Kyoto (1960-1964): Bunriha & Yamada Mamoru: modernist architect behind the Kyoto Tower

Yamada Mamoru (1894-1966), one of the pioneers of modernist architectural movement in Japan, is the main architect of the controversial tower. He discovered ways to bring in new architecture with modern form, materials and programs, in response to the surrounding context of Japan. Known as the “socially engaged government architect”[1], Yamada tried to embrace the modern elements, while keeping the traditional quality of Japanese architecture. Therefore, hybrids are created.

Bunriha Kenchiku Kai, the Japanese Secessionist group had a lot of influence on Yamada in terms of idea of “structural advocates” and “art and expression”. As a founder and the spiritual leader of the group,[2] which was strongly influenced by the German Expressionists, the Vienna Secession and Art Nouveau, whose manifesto “was an attack against the increasing political strength of the structural faction and the historicism of the design faction among the architects at Tokyo Imperial University”. (Oshima, 2010) It was important to Japanese architectural history because it brought the idea of Expressionism to the nation. It was one of the first architectural movement in Japan, claiming that “architecture is an art”, and stressing a lot on “expressionism”. One of the key influence was the emphasis on structure, “Kozoha” [3] They had a lot of writings on ant seismic and fireproof architecture built with steel frames. That later may have influenced on the overall structure of the gigantic steel tower in Kyoto.

Expressionism also affected Yamada a lot. Horiguchi Sutemi, partner founding member and the theoretical leader of the Bunriha, had certain influence on Yamada. He believes that architecture must be as expressive as art, “based on the desire of artistic instincts”[4] They would have pose certain influence on Yamada’s expressive design and bold placement of the tall tower into the ancient city of Kyoto, creating such striking effect. In fact, Yamada’s work showed strong sense of Expressionism when he worked as the engineer for the Communications Ministry (1920-45). One of his prominent work would be the Central Telegraph Building in Tokyo, the first building to break away from the formalist style in Japan, with its strong parabolic curve. Another example would be The Communications Ministry Hospital (1937),[5] which took references from the International Style. The creation of the Kyoto Tower could be viewed as one of the expressive statement made by Yamada.

Despite all the controversy it has created, the tower is undoubtedly a hybrid of traditional Japanese values as its symbolism as a candlelight and western modern elements in terms of its material, structure, and the expressive statement it makes.

 

Bibliography:

Amanai Daiki, 2009, The Founding of Bunriha Kenchiku Kai: “Art” and “Expression” in Early Japanese Architectural Circle, The Japanese Society for Aesthetics

Ken Tadashi Oshima, 2010, Constructing Kokusai Kenchiku, International Architecture in Interwar Japan, University of Washington Press

Koike, 1954, Contemporary Architecture of Japan, Tokyo

 

[1] Ken Tadashi Oshima, 2010, Constructing Kokusai Kenchiku, International Architecture in Interwar Japan, University of Washington Press

[2] Amanai Daiki, 2009, The Founding of Bunriha Kenchiku Kai: “Art” and “Expression” in Early Japanese Architectural Circle, The Japanese Society for Aesthetics, p.1

[3] Amanai Daiki, 2009, The Founding of Bunriha Kenchiku Kai: “Art” and “Expression” in Early Japanese Architectural Circle, The Japanese Society for Aesthetics, p.3

[4] Amanai Daiki, 2009, The Founding of Bunriha Kenchiku Kai: “Art” and “Expression” in Early Japanese Architectural Circle, The Japanese Society for Aesthetics, p.4

[5] S. Koike, 1954, Contemporary Architecture of Japan, Tokyo

Central Telegraph Building, Tokyo
Central Telegraph Building, Tokyo

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.