Kenzo Tange and Hiroshima: Obsession with the Axis in Tange’s Urban Planning (1950s)

For Tange, the origin of the urban planning is the development of temples and axes instead of the development of houses. In his teaching transcript in Tokyo University, he showed great admiration of the beauty of processional axis leading to the temples in ancient Greece [1] [2]while criticizing illegible urban street layout where zoning is not adopted. In his ideas, axis is an essential component in urban planning, functioning not only as physical connection but more meaningful as a symbolic connection.

Fig 1. Axis in Tange’s Competition Scheme for Monument to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 1942. Source: Kenzo Tange

Such idea can be seen in Tange’s earlier design of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (a prototype of the Peace Memorial Park) where a highway is included as an axis to connect Mount Fuji and the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo as an expression of the state power of Japan. [Fig 1]

Fig2. Axis in the plan of the Peace Memorial Park design in competition, Source: Tange,Kenzo. Kenchiku Zasshi, 1949-10, 40-42

Tange’s idea of a city axis culminated in the design of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. In the plan of the park, which situates at the heart of the city, there are two perpendicular axes. According to Tange’s assistant Sachio Otani (大谷幸夫)at that time, the east-west and north-south axis are used to create the affinity to nature as the geography of Hiroshima is defined by both the Chugoku Mountains lying east to west as and the Ota River running north to south[3]. Later as the east-west axis had been set as the Peace Boulevard and North-south axis the alignment of the museum, cenotaph and the a-bomb dome, the axis was more meaningful for constructing Hiroshima as a Factory of Peace (平和の工場) [Fig 2]. The axis became a symbolic connection between the traumatic past and the future and between monumentality and peace-making. With the north-south axis extending to the other side of the river to the a-bomb dome and later to the Central Park, the axis was no longer axis of the park, it became axis of the city.

 

[1] Saikaku, Toyokawa, The Core System and Social Scale: Design Methodology at the Tange Laboratory, Kenzo Tange Architecture for the World, 2002, 15-18

[2] “As public men, [our forefathers] gave us buildings and objects of such beauty and grandeur, in the temples which they built and the offerings which they dedicated in them, that no room has been left for any of those that come after to surpass them” –Tange

[3] Mizukawa, Kyosuke. Architect says Kenzo Tange designed Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with “Sense of Remorses”, The Chukoku Shimbun, 2009-07-02

 

Bibliography

千代章一郎,丹下健三による「広島平和公園計画」の構想過程,日本建築学会計画論文集, 2013-11,78-693, 2409-2416

Mizukawa, Kyosuke. Architect says Kenzo Tange designed Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with “Sense of Remorses”, The Chukoku Shimbun, 2009-07-02

Saikaku, Toyokawa, The Core System and Social Scale: Design Methodology at the Tange Laboratory, Kenzo Tange Architecture for the World, (Zurich: Lars Muller, 2002)

2 Comments on “Kenzo Tange and Hiroshima: Obsession with the Axis in Tange’s Urban Planning (1950s)

  1. The total narratives illustrated the background, the significance and the planning process of the masterpiece along the time of Tange and through which his key planning thoughts and belief: axis and functionalism were introduced. Moreover, the responds of the public at that time to his planning scheme was also mentioned and discussed.

    However, the social context of Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Park could be described and let us know the deep reason of this planning for its emergence and evolution process, beyond the introduction of form and its metaphor. Moreover, at the end many housing estates were constructed instead of the original planning, but you also said government ignored the housing project in the following posts. Could you try to make it clear? Thank you.

  2. It’s surprising how axes of a park ruled a city. Perhaps this serves as an illustration to Tange’s consummate techniques in urban planning, as he managed to extend his influence from a park to the entire city through the placing of monumentality onto the park. Axes and symbolism are definitely the way of achieving that. Though the social side of the Peace Memorial Park project is comparatively weak (or perhaps just overshadowed by its architectural significance), I do agree that achievement comes with compromise. The monumental and educational meaning of the park can already make huge social impact.

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