The Role of Critical Junctures in Land Readjustment Practices: The Japanese Asset Price Bubble (1986–1991) and the German Reunification Process (1990)


  • Felipe Francisco De Souza Technische Universität Darmstadt


Land Readjustment , Lex Adickes, Selective Borrowing, Critical Junctures, Legally Binding Instrument




The present research study investigates land readjustment practices within the framework of historical institutionalism and critical junctures. Critical junctures focus on changes and the long-term causal effect or historical legacy of these changes. Land readjustment is a legally binding instrument used to reorganize property ownership and increase public spaces. Organized by the government or implementation agencies, land owners are requested to contribute part of their land in exchange for registration and provision of infrastructure. Landowners are willing to bear the project expenses through land contributions driven by various factors, one of which is the probable rise in their net property value followed by the urbanization process. The research focuses on understanding how critical junctures represent game-changing moments in the history of the legally binding instrument, with a specific comparative focus on projects implemented in Frankfurt–Germany and Nagoya–Japan. Indeed, both localities lead the number of projects carried out successfully in the world, with over 200 completed projects each. The study begins with a literature review on the influence of Lex Adickes and its draft version when land readjustment was adapted and transferred to the Japanese planning system through its 1919 Urban Planning Law. Lex Adickes is the common name of the Prussian law of 1902 concerning land readjustment in Frankfurt am Main. The Japanese 1919 Law, in particular, demonstrated similarities to the 1893 draft of the Lex Adickes, but with notable differences due to the incorporation of Japan’s traditions in rice field consolidation and the experiences gained from previous laws and regulations. The research question is “How have land readjustment projects performed over time since the enactment of Lex Adickes (1902 Germany) and the Former City Planning Act (1919 Japan) according to several critical junctures (e.g., new national regulations, economic crisis, natural disasters, world wars, etc.) and related variables?” It employs a multi-dimensional methodology, involving a meticulous examination of archival data, including maps, financial records, and textual records, sourced from prominent institutions such as the Frankfurt Institut für Stadtgeschichte and the Nagoya City Archives and Museum. In terms of critical junctures, the core of the study will focus on the collapse of the Japanese Asset Price Bubble (1986–1991) and the economic recession after the German Reunification Process (1990) as case studies. Both economic downturns were identified as a critical juncture, drastically influencing land readjustment strategies. The research statistical analysis indicated that the economic downturns led to prolonged project durations, increased financial burdens on stakeholders, and a notable shift in the proportional ratio of costs and benefits. However, although economic crises can act as catalysts for redefining urban planning practices, countries did answer to them with different approaches and adaptations to new socio-economic realities. In conclusion, this study underscores the importance of understanding land readjustment not as a static model but as a flexible strategy that evolves in response to changing circumstances, echoing the principles of historical institutionalism in urban development. It contributes to the discourse by emphasizing the need for urban planners to recognize and adapt to game-changing events and trends. The research elucidates the significance of learning from both historical precedents and contemporary challenges, thereby equipping planners with the knowledge and tools to navigate the complexities of urban development in an ever-changing world.


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