The new Tokyo City Hall complex was completed in 1991, Its two towers rise to 243 and 163 metres respectively. The total floor area amounts to 380,500 square metres.



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Tokyo City Hall
By Andrew Stevens

9 March 2005: Unlike its metropolitan regional counterpart, the Greater London Authority in England, which has a ‘City Hall’ without being a city, the administrative headquarters of Tokyo Metropolitan Government are simply known as the Metropolitan Buildings.  Which does little justice to the towering edifice which houses the Governor and Metropolitan Assembly, as well as an army of bureaucrats, that dominates the centre of the Japanese capital.  The locations around the buildings were recently made famous in Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation and may be familiar to even those who have not visited the city.

From either of the two main buildings there are views of the Shinjuku district, including the four Shinjuku towers, Shinjuku Station and Shinjuku Central Park.  The complex consists of three main buildings, simply known as Main Buildings Number One and Number Two and the Metropolitan Assembly Building.  Standing at forty eight storeys in height (243m), Number One houses the headquarters of Governor Ishihara and looms over the smaller Metropolitan Assembly Building, which stands at merely seven storeys (41m).  The Assembly Building houses the 127 Assembly Members and their staff.  Number Two stands to the side of these and is the offices of support staff for the organisation.  Visitors are free to take in views of the city from either of the two observatories in Number One, which are open during business hours.

Despite the massive scale of the buildings themselves, work was completed in April 1991 after only three years of construction.  The operations of Tokyo Metropolitan Government then moved to this site as the old City Hall was to be demolished to make way for the Tokyo International Forum convention centre  Designed by Kenzo Tange, one of Japan’s most eminent architects, it is a defined modernist structure that makes use of its angular contours to impose dominance over its surroundings. Tange could be seen as Japan’s equivalent of Britain’s Norman Foster, Brazil’s Oscar Niemeyer or Switzerland’s Herzog and de Meuron, as all have won the Pritzker Prize for their contribution to the physical environment of the world’s capitals.

Japan’s capital since the end of the feudal era in 1868, Tokyo became a symbol of the country’s rapid dash towards Westernisation in the Meiji era between 1868 and 1912. Tokyo Metropolitan Government is one of 47 prefectures in the Japanese local government system. However, as the capital city it has some unusual characteristics for a prefecture as while the city head is the Governor, the patchwork of local authorities beneath the city government is complex as there are 23 wards tasked with minor city administrative duties, as well as an array of municipalities outside of central Tokyo – 26 cities, five towns and eight villages. But it is fair to say that Tokyo Metropolitan Government is the most powerful and influential body operating within its local government system.

The current Governor of Tokyo is Shintaro Ishihara, twice elected as an independent, despite previously serving in the national Liberal Democratic government.  Governor Ishihara’s independent status could be seen as befitting his former vocation as a prize-winning novelist and his profile is definitely at odds with the mainstream of the Japanese political system, which generally prefers time-serving technocrats not blessed with Ishihara’s rather blunt manner. Not afraid of controversy, Ishihara uses the office of Governor on a personal moral and national crusade and frequently attacks his own government’s policy towards neighbouring nations, whom he views as a threat to Japan. The rather imposing presence of the Metropolitan Government complex might be seen to reflect the current Governor’s own personal manner.


Kenzo Tange, winner of the Pritzker Prize and designer of Tokyo's new City Hall complex, died on 22 March 2005.


Introducing
Kenzo Tange

(
1913 - 2005)
Kenzo Tange was born in 1913 in Osaka and lived in Imabari, Ehime prefecture until junior high school. After graduating from the University of Tokyo's Department of Architecture, he worked for four years in the office of Kunio Maekawa, an important disciple of Le Corbusier. In 1942 he entered the University of Tokyo Graduate School and became an assistant professor from 1946.

In 1949 Tange was selected as the winner for the design of the Peace Park and Peace Center of Hiroshima. In 1951, Tange presented his ideas about the Hiroshima core at the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) in London. He had the pleasure of meeting historical figures such as Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Jose Louis Sert and other great architects of the world.In the 1950's Tange was strongly influenced by Le Corbusier as well as by the Renaissance Master, Michelangelo.

He was also greatly influenced by traditional Japanese architecture, expressed in concrete in the Kagawa Prefectural Office, 1958. From the 1960's, the urbanist prevailed over the architect. The buildings Tange continued to plan were part of a spatial context concerned with great metropolitan areas. Such ideas into the nature of the urban structure were at the core of the Tokyo Plan, 1960, expressing a change from mere functionalism toward structuralism.

A further development of the idea of structuralism, set a deepened interest in space as it relates to humanity and its spiritual aspects. In the pursuit of a junction between human and technological elements, Tange's proposal was accepted for the design of the Tokyo Cathedral of Saint Mary and twenty or thirty different models were designed for the National Gymnasium Complex for use in the 1964 Olympic Games.At the beginning of the 1970's with a theme of "Human Progress and Harmony," Tange undertook the architectural design for EXPO '70 and the Festival Plaza, completed in late 1966.

Having designed the previous Tokyo City Hall in Marunouchi, Tange's design for the New Tokyo City Hall Complex was selected in 1986. His "Plan for Tokyo" was Tange's logical response to the nature of the urban structure that would permit growth and change. It received enormous attention world-wide for its new concepts of extending the growth of the city out over the bay, using bridges, man made islands, floating parking and megastructures. Symbolic of this period is the Fuji Television Bldg. in Odaiba, completed in 1996.