Ah, architecture in Tokyo! Books are filled with it! And every time, folks come from overseas, they keep nagging us for the hottest tips around. So, for all you archiphiles, we gathered some outstanding highlights you can find within a mere fifteen minute walk (and plenty of cafés to rest) – all along Omotesando Dori (Street) or sometimes recently known as Tokyo’s “Architecture Street”. There is hardly a world famous architect who hasn’t built something here. In the first of our two part series, PingMag exits JR Harajuku Station and ascends Omotesando with you, taking you on a pretty impressive tour. Promise! (For a start, trace it on our Google map below.)
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi
Let’s proceed down the Omotesando Street toward Meiji Street with the familiar Laforet Harajuku fashion plaza to the left. Cross Meiji road towards GAP and cross again to the right side of Omoto Sando and then continue up the road. The building standing strong and difiant to the right, as you pass tourists holding toys from their purchase at the famous Kiddy Land or locals slurping coffee at the café cum lounge Montoak, is GYRE, a luxurious shopping complex that just opened last November. It was designed by the architect collective MVRDV from Rotterdam, a city known as a major international architectural centre. The designers of Amsterdam’s “WOZOCO” collective housing of one hundred apartments for the elderly and “Silodam” have come up with a beautiful work here in Tokyo too. The theme of this architecture, with its gyrating floors, is “GYRE,” and visitors can experience its circular motion by walking up the stairs connecting the terraces outside.
Right when you enter, you won’t miss the vertical garden by Patrick Blanc!
“WOZOCO,” a housing complex of one hundred apartments for the elderly.
Photo by Wikipedia
“Silodam” also designed by MVRDV. Photo by Wikipedia
2. Dior Omotesando
Next door, the Dior Omotesando building looks as if it is covered in floating semi-transparent curtains. Completed in 2003, it was designed by acclaimed SANAA, an architect duo consisting of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. The curtain-like decorations resembling ladies’ dresses are actually acrylic materials with drapes and the shimmering light from the inside changes the building’s atmosphere from elegant to mysterious in the evening. Dramatic! If you want to know more about them, SANAA has also been responsible for the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa and the Zollverein School in Essen, Germany.
… and its mysterious ambience in the evenings. Photo by Wikipedia
The Zollverein School in Essen, also designed by SANNA. Photo by Wikipedia
3. Japanese Nursing Association
Just three doors away from the Dior store stands the Japanese Nursing Association Building with its giant glass entrance set back away from the pavement. This architecture was designed by Kisho Kurokawa (who passed away last October,) under the theme of “receptivity with the area of Omotesando” while maintaining the function and the dignity of the Japanese Nursing Association. The conical monument, known as the “Crystal Cone,” transends to the 8th floor of the building, was also designed by Kurokawa. The same shape can also be found at the main entrance of the National Art Center Tokyo that opened last year.
The exteriors from the opposite side of the road…
… and inside the circular conic.
The famous Nakagin Capsule Tower was one of the world’s first example of capsule module architecture. Photo by Wikipedia
The National Art Center Tokyo in Roppongi became Kisho Kurokawa’s final work. Photo by Wikipedia
4. Omotesando Hills
You can’t miss it but across the road, on the opposite side stands Omotesando Hills. Previously, this location was occupied by the historic Dojunkai Aoyama Apartments. The controversy over the local residents’ resistance to the replacement of the apartments is still fresh in our memories. However, we doubt that many people are aware of the fact that the demolished Dojunkai Aoyama Apartments have been rebuilt on the right hand side of this shopping complex. Omotesando Hills was designed by Tadao Ando and became open to the public in February 2006. Note that its construction follows the same three degrees upward slope as the boulevard outside. Also, it reused some of the materials from the demolished Dojunkai Aoyama Apartments in various parts of its structure, and a rooftop garden is set out to blend in to the Zelkova boulevard outside. Watch its LED-lit surface at night!
The Church of Light in Osaka is another fine example by Tadao Ando. Photo by Wikipedia
The Museum of Literature in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, was also designed by Ando. Photo by Wikipedia
5. Louis Vuitton Omotesando
Now, cross the road again! Standing on the same block as mentioned above Japanese Nursing Association building, Louis Vuitton Omotesando was completed in 2002. Architect Jun Aoki has also been responsible for the designs of Louis Vuitton’s other branches including its Nagoya building and stores in Matsuya Ginza, Roppongi Hills and New York. This concrete creation resembles a stack of trunks from the outside, thus portraying the Vuitton symbol. The surfaces are designed to resemble the leaves and branches of the zelkova trees therefore blending in to the surroundings; just like the mimicking slopes of Omotesando Hills. It’s easy to get your eyes fastened to the glittering window displays, but let’s savour this beautiful architecture from the outside while the trees are still bare.
The entrance of Louis Vuitton Omotesando…
… with the exteriors reflecting the boulevard trees.
The Fukushima Lagoon Museum in Niigata Prefecture, designed by Jun Aoki. Photo by Wikipedia
Louis Vuitton Hong Kong Landmark store, also by Jun Aoki. Photo by Wikipedia
Was that it already?! Of course not! We hope you enjoyed the first part our architectural guide tour today. You can see the pictures of buildings in Omotesando on our Flickr again! Watch out for the followup!