MODERN JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE AND ARCHITECTS: KENZO TANGE, TADAO ANDO AND SANAA LTD

MODERN JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE

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Toyo Ito's Tower of Winds
Japan has the highest number of architects in the world; 307,558, which works out to 240.4 architects per 100,000, compared to 54.1 per 100,000 in Britain , 47.1 in France, 144.7 in Germany, 8.3 in Russia and 0.8 in Bangladesh. On things to love about life in Japan, Andrew Bender wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Contemporary architecture. Certain Tokyo districts look like galleries of modern architecture. The five Japanese Pritzker Prize winners (the second most in the world, after the U.S.) have quietly influenced design worldwide, yet the Japanese are happy to be schooled by architects from elsewhere. Case in point: Uruguay-born, New York-based Rafael Viñoly designed the Tokyo International Forum, by my reckoning (and many others'), Japan's greatest modern building. [Source: Andrew Bender, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2012]

Tom Dyckhoff, the architecture critic for the Time of London wrote: “All hail the greatest architectural nation on Earth.” In addition to producing world famous architects like Tadao Ando “the Japanese public is switched on to architecture like nowhere else on Earth, and I hear they have some money too. All of which adds up to inventive buildings everywhere you turn whether you’re shopping in Tokyo’s jewel-like boutiques or meeting your maker at Toyo Ito’s Meiso no Mori crematorium in the woods near Kakamigahara.”

Five Japanese architects have won the Pritzker Architecture Prize: 1) Kenzo Tange; 2) Fumihiko Maki 3) Tadao Ando, and 4) Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima of Sanaa Ltd, who won it together in 2010.

Many Japanese architects are highly ranked in Japan and elsewhere, and a large number of foreign architects find business markets in Japan, a trend that has spread even to local areas. Among the outstanding works of the 1990s are the Tokyo International Forum (1997) by Rafael Vinoly and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices (1991) by Tange Kenzo. However, the demand for new showcase buildings in Japan is relatively low, many Japanese architects are looking abroad, especially to China, for new challenges and opportunities See China. <

Good Websites and Sources: Japanese Architects on Modern and Contemporary Architecture japan-photo.de ; Tokyo Meltdown bento.com ; Roarfish roarfish.com ; Architecture Tokyo architecturetokyo.com Modern House Designs trendir.com/house-design ; Miho Museum site miho.or.jp ; Photos danheller.com Naoshima (in the Inland Sea near Okayama, Kurashiki and Takamatsu) is the home of Benesse Island, a unique art collection that covers the landscape around a guesthouse designed by Tadao Ando. Websites: Art Site Naoshima Galinsky ; Travel Guide Naoshima Naoshima.net ; Kansai International Airport Kansai official site ; Interesting Modern Building in Tokyo: Roppongi and Roppongi Hills Japan Guide japan-guide.com ; Roppongi Hills site roppongihills.com ; Tokyo Midtown site tokyo-midtown.com ;

Links in this Website: JAPANESE CULTURE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE CULTURE AND HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CLASSICAL JAPANESE ART AND SCULPTURE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; GARDENS AND BONSAI IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MODERN JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; HOMES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; ROOMS AND APPLIANCES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Rem Koolhaas ond Japanese Architecture

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas told the Christian Science Monitor: Some cultures have managed to maintain their distinctiveness. It still is meaningful to say that someone is a Japanese architect, but relatively meaningless to say that someone is an American or a Dutch architect. The Dutch happily subsumed their identity into international modernism and found international resonances and connections. In Japan, however, there has always been an insistence that even a modern thing should respect tradition. Japanese forms are still particularly careful, particularly well made, particularly intricate; they do not surrender to a large or brutal scale. [Source: Project Syndicate, July 27, 2012]

“It is actually a paradox that Japan has maintained its style. I discovered in Project Japan that the Japanese have a philosophy of impermanence. They rebuild the sacred Ise Grand Shrine every 20 years. They do not hang onto things. They have a totally different attitude toward preservation than we do in the West and yet have preserved a lot more. [Ibid]

History of Modern Architecture in Japan

Modern architectural techniques were introduced into Japan with the launch of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The first buildings to result from this effort combined traditional Japanese methods of wooden construction with Western methods and designs. The Kaichi Elementary School (1876) in the city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, is typical of the hybrid approach adopted for schools built across the country. In the 1880s, reactionary opinion turned against the rush toward Westernization, even in architecture, and Asian models were advocated. After World War I, traditional Japanese architecture underwent a reassessment when architects like Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959) of the United States and Bruno Taut (1880-1938) of Germany came to work in Japan. The years following World War II saw a continuation of efforts to reconcile traditional and modern architecture. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]

“For Japan, which is frequently hit by earthquakes, development of earthquake-resistant construction has always been a major problem in architecture. The first skyscraper of Japan, the Kasumigaseki Building, was completed in 1968 using the latest earthquake-resistant technology. A large number of skyscrapers have been built since then, including those in Nishi-Shinjuku in Tokyo (1971) and the Landmark Tower (1993; 296 meters high) in Yokohama. [Ibid]

“The 1970s saw the appearance of architects who stressed an artistic approach to architecture, a departure from the previous emphasis on technical expertise. Domestic architects’ offices were kept busy during the high-riding decade of the 1980s, as were some major foreign architects who were invited to work in Japan. The collapse of the “bubble economy” of Japan in the early 1990s caused a slowdown in the architecture industry. [Ibid]

Modern Japanese Architects

Great Japanese architects include Kazuyo Sejima, Tadao Ando, Kenzo Tange, Fumihiko Maki, Shigeri Ban, and Kengo Kuma. In the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese architects were recruited increasingly for overseas assignments. Among them were Isozaki, to do the Museum of Contemporary Art (1986) in Los Angeles; Tange, for Singapore’s OUB Center (1986); Kurokawa Kisho, for the Pacific Tower (1992) in Paris; and Ando Tadao, for the Meditation Space (1995) at the UNESCO complex in Paris. Ando has been especially well received abroad. He has taken several international prizes such as the 1995 Pritzker Architecture Prize, given by the Hyatt Foundation, and the 1997 Royal Gold Medal for architecture, awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Some regard Toyo Ito as the greatest Japanese architect. He won the prestigious Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architecture in 2006. He designed the Yatshiro Museum un Kumamoto, the Shimosuwa Museum in Nagano Prefecture and the Yokohama Tower of the Winds.

Arata Isozaki designed the Sant Jordi Sports Hall (a huge domed structure whose ceiling was raised from a collapsed position with hydraulic jacks) for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; Team Disney Building in Florida and the Mito Art Center (featuring a gravity-defying water-pummeled 20-ton rock and 330-foot twisting titanium-sheathed tower).

Yasuhisa Toyota with Nagata Acoustics is regarded as one of the top acoustic designers in the world. Among his masterpieces are the new concert hall in Los Angeles, Suntory Hall and the theater at Bard College. His greatest creations have been with architect Frank Gehry.

Kenzo Tange and Arata Isozaki

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Tange Fuji TV headquarters
Acclaimed modernists and post modernists such as Kenzo Tange (1914-2005) and Arata Isozaki are well-known in the West. Osaka-born Tange was educated at Tokyo University and won the Pritzer Prize in 1987. He designed the side-by-side Olympic stadiums for the Tokyo Olympic in 1964, with their stunning modernist elliptical steel-plated roofs, the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, the master plan for the 1970 Osaka Exposition and Tokyo’s Odaida waterfront.

Tange is one of Japan’s most famous and influential postwar architect. He managed to fuse traditional Japanese architecture with scientific and technological advancements. In the 1950s and 1960s he designed several striking edifices, including the Yoyogi National Stadium for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. redirecting of architectural priorities away from unmitigated commercialization was led by Isozaki Arata, who as a young man had worked under Tange. His work and writings had a great influence on the younger generation of architects.

Tange is best known for monumental concrete structures such a Tokyo Metropolitan government building. He produced works in 20 countries including the Kuwait International Airport, the National Palace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UOB Plaza in Singapore.

Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando is a Kansai-born, self-taught architect who won the Pritzker Prize in 1995, the a Gold medal of the American Institute of Architects and many other architecture awards even though he did not complete any buildings outside of Japan until 2001. Largely self-taught, he grew up in a wood-and-paper house in Osaka, took an interest in carpentry when he was young and became interested in architecture when he traveled around Japan as a professional boxer and took the trans-Siberian train when he visted Europe.

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Ando's Westin Awaji Island Hotel
Benjamin Forgey wrote in the Washington Post, Ando’s buildings “possess an inner essence that is hard to describe and hard not to feel. It has to do with a sense of security and serenity the spaces induce---Ando buildings almost always are conceived as contemplative retreats from the pressures and mediocrities of contemporary life.”

Ando is known for his exposed concrete buildings that skillfully harmonize with nature. He is regarded as the flag-bearer of the modern minimalist movements and has said the purpose of his art is “to create a space where people can live, think and create.” He continues to work out of modest office in Osaka and dismisses his fame, regards himself as a coordinator andinsists that his work and architecture in general are a team efforts.

Ando won the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He has taught at Yale, Harvard and Colombia and now holds a professorial position at Tokyo University (the first at the university for someone without a college degree). Tando now arguably has achieved rock star status. He is a friend of U2's Bono. The two have made a number of appearances together. When Ando’s eco-friendly Shibuya station was opened Bono flew half way around the world to be at the unveiling.

Book: Tadao Ando, Light and Water (Monacelli. 2003) features some excellent photographs of Ando’s work.

Buildings by Tadao Ando

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Ando's Hyogo
Prefectural Museum of Art
Among Ando’s achievements are the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which looks like Atlantis rising from the sea; the Omoteando Hills, 21_21 Design Site in Roppongi, the awesome Francois Pinault Foundation for Contemporary Art on an island in the Seine in suburban Paris; the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts building in St. Louis; the Vitra Seminar House in Weil-am-Rhein, German; and numerous buildings in the Kansai region of Japan.

Early works in Japan includes the Hikarini Kyokai (Church of Light) in Ibaraki in Osaka Prefecture and the Chichu Art Museum. The debut of the Ando style---unadorned concrete walls and floors and geometric design and some impractical elements such as having the bathroom in a separate building---was a row house on Sumiyoshi Ward of Osaka built in 1976.

Ando has produced many unusual creations built amid challenging by natural obstacles, like Japan’s mountainous terrain, or manmade additions like roads or other construction.Miki Tanikawa wrote in the New York Times: “Like all artists eager for expression, enterprising architects often dream of breaking free from limitations like space, budgets and regulations. But for Tadao Ando, constraint is the mother of architectural creation, even when it comes to railroad tracks hemming in the building site and a shoreline that occasionally might brush the foundation with waves. [Source: Miki Tanikawa, New York Times, October 14, 2010]

Ando-deigned Shibuya station has an egg-like structure and has been dubbed the Underground Spaceship. The environmentally-friendly design incorporates a natural ventilation system that uses the tendency of hot to rise and cool air to fall to pipe in fresh air from the outside and dissipate hot from trains and bodies in gigantic duct that is 30 meters deep and 10 meters wide. A wall of ivy covers the exhaust duct converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. A special skin of pipes has even been installed to circulate cold air and water to cool the station. The open spaces in station are intended to help air circulate, commuter see the trains and reduce feeling of claustrophobia. The station cost billions of dollars.

Ando currently works with a team of 500 people, As of October 2008 his team was working n 28 projects, including the renovation of Punta dell Dogana art museum is Venice, the sculpture-like Abu Dhabi Maritime Museum and the Sky Tree, the new Tokyo Tower, scheduled for completion in 2011.

Many of his projects have an environmental aim. He is currently interested the Sea Forest proposal to turn a landfill in Tokyo Bay into a large forest in time for the 2016 Olympics.

Tadao Ando’s 4-x-4 House in Kobe

Designing the 4x4 House on the outskirts of Kobe confronted many physical and manmade challenges “Whenever I have a project where I have to work hard to overcome physical limitations, it often ends up winning reactions from all over the place,” Ando told the New York Times.”From an architectural design point of view, no one would be interested in houses that were designed and built luxuriously using millions of dollars.” [Source: Miki Tanikawa, New York Times, October 14, 2010]

The 4x4 project began with Yoshinari Nakata’s property, about 65 square meters, or 700 square feet, squeezed between the railroad tracks that run along the Kobe mountain range and Suma beach. About a quarter of the lot is regularly under water, “so the land I could use to build a structure was very limited,” Mr. Nakata said. He responded to a magazine solicitation that invited readers to apply for an opportunity to have a house designed by a noted architect. [Ibid]

Mr. Ando, one of the participating designers, was interested in the site’s limitations, and the fact that the property is near the seismic center of the 1995 Hanshin earthquake that killed thousands. The epicenter was on Awaji Island, just across the Akashi Strait. “I wanted that house to be a point of remembrance for the earthquake,” he said. [Ibid]

Design of Tadao Ando’s 4-x-4 House in Kobe

Miki Tanikawa wrote in the New York Times: “Drawing on his flair for geometric designs and cast-in-place concrete, Mr. Ando proposed a unusual design: the fourth floor pops out about a meter toward the water from the rest of the rectangular structure.” “It’s a small space that subsumes a much larger space,” Mr. Ando said of the effect. [Source: Miki Tanikawa, New York Times, October 14, 2010]

The house’s living room, kitchen and dining area all are there within the four-meter by four-meter footprint---hence the house’s nickname. Whenever he is on the fourth floor, Mr. Nakata said, “I feel like I am on a boat, floating about in the ocean.” “Here, the ocean view comes to you,” he added. “You don’t have to take a look through the window.” There is a lot to look at, including Awaji Island and in the distance, the Akashi Strait Suspension Bridge, which at 3.9 kilometers, or about 2.5 miles, is the longest span of its kind. Tankers and cruise ships pass by often and, below, children often play along the beach. [Ibid]

Bedrooms are on the house’s third floor, a study on the second, and the bathroom and storage space on the first. Mr. Nakata, who lives in the house with his wife and 3-year-old son, said the building cost was ¥35 million, or about $427,000 at today’s exchange rate. It was finished in 2003. But one drawback is that the trip to the toilet from the living room involves three flights of stairs. “My wife often complains about the ups and downs involved, especially when she has to bring the groceries up to the kitchen after shopping,” Mr. Nakata said. But he added: “The view is so precious. I would miss it if I lose this.” [Ibid]

Terunonu Fujimori

Architect Terunonu Fujimori is known for designing buildings with beams that jut out at weird angles and using materials such as turf, plants, mud, crooked branches and bark. Some of his work have of Tokieneque appearance. Other were inspired by pit-dwellings of the Jomon people who lived 8,000 years ago. Fujimori has said he has ambitions to build a tower made of dandelions. Thus far he has made a tea house with dandelions popping out o the walls and leeks emerging from te roofs all suspended 20 feet off the ground on a tree.

Some have even described Fujimori’s work as humorous, pointing to his children’s slide with a gate in it; his concrete tree that curls like a Hokusaii wave painting; and a house that has creepers growing on the walls inside the house. Fujimori spent much of his career as a scholar of architecture before putting his theories and ideas into practice by designing structure beginning in the early 1990s.

Shigeru’s Ban’s Smurf House in Metz

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Tokyo Sky Tree
Shigeru Ban first attracted attention after the Kobe Earthquake in 1995 when he constructed his Paper Church, incorporating novel, environmentally-friendly materials such as heavy-duty cardboard tubes. He also helped organize relief efforts after earthquakes in Turkey, India and Haiti.

Shigeru Ban designed the “Pompidou-Metz”---the first regional branch of Paris’s famed Pompidou Center---which opened in 2011 in Metz, France. Describing Maia de la Baume wrote in the New York Times, “From afar, the new Pompidou museum in this postindustrial landscape resembles an enormous snow-white toadstool rising out of a wasteland. With its modular structure and futuristic design...is many things to many people, but whether it can become the next Bilbao, as the town fathers hope, is another question altogether. [Source: Maia de la Baume New York Times, April 15, 2010]

The avant-garde shape of the building in this otherwise sleepy provincial city of Lorraine, in once German eastern France, has inspired a flood of nicknames. The mayor calls it the Smurf House. Some residents prefer the more elegant Chinese Hat, because Shigeru Ban, the Japanese architect who designed the building, used a woven bamboo hat purchased years ago in Paris as the inspiration for his roof.” [Ibid]

Metz is an unglamorous, often neglected city of 127,500 people, is home to one of France’s largest military bases. In these bland surroundings, the flamboyantly modern building, devoted exclusively to contemporary art, was initially perceived as out of place, even a little bizarre. Its mayor and residents hope the museum will help put the city on the map and attract tourists as the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed by Frank Gehry. Has done.

The museum, which is intended to serve as a cultural center as well, with conferences, films and performances, was financed in large parts by the Lorraine region and the city of Metz. The new museum will have the right to choose among the 65,000 artworks that the Pompidou center in Paris, the largest contemporary collection in Europe, has in storage.

Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima of Sanaa Ltd.

In March 2010, Japanese architects Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima of Sanaa Ltd. were awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The male-female team are known for creating sprawling, dreamy spaces using everyday building materials. They have made art museums, university buildings and designer-label fashion boutiques in Japan, United States and Europe like the see-through Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio and the translucent Christian Dior building in Tokyo’s upscale Omotesando shopping district. They also designed the Ogasawara Museum (Ida, Nagano Prefecture, 1999) and the Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Ishikawa Prefecture, 2004).

Nishizawa (a man) and Sejima (a woman) said they do not create structures from a distinct Japanese architectural tradition but have acknowledged they have been influenced by austere construction methods, lightweight materials and porous boundaries between inside and outside---all hallmarks of traditional Japanese architecture. Nishikawa told AP, “If you see Japanese temples made of wood, you can see how the architecture is made up. They have a clear construction and transparency and they are quite simple. I think this is one of the big things were are influenced by.”

Sejima and Nishizawa also designed a branch of the Louvre in Paris; and the seven-story New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. The latter described by Time as having a “quietly elegant design” and looking like “a stack of boxes not quite aligned, which allows daylight to slip inside in surprising ways.” Ishigami won the top Golden Lion award in architecture at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennial in 2010 Sejima’s work often feature white and transparent themes. She designed the very white and open annex to the Louvre in the coal-mining town of Lens that opened with fanfare in December 2012.

Other Japanese Architects

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the new arts center in Tokyo
Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki is designing one of the four new World Trade Center towers to replace the two that were destroyed on September 11th. He won the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Shigeru Ban won the competition for the new Pompidou Center in Metz, France with a design inspired by Chinese bamboo hats. Hitoshi Abe has developed plans for future cities made up of “Megahouses” with rooms that anyone can reserve.

Kisho Kurokawa designed the new National Art Center in Tokyo, opened in 2007, and the new airport in Kuala Lumpur, inaugurated in 1998, and the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.

Frank Lloyd Wright in Japan

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), described by many as the most important American architect of the 20th century, loved Japan, Japanese architecture and Japanese art. Famous for designing the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Fallwater House in Pennsylvania, he traveled extensively in Japan. He visited Japan in 1905 and 1913 and returned in 1916 and spent five years there.

Wright spoke of Japanese buildings as "vessels of space" and "shrines for the artist pilgrims in need of worship or in search of light." He said "The Japanese lavish loving care on their beautiful things. To them beautiful things are religious things and their care is a great privilege."

Wright was the premier dealer of Japanese prints in the early 1890s. He filled his own home with Asian art he kept his own personal collection of woodblock prints in a vault near his drafting table and often gazed at his favorite prints for inspiration. In his autobiography, Lloyd said, "If Japanese prints were to be deducted from my education, I don't know what direction I might have taken."

During his career, Wright produced only six buildings outside of North America and all of them were in Japan. The most well known of these buildings was Imperial Hotel. The Imperial Hotel was one of the most celebrated building in the 20th century. It opened in Tokyo on the day of the 1923 Great Tokyo earthquake and survived the jolt thanks in part to earthquake-proof “floating cantilever construction.” Over the years international celebrities such as Babe Ruth and Marilyn Monroe stayed there. Later, it was taken down but the main entrance hall and lobby now stand at Meiji Village. The reconstructed Imperial Hotel features an exquisite three-story-high lobby with decorative screen, galleries, terraces, ornate friezes and hand carved urns. The building itself is made ocher-colored bricks and volcanic Oya stone.

The only two surviving, untouched Wright buildings left in Japan are Myonichikan, a school he designed in 1921 in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, the Yodoko Guest House in Ashiya in Hyogo Prefecture.

Metabolism Group

The "Metabolism Group,"consisting mainly of Japanese architects, was formed when the World Design Conference was held in Tokyo in 1960, The term "Metabolism," in its architectural sense, is used to classify such structures as the prefabricated dwellings used at Japan's Antarctic Expedition Team's Showa Station, as well as capsular housing units. Metabolism is based on the idea of creating architecture and city landscapes can be changed flexibly with changes in the environment, the Metabolist movement was born of the burning desire of architects and other designers to create a new type of community. [Source: Henshu Techo, Yomiuri Shimbun's October 10 2011]

Throughout the 1960s, the Japanese avant-garde architectural movement known as "Metabolism" profoundly influenced the ideas of urban space and architecture in Japan. Metabolist proposals for floating cities drew global attention that coincided with the accelerated development of the sea. Christal Whelan wrote in Daily Yomiuri: “Central to the Metabolists' project was the ocean as the site of a new civilization. They rebelled against Modernism on the grounds that it lacked life, for architecture was to be a dynamic process receptive to change. Respect for ecology, symbiosis of styles, and sustainability were all part of their credo. Osaka-born Tange envisioned a series of ocean cities along the entire Pacific coast that would launch a new era of "Marine Civilization." This new emphasis on the sea, a kind of "blue revolution" would finally free humankind from 5,000 years of tyranny by continent-based civilization. The vast oceans that covered three-quarters of the planet, viewed as a new frontier, would make it possible to transfer the congested population offshore.”

The famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has written an oral history of about Metabolism and Japanese avant-garde movementcalled “Project Japan.” He told the Christian Science Monitor” “metabolism” "emphasized public projects and preserving a traditional style that rejected the uniformity of modernism. My conversation with the pioneers of metabolism reaffirmed this point again and again: The public client is an inspiring definer of what architecture should be. The biggest difference between working for private clients and public clients---although it is becoming less and less pronounced---is that private developers are extraordinarily good at maximizing profits. They see everything that does not contribute to those profits as incidental, as a sacrifice that preferably should be avoided. The public sector is able to understand why a certain generosity is important. [Source: Project Syndicate, July 27, 2012]

At the World Congress of Architecture 2011, held in Tokyo, participants made a nod to metabolism in their discussions about the direction that city planning should take after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake. One construction contractor told the meeting about how he built a simple, no-frills meeting hall using material such as bamboo felled on the hill behind some houses and plastic sheets, which he noted helped put the smile back on local children's faces. The contractor stressed the importance of heart when it comes to construction projects.

Tokyo Sky Tree

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Tokyo Sky Tree
Tokyo Sky Tree (Sumida Ward not far from Ginza or Tsukiji Fish Market) is the world’s highest free-standing tower. It claimed that title over the 600-meter-high Canton Tower in Guangzhou when it reached the 601 meter mark in March 2010, two years and seven months after construction began in July 2008. The Tokyo Sky Tree will reach a height of 634 meters. It surpassed the 333 meter height of Tokyo Tower and became the highest structure in Japan in March 2009. By July it was around 400 meters high. In December it reached 500 meters. It reached its maximum height of 634 meters in the spring of 2011 and is scheduled to open in May 2012.

Originally called New Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree is radio TV transmitter tower that will be used by NHK and five commercial televison stations. The tower is significantly higher than 333-meter-high Tokyo Tower and the world’s tallest freestanding structure, the 553-meter-high CN Tower in Toronto. Built by Tobu Railway, Tokyo Sky Tree is expected to cost ¥50 billion.

Because a dropped hand tool or piece of construction material could cause serious injury if it were to fall 400 meters and hit someone in the middle of a noisy urban area, where the tower is located, extraordinary precautions were taken to prevent that from happening when the tower was under construction. Each worker had two safety lines and all their tools---even things like ball point pens---are attached to their belts by chords. Tarps were place below the workers and to the sides to block winds. So far no tools or workers have fallen. But here been some problems with ice and snow falling from upper reaches of the tower despite measures to prevent that from happening.

Construction began in in 2008. NHK and the five commercial broadcasters plan to use it for transmissions when they permanently shift from analog to terrestrial digital broadcasting. Among matters that still need to be worked out are aviation restrictions that limit the tower’s height. In October 2009, it was announced the Tokyo Sky Tree will be 634 meters high, 20 meters higher than originally said. The antenna will be extended to make it higher than the 610-meter broadcasting tower being built in Guangzhou, China. It is expected to be finished in 2012. Websites: Tokyo Sky Tree offical site tokyo-skytree.jp ; Wikipedia Wikipedia

Image Sources: 1) 2) 3) Wikipedia 4) Ray Kinnane

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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