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Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Backstage Tour (Architecture)

Experiencing the Modernism of Architect Kunio Mayekawa Offered exclusively to member schools of the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture Partnership

Event Report

No.013
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan exterior

The Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Backstage Tour (Architecture) was held in January 2017. Architect Isamu Yoneyama, who is also a research staff member of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, took us on a guided tour around the building.


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2017.01.12

The limited colors and complexity of space

In 2016, buildings designed by the legendary master of modernist architecture Le Corbusier were added to the Official World Heritage List, bringing much attention to the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Across the street from the museum is the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, the most prominent work by architect Kunio Mayekawa (1905-1986), who apprenticed with Le Corbusier. “The audience seats in the Main Hall are peppered with four elementary colors of red, blue, green, and yellow. In the foyer, large columns stand here and there like trees, and the ceiling has randomly placed lights, making it look like a starry sky. The triangular tiles on the floor look like tree leaves,” explains Yoneyama. Mayekawa used geometric designs, which is a feature of modernist architecture, while also incorporating aspects of natural sceneries and accidental elements.

What sets Kunio Mayekawa apart from his mentor?

The tour group was also led the rooftop garden (not open to the public). Yoneyama explained that a rooftop garden “is one of the ‘Five Points of New Architecture’ as defined by Le Corbusier.”

The five points presented by Le Corbusier are pilotis (piers), free plan, free façade, horizontal windows, and rooftop gardens. And Mayekawa adopted these five points into his designs.

“Mayekawa went against the trend of ‘Japonism’ and adamantly adhered to the style of modern architecture. However, the upper part of the Main Hall’s exterior looks a lot like the ridge of a roof on a traditional Japanese house. I believe he was actually incorporating some subtle Japanese expressions as well.”

Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Backstage Tours (Architecture) and (Stages) are given a few times a year on an irregular basis. Please check on Tokyo Bunka Kaikan’s official Twitter page for information.

View of the audience seats from the stage of the Main Hall
The walls and columns to the stage right of the Main Hall are filled with autographs of top-name musicians and dancers.
Rooftop garden (currently closed). At the far end is the fourth floor of the Main Hall.
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan has two large flights of spiral staircases, one blue and one red.
In the garden of the Recital Hall. The building on the right is the top portion of the Main Hall. “It looks like the roof top of a traditional Japanese house,” says lecturer Yoneyama.

The Japanese text was written by Emi Sato.

INFORMATION

Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture Partnership

A membership system for colleges and other institutions, which encourages them to make good use of Tokyo’s municipal cultural facilities for providing education, thereby giving students the opportunity to learn about culture.
Membership comes with many benefits including invitations to members-only events such as the above-mentioned tour, as well as free entrance to permanent exhibitions and discounts for special exhibitions held at Tokyo’s metropolitan government-run museums.