Building Design in Tokyo

What is that creature doing on the building?

What is that creature doing on the building?

This building always makes me think when I go past it. How did the architect convince the building owner this would be a good idea? How did they present this to the city planning organization? How did they get approval? How did they not get objections from the neighboring building owners?

In a city where strange architecture can be found in many places and building codes seem to be quite flexible with regard to design appearance, it is not the strangest building I have ever seen. The “why” seems like it could have a multitude of answers anyone of which could be right, but I always wonder about the “how?”.

I found today a site in English written by the architect which talks about the design concept for this building and some of their other works, where they state:

There is no common standard in Tokyo that defines what a new building should be. There is not so much as a single concept of how individual buildings should be built in order to create the ideal city nor any strict legal regulations to achieve such a goal.

The discussion of design they give is quite in depth and interesting. It really is worth reading in full. Here is another excerpt specifically related to this building:

The Aoyama Technical College building is also intended to restore the fundamental strength that buildings ought to have. Ancient structures, from the Pyramids to the great cathedrals, possessed the awesome power of large spaces. Most of modern architecture, it seems to me, has lost this basic power. Architecture ought to be something capable of moving people’s hearts and giving them a physical thrill in a way possible in no other art. That power deserves to be restored. Another purpose of this building is to assure that anyone who might see it experiences, both mentally and physically, an definitive feeling of excitement.

I certainly feel a certain mental anguish whenever I walk past the building and am grateful that we are shown the back of the creature to the main road rather than its front. The ability of design to raise questions in peoples minds and give them a “thrill” is no doubt being achieved here also.

Prefer to be looking at the backend rather than the fangs !!

Prefer to be looking at the backend rather than the fangs !!

Here is the Japanese language site of the School, where interestingly they do not prominently display the building on the front page.

Trying to attack the other buildings

Trying to attack the other buildings

What is your take on this building and Japanese city planning / architecture design in general ? Do designers of small buildings with interesting shapes have too much license to depart from what is considered normal ?

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  2. I think this is one of Tokyo’s greatest buildings. Why should anybody be expected to abide to what is considered “normal” (what’s normal, anyway)? How boring would that be?
    In my picture of a perfect city, most buildings would look like this (and the Nagakin Capsule Tower, the Fuji TV building, etc). I really can’t stand the boredom that pervades so much of society.

    -“Do designers of small buildings with interesting shapes have too much license to depart from what is considered normal ?”

    There can’t be too much freedom to design buildings (or anything else, for that matter). What’s a designer’s job, anyway? To create things that all look the same?
    Finally, why should there be restrictions on how “interesting” buildings can be? I don’t understand. It would be the same as putting regulations on what to wear. Interestingly shaped buildings don’t hurt anybody, they enhance their environment and give it character.

    The interesting buildings there are one of the reasons I keep returning every year and plan to move to Tokyo.

    PS: still, a nice blog you have going here 😉

  3. I really like this building, though it does surprise me that nobody had anything to say about it. It looks a bit like something out of the old 'Transformer' cartoons I used to watch as a kid.