be in the works. The present roads are totally inadequate for such a large-scale project, and so expect to see considerable road construction projects in the area along with the main construction. Eventually, the 'Shin Joban Line' railroad connecting downtown Tsukuba with Tokyo will pass close by, and so this will also be an integral part of the transportation system to 'Media Park City'.
As this large-scale project is being pursued during difficult economic times with what would appear to be a very ambitious schedule, one wonders whether the planners can pull it off on schedule. Hopefully, however, it will at least be ahead of the completion of the new rail line, which has already been delayed numerous times and which now has an (optimistic) completion date of 2005.
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