Influence of the 1960 Plan for Tokyo: Land Reclamation of the Tokyo bay

Kenzo Tange inspects his proposed design for Tokyo Bay, 1960

In the 1960 Plan for Tokyo, Kenzo Tange proposed a city in the air with a large suspended highway system that stretched 18 kilometres from downtown Tokyo across the bay. There are two main concepts Tange imposed to the scheme to carry out a transformation of the city to co-response to the need of the rapidly changing society. Firstly, the rise of automobile changes the speed and scale of urban life, hence mobility had become a main factor of spatial order. Second, elevating the transportation system to free up space approximately 40 meters below the building. Also, to build islands of residential blocks that is connected to the central spine by sub-highway. These two ideas brought great influence to the urban planning of Tokyo.

The reclamation of the coast of Tokyo bay

In the World Design Conference held in Tokyo in 1960, a group of 6 young professionals named Metabolism, proposed some projects like Tange’s plan for Tokyo attempted to reclaim the Coasts of Tokyo Bay for the expansion of the city. For example, like Kuro Kano’s project to reclaim the Coasts of Tokyo Bay in 1958, Marine City “Unabara” by Kiyonori Kikutake, “City in the Sky” by Arata Isozaki,1960-60 etc. These projects with floating structure and high towers where driven by the enthusiasm and faith towards the improvement of urban infrastructure and economic growth at that time. Although most of these bold proposals were not realized at the end due to the slow-down of urban growth and increasing restriction in regards to environmental destruction, their attempts remain as a good reference for architects or planner in the later era.

The coastline of Tokyo Bay has experienced radical modification since the 16th century. The map shows reclamation over time in Tokyo Bay, including proposed Next Tokyo in 2045

US-based firm Kohn Pedersen Fox presented a vision for Tokyo in the year 2045, called “next Tokyo”  on NHK in 2015. The scheme was inspired by Tange’s plan and take a similar approach of building an exo-city that floats on Tokyo Bay. The project is in smaller scale comparing to Tange’ plan but it has a similar transportation system in the central axis that connects the city to the heart of Tokyo. Tange’s plan might be radical at the time of 1960 remaining lots of unresolved problem with the system, however technology in the future might be able to translate some of his ideology into reality.

Mobility as the foundation of the city’s operation

Tange thinks that organic life of Tokyo lay exactly in the flowing movement of people who engage in the communication of various functions. Nowadays, large cities depend heavily on underground system to transport people around the city and to suburb area. Most city planning have to take account of the location of subway or train stations. Underground tunnels for cars are also common for separation of pedestrian and automobile to free up ground level for open space.


Work Cited

1.  Raffaele Pernice. 2006. The Transformation of Tokyo During the 1950s and Early 1960s Projects between City Planning and Urban Utopia, Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, Waseda University, Japan, Novemeber 2006

2. Jenna Mcknight. 2016. KPF conceives futuristic new city quarter for archipelago in Tokyo Bay, “” Post by 16 February 2016. Retrieved by 5 December 2016

3. Qiu, Xi.2013. “Fumihiko Maki and His Theory of Collective Form: A Study on Its Practical and Pedagogical Implications” . All Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). Paper 936


1 Comment on “Influence of the 1960 Plan for Tokyo: Land Reclamation of the Tokyo bay

  1. The reclamation project seems to be a Utopian mega-structure proposal using a horizontal expansion instead of seeking vertical expansion in the city center. It seems more concern about the visual axis and mobility of city than density and towers. As the article mentioned “organic life of Tokyo lay exactly in the flowing movement of people who engage in the communication of various functions “, I think the mechanical and organic side of city maybe is the balance needed to be seek for development project, especially looking at nowadays planning that detached people from ground.

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