First Tange Kenzo survey in Tokyo presented at National Archives of Modern Architecture

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First Tange Kenzo survey in Tokyo presented at National Archives of Modern Architecture
Yoyogi National Gymnasium (Model).

TOKYO.- This month marks the opening of the first major exhibition in Tokyo dedicated to Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tange Kenzo (1913–2005), whose designs combining traditional Japanese and modernist forms has had a profound influence on architecture in Japan and abroad. Presented by the National Archives of Modern Architecture (NAMA), Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan, TANGE KENZO 1938-1970: From Pre-war period to Olympic Games and World Expo follows the first half of Tange’s career, bringing together archival materials that trace the origins of such iconic projects as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Kagawa Prefectural Government Building, and Yoyogi National Gymnasium, as well as never-before-seen studies for his private residence. On view July 21 through October 10, the exhibition commemorates Tange’s leading role in realizing the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games return to the city in 2021.

With support from American Express, World Monuments Fund (WMF) collaborated with NAMA and Chiba University (CU) on the exhibition as part of WMF’s campaign advocating protections for Tange’s Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium in Takamatsu. In 2018, the gymnasium became the first modern Japanese building included on the World Monuments Watch, a biannual program spotlighting 25 sites under threat with the potential for social impact. A beloved landmark, the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium hosted local sports events for 50 years until a leak in the building’s roof led the facility to close in 2014.

Like the original construction of the gymnasium, its rehabilitation poses a significant technical challenge requiring further interventions to improve the building’s earthquake resistance. Since 2018, WMF has worked with local advocates, including Japan’s architecture community, to call for the preservation of the building and a new vision for its future use. This initiative builds on WMF’s advocacy and conservation efforts over the past 15 years focused on modern sites around the globe threatened by neglect, deterioration, among other challenges.

“We are honored to be part of this international collaboration between private and public sectors to raise awareness of Tange Kenzo’s contributions to modern architecture,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, President and CEO of WMF. “This exhibition urges further consideration of the groundbreaking nature of his work, underscoring the pressing need to safeguard architectural marvels of our recent history, not just buildings of our distant past.”

NAMA: Research and Presentation

For three years, from 2014 to 2016, NAMA conducted a survey to locate architectural documentary resources relating to Tange’s career. Featuring the findings of this research endeavor, the exhibition retraces the first half of Tange’s life to advance public understanding of modern and contemporary architecture in Japan. Its presentation is timed to large-scale events in the architecture and design fields, including the 16th Annual International Docomomo Conference and the Architectural Institute of Japan Annual Convention, taking place concurrently with the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. Ranging from Tange’s early designs as an architecture student to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1970 Osaka Expo, TANGE KENZO 1938-1970 unites 180 drawings, sketches, models, structural calculations, photographs, videos, lecture notes, notebooks, letters, and publications organized around the following themes:

War and Peace explores how Tange approached memorializing those who died in the Second World War. This section introduces his internationally acclaimed design for Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park dedicated to victims of the world’s first nuclear attack.

Modernity and Tradition examines the unique fusion of modernist design and traditional Japanese architecture in Tange’s work, owing to interactions with leading figures of the modern movement including Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.

Postwar Democracy and Government Building Architecture reflects on how Tange designed government buildings with the aim of encouraging citizens to congregate in empty city centers and feel a sense of involvement in policymaking. Tange’s approach to connecting architecture with the surrounding urban context is explored in projects including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, Imabari City Hall, and Kagawa Prefectural Government Office.

Challenge to Massive Space details the process in which Tange realized various shell structures in partnership with structural engineer Tsuboi Yoshikatsu. Together they explored the possibilities of economical steel frame construction in bold designs as seen in the Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium and other large-scale projects.

Designs in Information Society and Osaka Expo focuses on Tange’s vision for a new urban cityscape as the Japanese economy entered the high-growth period. Tange responded with Tokyo Plan 1960, which proposed replacing the concentric urban model centered on Tokyo Station with a linear urban model.

Integration of the Five Keywords introduces Yoyogi National Gymnasium, acclaimed as Tange’s magnum opus. The gymnasium was constructed to host the swimming and basketball competitions for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. It will serve as the handball and wheelchair rugby venues for the Olympics and Paralympics in 2021.

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