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  • 1 | P a g e

    KENZO TANGE:

    THE ARCHITECT OF POSTWAR JAPANESE MODERNISM

    CONNOR PETER ROBSON – 16007119

    KA4025 – 2016/17

  • 2 | P a g e

    CONTENTS

    LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 3

    INTRODUCTION 4

    1 DEVELOPMENT AND EXPERIMENTATION

    (1946-1958) 5

    2 URBAN PLANNING, METABOLISM AND POST-ECONOMIC MIRACLE

    (1958-1996) 8

    CONCLUSION 12

    APPENDIX 13

    REFERENCES 15

    BIBLIOGRAPHY 17

  • 3 | P a g e

    LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS (WITH CREDITS)

    CHAPTER 1

    Figure 1.1 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, an

    unforgettable place in my life”. explorejapan.jp. ExploreJapan. n.d. Web. 8

    May 2017, 11:10.

    Figure 1.2 Robson, Connor. “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Cenotaph”. 2016. PNG

    file.

    CHAPTER 2

    Figure 2.1 Robson, Connor. “Conceptual Diagram of Kenzo Tange’s 1960 Tokyo Plan”.

    2017. PNG file.

    Figure 2.2 The Yoyogi National Gymnasium complex. “Olympic construction transformed

    Tokyo”. japantimes.co.jp. The Japan Times. 10 Oct 2014. Web. 8 May 2017,

    11:19.

    Figure 2.3 Tepper, Natalie. Fuji-Sankei Communications Group Headquarters Building.

    n.d. Architectural Excellence: 500 Iconic Buildings. By Paul Cattermole.

    Compendium Publishing Limited, London, 2008. Print.

    APPENDIX

    Figure 3.1 Robson, Connor. “Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus Courtyard”.

    2016. PNG file.

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    INTRODUCTION

    Kenzo Tange (1913-2005), a Japanese-born architect, is credited with being one of the key

    practitioners of the Modernist movement within Japan, adapting 1930s euro-modernist theory

    to the cultural concerns and issues of a devastated, post-war Japan. The country’s

    requirements during this period placed Tange in a key position due to his interest in urban

    planning and redevelopment.

    Through involvement with the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), the

    1960 World Design Conference and 1970 World Exposition, Tange played a major role in

    both bringing western development to Japan and establishing a post-war Japanese style

    within the world architectural community. Both were progressed by the next generation of

    Japanese architects, many of whom Tange had taught or influenced, including the pioneers of

    the Metabolist movement, impacting the development and attitudes of modern Japanese

    architecture.

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    CHAPTER 1:

    DEVELOPMENT AND EXPERIMENTATION

    (1946 – 1958)

    Kenzo Tange began his career under the modernist architect, Kunio Maekawa, building up

    his reputation through competitions. During this formative period, he became a part of the

    international debate within the CIAM, with particular interest in the 1933 ‘functional city’

    debate. His early designs were heavily inspired by Le Corbusier, but most of his work prior to

    1949 was never built.

    Tange’s international acclaim began when he won the 1946 competition to design a memorial

    museum at ground zero in Hiroshima, with the architect later being commissioned to design

    the surrounding park also. Both Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Figure 1.1) and its

    surrounding park illustrate the key goals of Tange’s architectural work: the introduction of

    international developments into Japanese architecture and the continuation of the 1930s’

    growth and prosperity.

    Figure 1.1

    Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

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    The modernist components of the design are immediately apparent, with the slight pilotis,

    created using reinforced concrete,1 allowing free mass movement under the building. The

    significance of the building helped popularize concrete construction within Japan, which

    would have been impossible without introducing western advances in engineering due to the

    country’s previous reliance on timber.2 However, Japanese tradition was not fully omitted,

    seen in the building being elevated and the horizontality of the space’s layout. The best

    example of his initial goals, however, was the western engineered form of the cenotaph

    (Figure 1.2) which mimics the roofs of ancient Japanese haniwa, previously used to mark

    mass tombs during the war-torn Kofun period (c. 250 to c. 600 CE). 3

    Figure 2.2

    Hiroshima Peace Memorial

    Park Cenotaph

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    This stage of Tange’s career is usually referred to as his first phase, a time when his ideas and

    aspirations were limited or not entirely realised, instead relying on Japanese tradition and Le

    Corbusier’s inspiration. For example, Tange used the recessed windows of the Unité

    d’Habitation, along with courtyards and veranda-like balconies, indicative of shrine and

    palace architecture. Tange was heavily criticized for his reliance on tradition, with his

    attempts to replicate Japanese timber construction with steel and concrete unwarranted.

    In response to the criticism and to further his own goals, Tange undertook a large number of

    projects, primarily local government buildings, between 1955 and 1958. This second phase

    was focused on developing a less traditional language and experimented with new concepts,

    including the combination of both Western and Japanese styles into a single residence, which

    is in heavy demand today.4 A significant example is the town hall of Imabari, where he

    experimented with raw concrete facades, using light to emphasize the striking material

    qualities of the projecting walls, developed in previous designs, resembling Italian architect

    Pier Luigi Nervi’s work.5

    1958 saw his third phase, a more mature style, focusing more on utilizing space than its

    context. He continued to develop his Brutalist concrete structuring alongside other concepts,

    diverging from euro-modernism and Le Corbusier’s school of thought. He even challenged

    the Swiss’ solution for merging residential and commercial areas together within mass

    housing units, preferring a more organic arrangement of space; 6 an idea which was further

    debated as part of the Metabolists’ founding principles.

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    CHAPTER 2:

    URBAN PLANNING, METABOLISM AND POST-ECONOMIC MIRACLE

    (1958-1996)

    The 1960s was a period of growth and change within Japan, with Tange able to explore his

    utopian ideas for urban regeneration alongside architects of similar disposition. After vast

    amounts of experimentation and theoretical work, Tange and the group’s work culminated at

    the 1970 World Exhibition in Osaka, before parting ways. Tange continued to practice

    Modernist and Metabolist architecture until his death in 2005.

    With his premier foray into urban planning, Tange produced the Tokyo Plan 1960: a first

    attempt to reorganise a metropolis, 10 million inhabitants strong. The design had been

    developing throughout his previous works, many of which fit into it, with Tange proposing

    Figure 2.1

    Conceptual Diagram of Kenzo

    Tange’s 1960 Tokyo Plan

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    the conversion from radial plan to a central axis, expanding into the underdeveloped bay,

    functioning much like the corridors in residential architecture imported to Japan in the 19th

    century.1 The city would be organised using the ‘open building’ approach on a large scale,

    allowing the city to develop itself without the need for complete renewal. It is also apparent

    that Tange’s references to tradition were becoming more conceptual, with the concept of

    ‘impermanence’ being rethought and repurposed to a modern era. Tange’s plan also bared

    resemblance to Le Corbusier’s Paris Voisin (1925), but elected to connect key

    megastructures via elevated pathways, opposed to the individualistic isolation of the Swiss’

    proposal.

    By the World Design Conference 1960 in Tokyo, Tange had long been part of the

    international community, unlike other Japanese architects, placing him uniquely to help

    define Japan’s place within it. The conference saw Tange introduce several of Japan’s current

    most famous designers, some of whom he’d taught. The most famous of his students were

    those who formed the Metabolists, based on Tange’s utopian principals of creating organic

    cities able to transform with the times.2 They would debate the fundamental requirements of

    Japanese architecture, including the development of a unique national identity and the

    appropriation of the western megastructure typology. Selling their manifesto, Metabolism

    1960: Proposals for a New Urbanism, at the event, Tange himself had no work published

    within it. His later work, however, very much reflected the theories of the group, in the

    development of a true international style, devoid of history and site context.3

    The architecture of the Olympic Stadiums (Figure 2.2), highly praised for t