Japan is a country comprised of 146,000 square miles (or 378,000 square kilometers) of land, just 4% of the total land area of the United States of America (USA). Despite having limited land, Japan houses a population of more than 127 million, a figure slightly over 40% of the population in USA.

In the last few decades since post-war Japan, the Japanese have proven the value of making the most out of their land. Mistakes become costlier as there is very little spared to waste. On this land, perfection is the end pursuit and quality became synonymous with the words, “Made in Japan”.

When major city-centers around the world become epicenters of concentrated economic activity and continue to attract immigrants in droves, centralized real estate becomes a premium. The ability to fully maximize the productivity of every inch of working and living space seems like a sound approach to moving forward.

Yet, as cities grow and become increasingly populated, the opportunity to address this challenge by transforming our living and working spaces should not come at the cost of human liveability or workplace productivity.

In land scarce Japan, each dining-in patron only has 50cm-wide seating space at a McDonald’s restaurant in Tokyo, Japan’s capital city. | Source: Flickr, cabon33

In land scarce Japan, each dining-in patron only has 50cm-wide seating space at a McDonald’s restaurant in Tokyo, Japan’s capital city. | Source: Flickr, cabon33

“Space is the ‘body language’ of an organization,” says Chris Flink, a partner at global design consultancy, IDEO, and associate professor at Stanford University. The quote appears in the book, Make Space, by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, with the following sub-header:

“Intentional or not, the form, functionality, and finish of a space reflect the culture, behaviors, and priorities of the people within it. This suggests that a space designer is simultaneously a cultural translator and a builder. That said, space design has its own grammar that can be tweaked to bolster desirable habits.”