Hiroshima/Opposition during the construction of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The construction of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was able to start within an impressively short period of time. Nonetheless, the project inevitably encountered opposition and constrains during execution.
The planned area for the Peace Memorial Park had changed over the years from the initial design stage to the realization stage of the park, the city’s administration had shown little attention to the Tange’s ambition of expanding the park. Despite the effort Tange made to include the Central park as part of Peace Park, there was no evidence to show that the city had carefully studies the proposal, thus leading to confusion over the design concept of the Central Park. Another big move made by the city was that it allocated a part of the about 70 ha of Central Park as a residential area due to the shortage of housing. While keeping the residential area and a park as the same time seemed inevitable, it became impossible for Tange’s plan to be implemented as it was.
During the construction period, from 1949 to 1955, the funding for the project ebbed and flowed. In this relatively short period, the Japanese society underwent dramatic social, political and intellectual change. Since the project begun under the Allied occupation, when the representation of the atomic bomb tragedy was strictly censored and the narrative of Hiroshima was channeled into the commemoration of world peace. However right after the occupation ended in 1952, the dominant narrative of Hiroshima was challenged by anti-nuclear and anti-U.S. movements that were often associated with a rising nationalism. The country’s regained political autonomy resulted in a growing interest in Japan’s cultural identity and traditional values that had been suppressed in the immediate postwar era.
The engagement of American urban planners, architects and sculptors in the project sturred up the debate on the Japanese identity in architecture, which occurred at the 1953 symposium published in the architectural magazine Kokusai kenchiku under the title “Nationalism vs. Internationalism.” Tange, who always challenged the homogeneous internationalism, blurred the strict boundary between internationalism and nationalism by arguing that a truly international architecture should reflect the specific economic and technological conditions of Japan along with localizing factors such as climate and tradition. In fact, Tange’s ambition was not limited to the development of harmony between modernist and traditional design. Rather, he intended to introduce a new Japanese architecture that would “reflect the possibilities and diversities of reality” of postwar Japan. Such architecture would be inserted in the larger urban and social fabric of postwar Japan, without the influence of the Western precedents.