modern architecture – Shiodome

The Tokyo metropolitain area has many centers. Shibuya and Shinjuka are well known. A smaller one is Shiodome. A small spot south of Ginza. Tourist should memorize this place. Next to Shiodome is Hamarikyu Teien. One of the most beautiful japanese Garden in Tokyo. The famous fishmarket is close by. And in Shiodome the monorail across the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba starts. It is also the place where you realize that Tokyo is 3D.

Shiodome is urban architecture and modern city development. Shiodome is the place where the word “ground level” does not exist. Even the existence of trees is not a prove that you are at this level. You may be above or below. Stop thinking in 2D. Shiodome is the begin of science fiction, where city grow into the sky, where the different infrastructures pf the cities are stacked. The end of this development would be a city like in “The fifth element”.

Nippon Television Headquarter
Rogers Stirk Harbours + Partner, 2003

This was the answer to Fuji’s headquarter in Odaiba. Like many buildings in Tokyo this one is also split into areas for different purpose. In the lower half of the building are ste studios and above them the offices. You can see the both areas. The look of the building is dominated by the steel beams in the corners. They are no decoration but part of the building structure. The rest is covered in glass. The visible steel beams are remains from first sketch when the building had a complete exosceleton.

Nippon Television Headquarters and Dentsu Head Office

Dentsu Head Office
Ateliers Jean Nouvel, 2002

Also this building stands out. From one side it looks a little bit like a ship hull. From the other side it looks like the blade of a knife. There are no decoration elements. The power of this building comes from its ground shape alone. The reflectivity of the glass is a nice balance between full transparency of the windows and opaque elements between.

Check out the light effect at the top. I took this picture by accident. But the effect was planned by the architect. The reflectivity of the glass elements was changed. It now looks like the building is melting into the sky.

Relict of the past

If you look carefully, between all this steel and glass there is an old building, that I need to mention. Just because it is so misplaced. It is an relict from the old Shiodome area.

Zwei Relikte der Vergangenheit

Capsule Apartments

This famous building is planned to be demolished (situation in 2011). It is a witness of an older Tokyo. It was the attempt to modulize the city, to make the city organic. The concept: Each appartment is a cubilce that is attached to a central tower. If you need more appartments, you can cubicles, if you need less you can remove them. The building is adapting to the current need of living space. The Nakagin is a hotel. Only th bulleyes look strange. It is like a nightmare of living in the future, but it is a view into the history, when they tried to form a future that never came.

other skyscrapers in Shiodome

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modern architecture – Shinjuku

The tour thru Tokyo is starting in Shinjuku. Note: Shinjuku is not Tokyo. At least for the Japanese. Gaijins usually mean the whole metropolitain area if the say Tokyo, and also include Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi and other cities. For Japanese Tokyo is only the area around Tokyo central station and the imperial palace. Shinjuku received it’s big rush during the bubble economy. During this time many buildings were built. One of the last was the metropolitain government building.

Shinjuku Skyline

Sompo Japan Building
architect: Yoshikazu Uchida, 1973-1976, 200m, 40 floors

The Sompo building was designed by Yoshikazu Uchida and was built between 1973 and 1976. It was the landmark of Shinjuku for many years. Material, color and shape is a statement to the 70ies. The building has a height of 200m (antenna included) and 43 floors. In the 42 floor is a museum with a version of Vincent van Goghs sunflowers. In amime it was used as an indicator that the story is playing in Shinjuku. (e.g. City Hunter). The new landmark are the “Twin Tower”.

Das alte Wahrzeichen von Shinjuku

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
architect: Kenzo Tange, 1988-1991, 243,3m (No. 4 in Japan), 48 floors

The building is the office of the government of the Tokyo prefecture. It was designed by the architect Kenzo Tange. Before it was located at Tokyo Eki. This old building was from Kenzo Tange too. This old building was demolished. Today there is the Tokyo Itnernational Forum; another layout by Kenzo Tange.

The complex consists of three connected buildings The Twin Tower are building 1. The second building has 37 floors. It has three units with different height. The building is surrounded be streets and sidewalks in two levels.

The design has typical elements of Kenzo Tange. The verticals are dominant. The building is looking like a gothic cathedral, although Kenzo Tange is not using any gothic elements. But the resemblence to Notre Dame is obvious. And the design is just logical. Shinjuku was the center of the Bubble Economy and the money. Kenzo Tange placed the cathedral of this epoche into the center. His design is also a demonstration of the financial and political power of Tokyo. It is a momument of the megalomania of the 80ies. Therefore the building is also called バブルの塔 (Tower of Babel).

Das neue Wahrzeichen von Shinjuku

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
architect: Kenzo Tange Associates, 2008, 204m

Beside this building, all other looks some kind of boring. This one really is an eyecatcher. The Cocoon Tower was finished in 2008 and only has a height of 204m which put him on place 17. (Funny, I cannot remember the construction side in 2004 and 2006). The design is from Tange Associates, a group of architects around Kenzo Tange. The building won the medal of Skyscaper of the Year. Tange won against 50 other competitors. There was only one rule: “Everything but rectangular” The building is similar in shape and size to the Swiss Re HQ in London. But thats all. The building is covered with blue glass, that gives a free view to the aluminium construction underneath. This construction is the reason for the name cocoon.

Inside the building is the fashion school. Therefore it is the highest university building in the world. The cocoon shall cover the new ongoing designers and protect them until they are ready to face the world. Maybe it is because of the other architects involved, but Kenzo Tange is leaving his old habit of dominate the verticals. The design misses all his typical elements, that partly originated at Le Cobusier. With breaking with his old rules he also broke with a lot of convention of standard building design.

Universitätsgebäude Coocon Tower

NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Buildung (links)
architect: Kajima Design, 2000, 270m incl. antenna

This building was part of an development project for the southern region of Shinjuku. It became the landmark of the Yoyogi area. It stands out, because it is not surrounded be other tall buildings, but by Yoyogi park, Meiji shrine and Shinjuku Gyoen. The building is seperated in three funtional units: in the lower third there are restaurants and shops. In the middle 27 floors are the offices of NTT DoCoMo. The upper half of the building is the third unit. It contains all telecommunications technics. Beside its height of 240m the building only has 28 floors above ground level.

The top of the building is stepped and reminds of the american sky scapers of the early 20iest century (like the Chrysler Building). It stepped top takes away the weight of the constructions. Noticeable are the riders at the point where the relief begins. This is a citation of the gothic archtectural language. Also noticeable is the 15m big clock, the can be seen from the Shinjuku side.

Mitsui Building und NTT DoCoMo Building

Shinjuku Mitsui Building (rechts)
architect: Nihon Sekkei Inc., 1974, 225m, 55 floors

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modern architecture in Japan


I have bought the book “Contemporary Architecture in Japan”. On every second page I saw a building I know. Therefore I decided to write my won book. I used my blog. I didn’t visit Japan in 2011. Enough blogspace.

Mori Tower, Roppongi Hill
Mori Tower, Roppongi Hill

Boundary Conditions

Japan has one problem: Not enough land for construction. There is only one way for city to grow; into the sky. Doing this there is another condition. The lots still have the ancient size. Sometimes this results in 10 story office buildings and parking lots with a ground plot of ony 30m^2. More about this topic you will find under “typical Japanese”. If there is a bigger lot available the built a big building, but not a boring one like in Germany. Japan seems to be a country for architects. Some buildings are real eyecatcher. And sometimes very complex buildings that are a city of there own.

Lotsenstation Yokohama
Lotsenstation Yokohama


The best in Japan is the night. Many buildings are illuminated at night. At day they are grey and uninspired but colorful at night. The best example is located in Mirai 21 in Yokohama. The building on the picture is the harbour pilot station.

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