The Architecture/ Tomas Maier Wants To Save Japan’s Modernist Gems

While Japan’s traditional architecture is widely regarded as a national treasure, much of the country’s significant post-war architecture is at risk of being demolished or changed beyond recognition. Many significant examples of Modernist buildings have already been destroyed due to economic forces and earthquake resistance issues. “As a longtime admirer of Japanese Modernism, I am deeply saddened that these great buildings might soon disappear” said the company’s creative director, Tomas Maier, in a statement. “We hope that Bottega Veneta can help promote awareness of this issue, as we believe that great design is timeless. Japan’s modernist architecture bridges the gap between the country’s traditional buildings and contemporary architecture, giving Tokyo its unique aesthetic character,” he added.

An architecture enthusiast himself, Tomas Maier is a passionate supporter whose commitment lies in raising awareness for, and encouraging the honoring of, these icons. Now, with the ramping up of preparations for the 2020 Olympics, several of the country’s most important Modernist gems such as the acclaimed Hotel Okura (scheduled to undergo renovation in 2015) are in peril. Without further consideration taken for these cultural landmarks, the beauty and the mastery they reflect will be forever lost, and unable to share with generations to come and Bottega Veneta’s creative force is on a mission to save Japan’s modernist architectural gems. Tomas Maier visited Japan in October 2014 to witness the mastery and magic of these endangered treasures.

Hotel Okura Tokyo, 1962

With its lobby considered one of the greatest designs of Japanese Modernism, this hotel carries a distinct Japanese aesthetic that is appreciated worldwide. A committee comprised of specialists gathered to come up with the best of architectural and interior design at that time, and the lobby designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi is a collective of the finest Japanese craftsmanship of the period.

Kunio Maekawa Office, 1954

Kunio Maekawa, who once worked under Le Corbusier, designed his office in a simple, clean layout, and shared the office with one of the most famours product designers in the world, Sori Yanagi and an architectural photographer.

Nissay Theater, 1963

One of the most acknowledged works of architect Togo Murano, the unique ceiling is built with pearl oysters and the organic design is carefully thought out to have the best sound effect within the theater.

St.Mary’s Cathedral, 1964

Along with the Yoyogi National Stadium built around the same time, this cathedral represents an architectural feat that brought worldwide recognition to Kenzo Tange and the Japanese Architecture world. When looked upon from the above, the architecture looks like a cross.

Yoyogi National Stadium, 1964

Built as one of the facilities for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Tange’s innovative structural design creates dramatic sweeping curves that appear to effortlessly drape from two large, central supporting cables which was at that time the most innovative technology yet.

Kagawa Prefectural Gymnasium, 1964

Built around the same time as the Yoyogi National Stadium, this unusual building has the dynamic shape of a ship and a curving roof with a suspended structure. Since 2007, it has been prohibited to enter the arena portion due to earthquake resistance issues. No agreement has been reached so far to make Tange’s building earthquake-resistant, and it has been closed since September 2014.

Kagawa Prefectural Government Office, 1958

One of Tange’s representative works, this building has a strong impact as a model for postwar government architecture. It features a lobby with columns that are situated so as to naturally lead visitors from the road to the site. The mural on the first floor lobby is by Kagawa Prefecture native artist, Genichiro Inokuma, and the furnishings and objets by Isamu Kenmochi are the originals.

“As part of the cultural heritage of the future, it would be a great loss for the next generation to be unable to embrace the beauty of these icons for themselves,” he warned. Check Tomas Maier’s “Save Japan’s Modern Architecture” video below and join his amazing social media campaign #MyMomentAtOkura here

All images by Tetsuya Ito via Bottega Veneta