The Architecture of Kenzo Tange in Tokyo

One of the most influential Japanese architects of the 20th century is Kenzo Tange (1913-2005).  The 1987 Pritzker Prize winner has a number of unique masterpieces dotted around Tokyo as part of his ambitious 1959 plan for the “Structural Re-organization of Tokyo”.

1. Tokyo Metropolitan Government

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, also referred to as Tokyo City Hall or Tochō for short, houses the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.  Finished in 1991 at a total cost of ¥157 billion (about US$ 1 billion) of public money, a popular nickname for Tochō is "Tax Tower".

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Located in Shinjuku, it held the title of the tallest building in Tokyo, at 243 meters (799 feet) until late 2006, when it surrendered its title upon the completion of Midtown Tower in Roppongi.

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The building consists of a complex of three structures, each taking up a city block. The tallest and most prominent of the three is Tokyo Metropolitan Main building No.1, a tower 48 stories tall that splits into two sections at the 33rd floor. The building also has three levels below ground.

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The design of the building (which was meant to resemble a computer chip) has many symbolic touches, most notably the aforementioned split which re-creates the look of a Gothic cathedral.

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2. Yoyogi Gymnasium

Located in Harajuku, the Yoyogi National Gymnasium hosted the swimming and diving competitions during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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Its two halls can hold over 10,000 people and are frequently used for sports tournaments and large-scale concerts. Its 50-meter pool is also open to the public.

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The building’s innovative suspension-roof design was widely praised when it was built.

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3. Fuji TV Headquarters

The headquarters building of Fuji Television, one of Japan’s private nationwide TV stations, was built in 1996 on the reclaimed land complex of Odaiba.

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The structure comprises two towers on a seven-storey base interconnected by a lattice of "corridors in the sky", which support a 32-m diameter sphere containing an observation gallery and restaurant.

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4. Shinjuku Park Tower

The Shinjuku Park Tower was opened in 1994, and its top floors house the Park Hyatt Hotel, made famous by Sofia Coppola’s 2003 movie Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

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It is currently the 6th tallest building in Tokyo.

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Tange’s unusual architecture, three glued-together towers with asymmetrical tops that are lit up in rainbow colors at night, is matched by the Hyatt’s lavish decor.

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5. Saint Mary’s Cathedral

Located in the Sekiguchi neighborhood of Bunkyo, Saint Mary’s Cathedral was built in 1964, the same year as Yoyogi Gymnasium. Viewed from above, eight massive stainless steel wings converge to form a huge cross.

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Seen from the front, the building appears like an enormous bird with open wings, ready for takeoff.

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Fittingly, Tange’s own funeral was held here in 2005.  The photo below inside the cathedral is from Wikipedia.

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6. Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center

The Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center was built in 1967, during Tange’s early cubic period.

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It looks like a strange bird-house tree mansion, with 13 boxes appearing to hang from a central beam.

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7. Sogetsu Kaikan

Completed in 1977, Sogetsu Kaikan in Akasaka has massive glass and steel plates covering its exterior, reflecting the trees of the nearby Akasaka Imperial Palace compound on the opposite side of Aoyama Dori.

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2 thoughts on “The Architecture of Kenzo Tange in Tokyo

  1. Pingback: The Architecture of Tadao Ando in Tokyo « Konnichiwa

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