KENZO TANGE: THE ARCHITECT OF POSTWAR JAPANESE 2017. 5. 12.¢ Kenzo...
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THE ARCHITECT OF POSTWAR JAPANESE MODERNISM
CONNOR PETER ROBSON – 16007119
KA4025 – 2016/17
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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 3
1 DEVELOPMENT AND EXPERIMENTATION
2 URBAN PLANNING, METABOLISM AND POST-ECONOMIC MIRACLE
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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS (WITH CREDITS)
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
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,
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.
Figure 3.1 Robson, Connor. “Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus Courtyard”.
2016. PNG file.
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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
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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.
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
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
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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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URBAN PLANNING, METABOLISM AND POST-ECONOMIC MIRACLE
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
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’
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