Hiroshima City government proposes draft of regulations to limit building heights north of A-bomb Dome

by Tsuyoshi Kubota, Staff Writer

On March 19, the Hiroshima City government prepared a draft of regulations related to limits on building heights to preserve views looking from the south of the Atomic Bomb Dome. Legal restrictions will include the area viewed from the ground floor under the main building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum within 17 degrees left and right of the A-Bomb Dome and running 5.2 kilometers to the north. Trees around the A-Bomb Dome also will be utilized to ensure no buildings are visible in the background behind the structure.

In Peace Memorial Park, the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the A-Bomb Dome form a straight line north and south, with the scene north from the Peace Memorial Museum considered especially important. The city government has positioned this view as a symbol of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima and has looked into introduction of such limits based on the City Planning Law and the Landscape Law. As a result, the city has concluded that imposing restrictions on an area within 17 degrees right and left of that center axis would be appropriate. Buildings already in existence will not be subject to restrictions, but the new regulations might impact development of the area.

According to the proposed draft, an area within 17 degrees of the viewing angle will be divided into two parts: an area within 3.1 degrees, with the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the A-Bomb Dome comprising the central axis, and everything else within that 17-degree area. The restrictions will be stricter in the 3.1-degree area, since it serves as a backdrop to the A-bomb Dome.

The restrictions will be loosened with distance from the museum. At about 0.5 kilometers, which is around the site of the former Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium, building height limit will be set at 24 meters. At about 1.5 kilometers, around the high-rise apartment buildings in the Motomachi area, the limit will be set at 63 meters. The restrictions will extend at the maximum to 5.2 kilometers from the museum.

In addition to limiting building heights, the city government considers that, to some extent, buildings in the background will be hidden behind the trees in the Peace Memorial Park. Restrictions will be loosened to about 81 meters for the areas around the Motomachi apartments, compared with the restrictions for the center viewing angle. In consideration of the ground elevation, distances for application of the regulations will be set at 4.5 kilometers in the east and 4.0 kilometers in the west.

The city government submitted the draft to a study group of the city’s Scenery Council for discussion on March 19, and the proposal was accepted with little objection. The study group will make a report to the Scenery Council on March 25. After seeking opinions from city residents, findings will be reported back to the city government later in the fall. After receiving the report, the city will work on detailed plans for the restrictions.

Commentary: Give adequate explanations to residents

Great progress has been made as Hiroshima City has created a draft for limiting building heights in the area along the north-south axis passing through the A-bomb Dome. The restrictions will be highly effective in preserving for future generations the view symbolizing the “A-bombed city of Hiroshima.” At the same time, however, the restrictions will limit development in a large area and may curtail the rights of residents. The city must therefore adequately explain going forward the aim and details of the proposed restrictions.

The view of the A-bomb Dome lying behind the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (in the city’s Naka Ward) is a popular photography spot for tourists. When former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in 2016, he delivered his speech against the backdrop of the A-bomb Dome, attracting worldwide attention in doing so. With that, the city government once again recognized the significance of presenting the view of the A-Bomb Dome seen from the south as a “symbol of Hiroshima.”

Since 2006, the city government has restricted building heights around Peace Memorial Park on a general basis, but such restrictions do not carry legal force. The city has discussed formalizing the restrictions in a legal sense but set aside the idea when opposition was encountered from area condominium residents and landowners.

According to Hiroshima City’s City Planning Division, the government hopes “to obtain the understanding of residents by holding explanatory meetings as needed in the region subject to the restrictions.” To enhance the significance of the restrictions, it is necessary for the city government to exert its ingenuity in using the preserved landscape to promote a message of peace.

(Originally published on March 20, 2020)