© 2017 by john barr ARCHITECTS

Want to receive notification of new Blog Posts on Japanese architecture and culture?

Do|Co|Mo|Mo|Japan|03 : The International House of Japan : Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Junzo Yoshimura

November 3, 2018

Do|Co|Mo|Mo is an international organisation dedicated to the Documentation and Conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement. The Japanese branch has selected 100 works as representative of the development of the Modern Movement in Japan.

 

In a series of short posts I will feature some of the selected works that I have had the chance to visit and photograph. This post features The International House of Japan, built in Tokyo in 1955...

 

 

 

 

Background

The year 1955 in Japan is set against the backdrop of the Cold War, which had resulted in a hot war on the Korean peninsula (1950-53) and the permanent partition of Korea into Soviet/Chinese and American spheres of influence. In this climate, the USA sought to consolidate relationships with its allies in the region. As part of a ‘Hearts and Minds’ campaign a group of American sponsors led by the Rockerfeller Foundation provided a large endowment for the establishment of a centre for international exchange in Tokyo. Although the building was not completed until 1955, the establishment of the International House as a foundation to foster cultural and intellectual exchanges took place in 1952, at the height of the Korean War.

 

A site was purchased in Roppongi, not too far from the US Embassy in Akasaka and the complex was designed by Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura and Junzo Yoshimura, three of the leading early modernist architects in Japan.

 

The site was previously occupied by a large villa and had passed through the hands of a number of noble families and senior politicians before coming into government ownership as part of a tax settlement after WWII. The original villa was demolished but the garden, designed by Jihei Ogawa (1860-1933) and completed in 1930, was retained. Ogawa was a seventh generation master garden designer from Kyoto and represents what Hiroyuki Suzuki has referred to as: The people who sustained Japanese-style culture from the Meiji through early Showa periods and who overlap neatly with those who drove Japan’s modernization during that same period.1 The International House can therefore be seen as a symbol of Japan's attempt to transition into the modern era, with direct financial and technological support from the west. Naturally that support had strings attached to it. The strings in the case of USA support included the US-Japan Security Treaty, first included as part of the 1951 Peace Treaty (The Treaty of San Fransisco) and further ratified by the 1954 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which allowed the USA to maintain military bases in Japan.

 

 

Influences

Maekawa and Sakakura had both worked in Corbusier’s Paris office, and Maekawa and Yoshimura had worked in Antonin Raymond’s* Tokyo office before all three established their own practices in Japan. 

 

*See previous post Do|Co|Mo|Mo|Japan|01 for more background on Raymond.

 

Corbusier’s influence is clearly evident in the design of the building, especially his admiration for ocean liners. The International House of Japan looks like a huge ocean liner that has docked alongside the garden, whilst its relationship with the pond is said to be based on a recurring motif present in scroll paintings of the Heian period (794-1185).

 

International House of Japan, Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Junzo Yoshimura, Tokyo, 1955. 

Like a huge ocean liner that has docked alongside Jihei Ogawa's Japanese garden.

 

 

 

International House of Japan, Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Junzo Yoshimura, Tokyo, 1955. 

The restaurant, built out over the pond, is more overtly Japanese in its references and the stone lantern to the left appears to be the Snow Viewing Lantern from the original villa.

Motifs that are thought to be based on Heian period scroll paintings.

 

One of a series of scroll paintings illustrating the Private Diary of Shikibu Murasaki (author of The Tale of Genji). Held in the Fujita Art Museum, Osaka

 

One of a series of scroll paintings illustrating the Private Diary of Shikibu Murasaki (author of The Tale of Genji). Held in the Gotō Art Museum, Tokyo

 

International House of Japan, Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Junzo Yoshimura, Tokyo, 1955. 

Lobby at main entrance level looking onto rooftop garden over restaurant.

 

International House of Japan, Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Junzo Yoshimura, Tokyo, 1955. 

Lobby at lower, garden level.

 

 

 

1.  Landscape Gardner Ogawa Jihei and His Times : A Profile of Modern Japan, Hiroyuki Suzuki, translated by Hart Larrabee, JPIC, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please reload

Recent Posts
Please reload

Search By Tags