MODERNIST MONDAY: Kenzō Tange

Welcome back to #ModernistMondays! At TTC, we are constantly inspired by modernist architects and artists from past and present. To showcase some of our favorites, we launched #ModernistMondays, where we highlight one modernist each month to explore with ten quick facts. You can keep up with #ModernistMondays on the TTC Blog, or our Instagram page! For our August feature, we are celebrating Japanese post-war Modernist Kenzō Tange.

Japanese architect Kenzō Tange was born in 1913 in Sakai, Japan, and spent time in Hankow and Shanghai as a child. In 1930, he moved to Hiroshima for school and became familiar with the work of legendary Swiss-French modernist Le Corbusier.

A portrait of Tange

In the 1950s, Tange taught at the University of Tokyo in the “Tange Lab,” where he mentored architects Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki, Sachio Otani and Arata Isozaki, all who went on to lead successful careers in Japan.

Tange teaching at the University of Tokyo

After the destruction of Hiroshima in World War II, Tange worked to rebuild the city, including the construction of his winning design for the Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park, which Tenge’s funeral was held in one of his works, the Tokyo Cathedral. Today, his ideas of Metabolism and urban development remain highly influential for architects around the world.

Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park

In 1953, Tange was invited to reconstruct the Ise Shrine, a Shinto sun goddess shrine that is rebuilt every 20 years. The timing of the shrine’s completion corresponded with the end of the American post-war occupation of Japan, and was seen as a symbol of the future of architecture. In the same year, Tange completed his own home, which was reminiscent of the design for the Hiroshima Peace Center.

Ise Shrine

Tange began his own practice, Kenzō Tange Associates, in 1961. For Asia’s first Olympics, hosted in 1964, Tange built the Yoyogi National Gymnasium — designed with a curved roof to avoid damage from strong winds — for which he won the Pritzker Prize.

Yoyogi National Gymnasium

In the 60s, Tange taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he developed “The Tokyo Plan-1960” as a basis for the rebuilding of post-war Tokyo. He presented the ideas, and introduced a new type of architecture — “Metabolism” — at the Tokyo World Design Conference.

Tange and MIT students

After his presentation at the conference, Tange was a proponent of the Metabolist movement, characterized by megastructures and seemingly organic, biological-looking growth. For the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, he and his team designed striking Metabolist pavilions that made the fair one of the most memorable in history. 

Pavilions at the World Expo

In the next few years, Japan turned its interest in Metabolism toward the Middle East and Africa, which were rapidly expanding. While most of the projects he designed for these areas were unbuilt, the Kuwaiti Embassy in Tokyo and Kuwait’s International Airport were both completed in the early 1970s. 

During the 70s and 80s, Tange designed buildings in over 20 countries around the world, including the Yamanashi Broadcasting and Press Centre and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which opened in 1991. 

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Yamanashi Broadcasting and Press Centre

After his passing in 2004, Tenge’s son, Paul Noritaka Tange took over Kenzō Tange Associates, and subsequently renamed the firm Tange Associates. Tenge’s funeral was held in one of his works, the Tokyo Cathedral. Today, his ideas of Metabolism and urban development remain highly influential for architects around the world.

A portrait of Tange

SOURCES

“Spotlight: Kenzo Tange,” ArchDaily; “Kenzo Tange,” Wikipedia; “Kenzo Tange,” Architectuul; “Kenzo Tange | Japanese Architect,” Britannica