The Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (born 1913), a student of Le Corbusier, was one of the first modern architects in Japan and played an important design role in postwar rebuilding of Japanese cities.
Kenzo Tange was born in 1913 in the town of Imabari on Shikoku, the smallest of the four principal islands in the Japanese archipelago. He received his degree in architecture from the University of Tokyo in 1938 and returned to the university to do graduate studies in urban planning and design between 1942 and 1945. The four intervening years were spent in the Tokyo architectural firm of Kunio Maekawa, who had worked in the Paris office of the great Swiss architect Le Corbusier and who was one of a small number of modern architects in Japan at the time. Thus, at the end of World War II Tange was equipped to play a major design role in the reconstruction of Japan's war-ravaged cities.
In 1949, after participating in planning studies to aid the rebuilding of numerous towns and cities, Tange won a national competition to design a Peace Park in central Hiroshima, the area that had been directly hit by the atomic bomb dropped from an American plane on August 6, 1945. The complex, comprising a memorial, a museum, a community center, and an auditorium-hotel building, was completed in 1956. The free-standing memorial monument, a dramatic saddle-like arch made of reinforced concrete, is a 20th-century statement that recalls a building type in which the tombs of prehistoric Japanese rulers were placed. The museum, a long, horizontal structure of glass and concrete raised above ground on concrete columns (called pilotis), is reminiscent of buildings by Le Corbusier and also of ancient Japanese prototypes (specifically, the Shosoin in Nara, a building that housed the Imperial Treasury and dates back more than 1, 000 years). This theme of synthesizing modern architecture with traditional symbolism characterized the first phase of Tange's career.
Throughout the 1950s Tange was engaged in designing a variety of civic projects—town halls, libraries, auditoriums, sports centers. One of the more notable of these was the town hall complex he designed for his home town, Imabari, which was completed in 1959. These buildings, including an auditorium, an office center, and the town hall proper, show Tange's increasing skill at manipulating the expressive possibilities of exposed concrete. The auditorium, with just a few projecting square windows on a high concrete wall shadowed by a dramatically projecting roof, is especially powerful. These strong structures were arranged compactly around a public plaza, a spatial form not to be found in traditional Japanese cities. Tange's interest in such communal spaces dates back to his university studies of the Greek agora—the place, as Tange wrote, where the "citizen moved from the private realm to establish connections with society."
In 1960 Tange published his monumental "Plan for Tokyo, " a stimulating—and widely publicized— theoretical exercise which foresaw a need to restructure the 20th-century city. Based in part upon an analogy with nature—"the various architectural works will form the leaves, and the transportation and communications facilities the trunk of a great tree, " Tange wrote—the plan envisioned a vast radial overlay of buildings and roadways above and beyond traditional Tokyo. Although somewhat terrifying in scale, the buildings, structures of concrete, shown in photographs and models were physically impressive, even beautiful. None was ever built, although Tange's stupendous Yamanashi Press and Broadcasting Building (1966) in Kofu, a medium-size city in central Japan, inherits something of the plan's monumental vision. The building comprises an array of horizontal units plugged into, and supported by, 16 huge concrete columns whose hollow cores contain the needed support services (stairwells, elevators, air-conditioning plant, and rest rooms). A feature of the building, as of the Tokyo plan, is its ability to be added to without change to the fundamental structural system (this in fact was done in 1975).
Tange's best-known buildings are the two national gymnasiums erected in Tokyo for the 1964 Olympic Games (the first to be held in Asia). The roofs of these two circular buildings indelibly recall the massive forms of traditional Japanese temples, but they are, also, altogether contemporary in form and technique. These roofs, suspended by cable from massive concrete pillars (a single pillar for the smaller structure, a pair for the larger), consist of prestressed steel nets onto which are attached welded steel plates. The drama of these forms continues in the interiors—bold, elegant, welcoming open spaces illuminated by a combination of artificial with natural light.
From the mid-1960s onward Tange received widespread international attention and commissions. His firm, called the Urbanists and Architects Team (URTEC), provided the master plan (1965) for the reconstruction of Skopje, Yugoslavia, after its devastation by an earthquake and did important planning studies for cities and regions in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe as well as in Japan. Among Tange's more important later architectural works is the Akasaka Hotel (1982) in central Tokyo, a bi-winged structure whose gleaming skin of aluminum and glass demonstrated a decisive turn away from the aesthetic of exposed concrete.
In 1986 Tange again won a competition to design the New Tokyo City Hall Complex, as he had done in 1952. As all of his best work, the new design presents an impressive image: twin skyscraper towers, adorned at the top with a panoply of communications equipment, rising cathedral-like over the Shinjuku district in western Tokyo. He also began work on the Otsu Prince Hotel, the United Nations University in Tokyo, and the Place d'Italie in Paris, France (completed 1991). An American example of his work is the American Medical Association Headquarters Building in Chicago, Illinois, completed in 1990.
Tange has received numerous awards, including the Medal of Honour, Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Grand Prix, Architectural Institute of Japan (1986); the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1987); and in 1993, he received the prestigious Japanese Praemium Imperiale award for lifetime achievement in the arts.
The first decades of Tange's work are fully treated in Kenzo Tange, 1946-1969, edited by Udo Kultermann (1970). His architecture and ideas also are dealt with in books by Robin Boyd, New Directions in Japanese Architecture (1968), and Botond Bognar, Contemporary Japanese Architecture: Its Development and Challenge (1985). He wrote a short autobiographical work, Kenzo Tange, published in Switzerland (1987). Articles about him and his work also appear in special issues of Space Design (January 1980, September 1983, 1987 and 1991). □
Born September 4, 1913, Imabari, Shikoku Island, Japan; died of a heart ailment, March 22, 2005, in Tokyo, Japan. Architect. Kenzo Tange was considered a genius for the buildings he designed throughout his career. His design to create the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was chosen, and his career took off. His design for the main stadium at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo showcased his work to the international community. He designed more buildings in his lifetime than legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Tange was awarded architecture's highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 1987.
Tange was born on September 4, 1913, in Imabari, on the Shikoku Island in Japan. As a teenager, he saw a failed design of Le Corbusier (whose own purist designs ushered in the Modernist era in architecture) which sparked his interest in architecture. He attended Tokyo University, graduating with a degree in architecture in 1938. He worked for four years in the office of Kunio Maekawa, who was a disciple of Corbusier.
Tange entered graduate school at Tokyo University in 1942. Four years later, he became an assistant professor in the Architecture Department. He also created the Tange Laboratory. He would go on to teach and influence a number of Japanese architects, including Takashi Asada, Fumihiko Maki, Koji Kamiya, and Kisho Kurokawa. Maki would later also win the Pritzker Prize in 1993.
After the devastation from the United States' bombing of Hiroshima, where a reported 140,000 people lost their lives and many more were negatively impacted, the country of Japan decided to rebuild the area. Tange's design for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was chosen in 1949. This was a busy time for him as he also presented his ideas for the park at the International Congress of Modern Architecture in London, England. Tange was among such luminaries as Walter Gropius, Jose Luis Sert, and Le Corbusier, whose style he adopted into much of his work.
For the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Tange combined traditional Japanese architecture with Le Corbusier's Modernist design. He created a concrete and glass pavilion on stilts, and also included a massive arch that evoked the funereal houses for Haniwa statues honoring ancient Japanese nobility. The park was completed in 1956, and became the spiritual core for the new Hiroshima.
Wanting to change post-war Japan into a prosperous, booming country despite its size, Tange continued to design, and following the completion of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, he designed the Kagawa Prefectural Office in 1958. During this time he designed a number of buildings including Tokyo City Hall, the Rikkyo University Library (also in Tokyo), and Kurashiki City Hall. Tange also opened his own architecture firm, Kenzo Tange + Urtec. The company later became Kenzo Tange Associates.
Tange is perhaps best known for his design of the main stadium used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Yoyogi National Stadium combined traditional and modern Japanese architecture. Made up of paired structures, the stadium's roofs were suspended on slung metal cables; the result resembled ancient temples. Many lauded Tange for the surreal beauty of the stadium. At the same time, he designed and built the Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo. He also released his 1960 Tokyo plan that would involve building new civic buildings, a park, and two towers. He introduced designs to extend the expanding city out over the bay using bridges, viaducts, and floating parking. Tange also designed buildings in other countries. He took part in the reconstruction of the Skopje in Yugoslavia. He designed and built the Kuwait International Airport and the Overseas Union Bank in Singapore, as well as its National Library. He worked on projects in other countries including Nigeria, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. Of his work in the United States, he played a role in Baltimore, Maryland's construction of its Inner Harbor. He also designed the addition to the Minneapolis Art Museum, and the American Medical Association Building in Chicago.
Tange had continued to teach at Tokyo University, becoming a full professor of urban engineering. He retired in 1974 as a professor emeritus. He continued to teach, but mostly in North America at numerous illustrious colleges and universities, including Harvard, Princeton, the University of Alabama, the University of Toronto, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Tange's constant adaptation of his building designs was praised by many, and he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1987. According to the Washington Post, the jury that chose him for the honor "called him a leading theoretician of architecture.…" In his acceptance speech, which was quoted in London's Independent, he said, "I do not wish to repeat what I have done. I find that every project is a springboard to the next, always advancing forward from the past to the ever-changing future.…" According to the New York Times, the jury declared, "Tange arrives at shapes that lift our hearts because they seem to emerge from some ancient and dimly remembered past and yet are breathtakingly of today."
Tange returned to Tokyo City Hall and redesigned it. Today the building is home to 13,000 bureaucrats. The building's twin-tower structure was nicknamed "Notre Dame de Tokyo," and rose high above other skyscrapers in the city. Tange suffered from a heart ailment and died on March 22, 2005, in Tokyo, Japan; he was 91. He was preceded in death by a daughter, and is survived by his wife, Takako, and son, Noritaka.Sources: AIArchitect, http://www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek05/tw0401/0401tangeobit.htm (May 20, 2005); Independent (London), March 26, 2005, p. 48; New York Times, March 23, 2005, p. C16, April 11, 2005, p. A2; Washington Post, March 24, 2005, p. B6.
Tange's work has involved research into town-planning, including a design for the expansion of Tokyo based on rapid-transit systems, areas of high-density housing, and a major extension of the urban fabric into the sea at Tokyo Bay (published as A Plan for Tokyo, 1960). He also developed schemes for multi-purpose blocks linked in various ways. His Yamanashi Press and Broadcasting Centre, Kofu (1964–7), has 16 cylindrical services- and stair-towers acting as huge columns, with floors spanning between them according to their functional requirements. This, and the Tokyo plan, were potent influences on Metabolism. In the 1970s his designs developed strong affinities with architecture in Europe and the USA. The dynamism of his earlier work was superseded by a refinement of detail, and later buildings included the Bulgarian (1974), Iranian (1975), and Turkish (1977) Embassies, the Tokyo Prince Hotel (1983–7), the City Hall Complex (1986–92), and the United Nations University (1990–2), all in Tokyo, and the Japanese Embassy in Mexico City (1976–7. He obliquely criticized Functionalism, stating that only the beautiful can be functional.
Bettinotti (ed.) (1996);
Bognar (1985, 1995);
R. Boyd (1962);
Kulturmann (ed.) (1970);
Kulturmann et al. (1989);
Miyake et al. (eds.) (1989);
Mühll et al. (1978);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Tange (1960, 1970);
A. White (1990)