For the Centennial of Kenzo Tange, A Look at His Most Futuristic Architecture - Atlas Obscura
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For the Centennial of Kenzo Tange, A Look at His Most Futuristic Architecture

article-imageSt. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo (via Wikimedia)

This year marks the centennial of the birth of one of the most visionary architects of the 20th century. Kenzō Tange, born in 1913 in Osaka, Japan, first was drawn to architecture when he saw photographs of Le Corbusier’s work in a magazine, and eventually applied that influential architect’s embrace of form into architecture that defined the new modernism of Japan. 

article-imageAn exhibition on his work at the Kagawa Museum in Takamatsu is currently celebrating his centennial, with a look at projects like his Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park completed in 1956 that set the tone for the rebuild, both physically and emotionally, of the ravaged city. Tange was honored with the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1987, not just for his fluid use of modernist angles that swooped, soared, and often seemed to defy gravity, but in how with his attention to structural order he guarded the traditions of Japan’s architectural heritage, even if often his buildings looked like visitors from the future. 

Tall cylinders would often hide elevators and staircases, from which stretched horizontal spaces that spanned like streets. Other structures, like his St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, are hauntingly contemplative, taking the sense of awe from Gothic architecture and interpreting it through modern building techniques that were heavy on concrete, but rarely cold. 

Tange passed away in 2005 at the age of 91, not reaching what would have been his 100th birthday this September 4. Yet as the first Japanese architect to gain prominence in the 20th century, he continues to inspire the generation that came after. And from that first design for Hiroshima, he set the spirit for a desire for peace in the bleak reconstruction in Japan post-World War II that can still be seen throughout the country today, and even in all five continents where he constructed buildings. 

As he once said: ”Architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart, but even then, basic forms, spaces and appearances must be logical. Creative work is expressed in our time as a union of technology and humanity. The role of tradition is that of a catalyst, which furthers a chemical reaction, but is no longer detectable in the end result. Tradition can, to be sure, participate in a creation, but it can no longer be creative itself.”

Here are a few of his most futuristic projects where the old meets the radically new:

ST. MARY’S CATHEDRAL (1964)
Tokyo, Japan

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(via Wikimedia)

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HIROSHIMA PEACE CENTER AND MEMORIAL PARK (1956)
Hiroshima, Japan

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(photograph by Maarten Heerlien)

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(photograph by Frank/Flickr user)

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(photograph by Frank/Flickr user)

article-image(photograph by Naoya Fuji)

YOYOGI NATIONAL GYMNASION (1964)
Tokyo, Japan

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(photograph by Maurizio Mucciola)

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(photograph by Rory Hyde

KAGAWA PREFECTURAL GYM (1964)
Kagawa Prefecture, Japan 

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(photograph by Naoya Fuji)

FUJI TELEVISION HEADQUARTERS (1996)
Tokyo, Japan

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(via Wikimedia)

article-image(photograph by joevare/Flickr user)

SHIZUOKA PRESS AND BROADCASTING CENTER (1967)
Tokyo, Japan 

article-image(via Wikimedia)

MEMORIAL HALL FOR STUDENTS WHO PERISHED IN THE WAR (1966)
Hyogo, Japan

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(via Wikimedia)

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(via Wikimedia)