Change – Ambition of the people – the architect’s:

Change – Ambition of the people – the architect’s:

Architect’s approach – what shall be the new identity?

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The events between 1945 to late 1960’s for Tokyo became a
unique example of a total renewal of urban planning and development along with
the exploration and theory of a new architectural identity. The city witness
innovative and aesthetic approaches based on native culture. The motivated and
patriotic people of Japan wanted an approach rejuvenating the city and
respecting its past but with modern ideology and technology so it could merge
with the future.

Development through west in infrastructure and technology:

Starting from a broader perspective the financial help and
assistance provided by the Americans advanced the improvement of Japanese substantial
industry.  Japan started its work of
modernizing its industries and integration of the cutting edge modern
innovations from abroad. Their sole aim was to give an immaculate impact to the
world to overcome their humiliating defeat in the Second World War.

So the work began with new groups of architects and
designers emerged putting forward new theories, speculations and proposals
about the contemporary design of the city, inspired by natural phenomena’s
leading to theories and inspiration from the works of the progressive Western

A world deign conference was
held in Tokyo in 1960, in which a series of debates and discussions were held
to overcome major issues on the subject of industrial and urban architecture.
These debates trickled down to the essence of single buildings as well.


Furthermore, the ideologies proposed by the Metabolists Architects such as Kenzo Tange, Isozaki
and others, proposed Japanese planning in the context of aesthetic principles.
Investigating the method proposed by American architect Le Corbusier, their design processes visualized a number of scales
of interventions, from a dwelling to an urban scale, giving significance
additionally to visual aesthetic factors. Through their ideology they managed
to seek immense attention from the western world, whose urban environment was
soon to be the a noticeable question of further analysis and investigations.



Foreign architects and Japanese architects: the pressure
to work better – a fair competition

A harmonious co-existenceS of tradition and innovation:

The paper emphasises on the one of the most influential
post-war architect’s Kenzo Tange, whom managed to meld traditional Japanese
architecture with scientific and technological innovations exported from modern
technology in terms of structure. During 1950s and 1960s he designed several
iconic buildings, such as the Yoyogi National Stadium for
the 1964 Olympic Games held in Tokyo. Furthermore, Japan being constantly hit
by major earthquakes, this directed to the development of earthquake resistant
construction, which led to the construction of the first Skyscraper, the Kasumigaseki Building in 1968. The buildings
constructed were far unique and Japan was facing with new architectural
typologies. Which leads us to our building’s structural capacity to withstand
earthquakes despite its unique bold form.

Architects, engineers work side by side:

Japanese architects had national pride and they worked on
one single goal. With rapid developing economy and cultural growth, their
visions and public work had to be beautiful and functional to be
internationally recognized.  

America & Japan

Modernism evoked the traditional qualities of Japan, in fact
some may argue that Japanese traditions already were based on the qualities
that modernism was advocating.


A decade after the war
in the Pacific ended, the Western world

gradually began to
realize that many important qualities of its

accepted modern
architecture were in fact very old. These qualities

had existed for
centuries in many Japanese buildings. Japanese

tradition contained
not only the simplicity, lightness, and openness

which contemporary
Western designers had recently been

advocating, not only
the modulated repetition of elements so

familiar in
contemporary Western building, but it often

demonstrated the same
aesthetic values as well. It relied on the

use of ingenious
construction and untreated natural materials to

build a sort of
refined extension of nature: a concentration of

nature’s own kind of
beauty. (Boyd

Western influences:

More western influences: Kenzo Tange and international

The monograph on
Kenzo Tange brought Boyd an international reputation as author of an extremely
popular series brought out by George Braziller.

Kenzo Tange: one of the prominent architects

Tange began his remarkable work which gained international and
national attention in projects such as Hiroshima Peace
Memorial complex in 1955, and Kagawa Prefectural
Government Office in 1958. He used a combination of frame structures to create
his artistic architectural forms into life. This new system was replaced by
Japanese traditionally existing wooden frameworks. He managed to produce
structures that did not exist bearing iconic forms. Later, these successful
experiments led him to imagining the hyperbolic inclined walls for the St.
Mary’s Cathedral.

Tange was experimenting with a lot of different structural
construction technology.In the National Gymnasium, Tange was influenced by the
formal expression of another American architect Eero
Saarinen. The swimming pool he built incorporates the Japanese
traditionalist roof of Todai-ji Temple. What he
did was to follow his principal to incorporate the traditional Japanese
elements into modern forms. The roof was supported by columns and a curvy
linear suspension structure used mostly in bridges. he used all three principles
to highlight and emphasised the structure. His expression was to create
emotional as well as a awe factor for the spectators.

The main characteristics used by Tange were to highlighting
the essence of raw materials and elevations with thin, light and restricted
lines. We can see the use of raw concrete in the interior of the Cathedral.


Kenzo Tange’s perception and ideology:

Tange initially wanted to go beyond the traditional human scale of 

Buildings, which
we can see in the Cathedral. He emphasised the scale to connect it with the
scale of the mid evil cathedrals to integrate the feeling of faith.  (relate with st. mary’s scale)

Tange visited

After visiting Le Corbusier’s Unite D’habitation in
Marseille, he felt the large sense of scale used in the building, as compared
to traditional Japanese homes in Tokyo district of Marunouchi. He felt that the
experience was ” oppressed and
suffocated” and “extremely antisocial and rather pre-modern”
(Tange, Shinkenchiku Magazine, pg 55). He started
incorporating a balance element of the two scales which were the building and
the human scale. He quoted ” two scales
were meant to interact with eachother”
(Tange, Shinkenchiku Magazine, pg 58).

He strongly believed that the “the role of tradition is that
of a catalyst, which furthers a chemical reaction but is no longer detectable
in the end result”  (Tange, 1946-1969
Architecture and Urban Design, pg.9 ), which builds on the fact that the
Cathedral and his buildings could have their original forms, not being
replicated in what the Japanese traditional temples and buildings actually


Following these principles Tange attempted to combine the new western innovations in modern 

architecture and building methods with traditional Japanese sensibilities in relations to form and 

style. This is because back “in 1935” when Tange was a student at the “Tokyo University” the 

combination of eastern and western architecture were mainly western style buildings topped with 

traditional Japanese slopped roofs creating buildings that were more kitsch than innovative 

(“Biography: Kenzo Tange”).



The building is constructed using this suspension technology with long cables, “anchored on 

each side with  2800 ton anchor blocks”, from which smaller cables and steel girders extend 

down creating the an extended overhang covered with reinforced concrete (Ohsumi).The modern 

roof precedent can be found in the “David S. Ingalls Rink” at Yale University done by the 

Finnish architect “Eero Saarinen” as well as the Philips Pavilion done by Le Corbusier for the for 

the 1958 World Expo (Sharif). However, with the extended roof there is also a very strong 

reference to the eave created by the overhangs in traditional Japanese homes, with each side of 

the stadium recreating this on a larger scale. With these precedents however Tange saw the 

furyu, the ornamentation, as “meaningless prettiness”. (Ishimoto, pg. 35) Instead he valued more 

the symbolism found in simple forms and shapes that the general public will be able to 

understand and appreciate. This is seen in the “two cement end pieces” atop the Stadium they are 

“simple ornament” but they are reference back to the the chigi found atop “Shinto Shrines”, such 

as the one at Ise (Ohsumi). 1964 being the first time for Japan to host the Olympics this reference 

to their traditional past coupled with this new progressive building style would have been a 

powerful if subtle way of supporting Japan in its quest for modernization. For the Yoyogi 

National Stadium there isn’t a very strong Japanese aesthetic to the project. There is a heavy 

influence of western building methods, materials and styles with hints and symbolic references to 

traditional Japanese architecture. This is because Tange believed that “tradition can, to be sure, 

participate in a creation, but it can no longer be creative itself” (“Biography: Kenzo Tange”). 

Therefore architecture in his eyes it requires the architect to”imagine new spaces, and …create 

them by means of modern technology” (“Biography: Kenzo Tange”). Tange believed in order for 

an architect to stand on their own they have be creative and shouldn’t let precedents over power 

their work to the extent were their own personal artistic sensibilities are unrecognizable. 


While working on the Yoyogi National Stadium in 1961 Tange won the commissioned to 

design a cathedral for Archdiocese of Tokyo in the Sekiguchi neighborhood in the Bunkyo 

district of the capital. It was to be built on the site of the “wooden gothic style church” that “was 


Kenzo Tange:

destroyed by… (an) air raid” in “1945”(“History of St. Mary’s Cathedral”). Therefore the new 

cathedral was confined to the diamond shaped space where the former church once stood, 

blocked on the northern, western and southern sides by already existing buildings and to the east 

by a local road. For the design of the building it is said that Tange had the image for the building 

as “a bird with its wings outstretched” (Ohsumi).  


The outer “hyperbolic” curves of the church are made up of reinforced steel and “covered by 

stainless steel” (“History of St. Mary’s Cathedral”). Within the church the roof recreates the the 

beams system used in traditional Japanese construction, but this time it is done in concrete and 

left exposed along with the reinforced concrete walls for all of the church goers to see. There is 

also the Japanese tradition of asymmetry seen in the “different heights of the wings” of the 

church (Giannotti). The plan is that of a Latin cross which can be best seen from above. The 

precedent for this lies with the the traditional Catholic churches such as Notre Dame, Chartres as 

well as the ” the old wooden cathedral, in gothic style,(which was) burnt (down) during wartime” 

(Giannotti). There is also a strong connection with light, with four vertical gaps which creates a 

cross of light within the church. This creates a strong dark and light contrast which “enhance(s) 

the symbolism of the church as a religious space (Giannotti). Due to this the cathedral bears a 

strong relation to Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp in their use of light to create “expressive and 

emotional qualities that… heightened sensations in tune with the religious activities.” (Kroll). 

This building most strongly reflects Tange’s philosophy of how ” architectural creation requires 

that the anatomy of reality, its substantial and spiritual structure, (to) be grasped as a whole” 

(Boyd). For Tange the design of the cathedral was a “contextual response to a religious site” that 

required the church goers to feel a sense of awe and wonder at the powerful architecture which 

intern would yield a strong emotional response (kroll).


St. Mary’s Cathedral at first seems to bear 

little in common with traditional Japanese architecture, but for Tange that was the point. He did 

not want the precedents to have an obvious influence in the building design and wanted it to 

come from a more personal place within himself. This is because for Tange that personal artistic 

creation was what being an architect was all about. 



Tanges ideology about design:

He intended to follow some principles and methods as his
guiding factors in design which were to simplify the form and plan
configuration, physical symbolic representation, strength, no ornamentation,
crude form or being true to materials. He also believed that beauty was
something which was very sacred and close to the Japanese culture.


Technology and borrowed crafted carefully in Japanese

His innovative changes in the architecture and structure of
Japan were mainly an innovative process of borrowed technology, modification
with sensible indigenous techniques along with trial and error methods. Modern
materials like untreated crude concrete were eventually incorporated with
Japanese aesthetics. 



Connection with St. Mary’s Cathedral: Material and
Japanese ideology

How we can compare the materials chosen for the Cathedral is
evident in the basic construction of a Japanese house. The materials are kept
in their original shape as no refining materials such as sandpaper or nails for
extra support or paint and untreated wood is thought to be used. Their
interpretation from tradition is to keep all materials in their natural state,


Metabolism & St. Mary’s Church: How do I relate it
with the building?

Metabolism is defined as a term from biological research,
describing the anabolic and katabolic process of a living body. The Urban
sociologist Ernest Burgess defined the term in his article ‘The Growth of
Cities. ‘Social metabolism ‘was the term to defined explaining the process of
development and transformations of cities. Japanese Metabolists
stressed upon the Urban forms which rapidly 
developing in the Urban environment and society, and attended to the new
challenges proposed by modern technology and industrialized architecture.