Kenzo Tange and Hiroshima: Integration of western and Japanese architecture in the Peace Memorial Park design (1950s)

Fig.1: The concrete piers of the Peace Memorial Museum, source: Archdaily

After graduation from the University of Tokyo, during 1938-1941, Tange was working for Maekawa Kunio, who was once mentored by Corbusier and in the 1950s, the international style became a trend in post-war Japan. Tange himself was a follower of Corbusier’s ideas on modern architecture. This can be seen in Tange’s design in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park where he used Corbusier’s structural language of the piloti system to elevate the three main buildings, therefore freeing up the ground floor space for the public [Fig1]. The exposure of rough concrete and the repetitive patterns are also allusion of the Brutalists[1]. In addition to the architecture design of the park, Tange’s urban thinking of the Hiroshima planning has a lot to do with the concept of zoning proposed in CIAM.

Fig2.Ise Shrine, Naiku, Japan, Aerial view looking down on inner preinct, Source: Kenzo Tange and Noboru Kawazoe, Ise: Prototype of Japanese Architecture , 1965

­However, one finds it hard to detach the Peace Memorial Park from tradition Japanese architecture. In fact, traditional Japanese architectures like the shrines [Fig 2] and the Katsura Imperia Vila are very modern in a way. They minimize decoration, use unpolished material, delicately deal with the joints and are very persistent on the simplicity, which echo with the rules of modern architecture. It can also be interpreted that the pilotis- the piers which carry the building in the park are inspired by the traditional Japanese granaries with raised floors[2]. Besides, in the design of the north-south axis of the park, Tange borrowed the organizational principle of Torri[3] in Shinto shrines which symbolize the transition from the physical world to the spiritual one, followed up by the second gate for the prayers, and then the inaccessible and obscured inner precinct. In the design of the park, the museum serves as the first gate, the cenotaph as second and a-dome as the inaccessible sacred place. [Fig 3]

Fig 3. Exhibition Hall, Front view toward Atomic Bomb, source: Kuan, Seng and Lippit, Yukio, Architecture for the World, 2012, 36

The Peace Memorial Park becomes the start of Tange’s integration of the modern rules with Japanese traditional Architecture. In his later works like the Kagawa Prefecture Office, he combined the Brutalists’ concrete structure with the traditional Japanese wood structure in perfect harmony and he gradually became famous for his localization of the International Style.

 

[1] Hein, Carola. The Atomic Bomb and Kenzo Tange’s Hiroshima Peace Center. Out of Ground Zero, 2002, 74-75

[2] Hein, Carola. The Urban Core in Japanese Planning (1930s-1950s): Evolving Perceptions on the Spatial and Social Form of the Metropolitan Center on the Mainland and in the Colonies, Histories of PostWar Architecture, 2017-1, 2

[3] Hein, Carola. The Atomic Bomb and Kenzo Tange’s Hiroshima Peace Center. Out of Ground Zero, 2002, 74-75

 

Bibliography

Hein, Carola. The Atomic Bomb and Kenzo Tange’s Hiroshima Peace Center. Out of Ground Zero, (Munich:Prestel,2002)

Hein, Carola. The Urban Core in Japanese Planning (1930s-1950s): Evolving Perceptions on the Spatial and Social Form of the Metropolitan Center on the Mainland and in the Colonies, Histories of PostWar Architecture, 2017-1

Kuan, Seng and Lippit, Yukio. Architecture for the World, (Zurich: Lars Muller, 2012)

Tange, Kenzo and Kawaze, Noboru. Ise: Prototype of Japanese Architecture, (Cambridge: the MIT Press, 1965)

 

2 Comments on “Kenzo Tange and Hiroshima: Integration of western and Japanese architecture in the Peace Memorial Park design (1950s)

  1. As explained in your narrative and the images attached, I can draw similarities between Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye and the Peace Memorial park in terms of the row of columns supporting the volume of space on top. Also, I can visually acknowledge the large open space created on the ground floor as a result of these columns placed. Since this was designed and built in the 1950s, it would be interesting to know how the Japanese citizens reacted to a modernised architectural building as compared to their traditional shrines and temples. Whether there were more modern architecture projects influenced by the Peace Memorial park in that time period.

  2. it is fascinating to find how Tange drew inspiration from Corbusier’s ideas of modern architecture which is evident from the images you have used. It is also interesting to read through the narrative about how Japanese shrines were inspired by modern architecture. Since you’ve mentioned Peace Memorial Park is a testament to modern architecture, it’ll be interesting to see if there is any inspiration drawn from the existing Japanese shrines as they also follow modern architecture principles.

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