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Toshiko Mori Calls Tokyo's At-Risk Hotel Okura "A Very Beautiful Orphan Child"

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With the planned demolition of Hotel Okura in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games fast approaching, architects and designers have rallied around the Modernist icon, calling for its preservation. In the latest and most high profile campaign, Japanese architect Toshiko Mori and Bottega Veneta's Tomas Maier have joined forces to span a breadth of platforms from a symposium held last November to an Instagram hashtag (#mymomentatokura) sharing images of the beloved hotel. Most recently, Mori sat down with Architectural Digest to discuss her passion for Hotel Okura, the origins of the campaign, and Japanese Modernism. Read the full interview and see why Mori says Hotel Okura is "a very beautiful orphan child," here

Miu Miu Aoyama Store / Herzog & de Meuron

© Nacasa & Partners © Nacasa & Partners © Nacasa & Partners © Nacasa & Partners

SEPA / +S/Shintaro Matsushita+Takashi Suzuki

  • Architects: +S/Shintaro Matsushita+Takashi Suzuki
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • Architect In Charge: Shintaro Matsushita, Takashi Suzuki
  • Construction: Miki Construction Company
  • Area: 89.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Hiroyuki Hirai

© Hiroyuki Hirai © Hiroyuki Hirai © Hiroyuki Hirai © Hiroyuki Hirai

"Classic Japan" Episode 1: Yoyogi National Gymnasium / Kenzo Tange

From Tokyo-based French architect and film maker Vincent Hecht comes "Classic Japan," a series of short films focussed on Japanese architecture from between the 1950s and 80s. 

The first installment takes viewers into Kenzo Tange's 1964 Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Shibuya, built to house the swimming and diving events of the 1964 Summer Olympics. Completed in less than two years and seating upwards of 15,000 spectators, the Gymnasium is renowned for its suspension roof, and will host the handball competitions during Tokyo's 2020 Summer Olympics.

China’s Pearl River Delta Overtakes Tokyo as World’s Largest Urban Area

China’s Pearl River Delta has surpassed Tokyo in both size and population, making it the largest urban area in the world, according to the World Bank. The colossal megapolis - a conglomerate of several cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Foshan and Dongguan - is a central component to China’s manufacturing and trade industries. 

It is now home to 42 million - more people than the countries of Canada, Argentina or Australia. And, considering nearly two-thirds of the East Asia region’s population (64%) is still “non-urban,” the area is expected to grow exponentially. 

House in Tsubaki / PANDA

  • Architects: PANDA
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • Architects In Charge: Kozo Yamamoto, Shinji Ikeda
  • Contractor: AZ Construction
  • Area: 95.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Koichi Torimura

© Koichi Torimura © Koichi Torimura © Koichi Torimura © Koichi Torimura

Save Japan’s Modern Architecture

As preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics escalate, so do concerns regarding the preservation of the city’s heritage; and more specifically, according to Tomas Maier, Japan’s modernist architecture. The Bottega Venneta creative director recently embarked on an “urgent visit” to Japan in an effort to evaluate the city’s risk of loosing its modernist icons. With special consideration for the overlooked and threatened Hotel Okura, Maier believes that this Yoshiro Taniguchi-designed landmark is just one of many structures at risk of falling to "progress.”

Watch the video above and learn more about how you can help preserve the Hotel Okura, here

Design Your Own Home With MUJI's Prefab Vertical House

Japanese design brand MUJI has taken a bold step into architectural territory. A few years after a collaboration with Kengo Kuma to design two prefab houses, the company has come forth with a Vertical House in Tokyo. Streamlined and efficient, the home accommodates all the demands of residential living within a small plot of land.

Interior images and more information, after the break.

Courtesy of MUJI Courtesy of MUJI Courtesy of MUJI Courtesy of MUJI

Spotlight: Fumihiko Maki

Fumihiko Maki, the Pritzker Prize laureate and 67th AIA Gold Medalist, turns 86 today. Widely considered to be one of Japan's most distinguished living architects, Maki practices a unique style of Modernism that reflects his Japanese origin. Toshiko Mori has praised Maki's ability to create "ineffable atmospheres" using a simple palette of various types of metal, concrete, and glass. His consistent integration and adoption of new methods of construction as part of his design language contribute to his personal quest to create "unforgettable scenes."

Model of the Shekou Museum. Image © China Merchants Property Development & Maki and Associates Fumihiko Maki. Image © Imogene Tudor Makuhari Messe / Fumihiko Maki Yerba Buena Center for Performing Arts, San Francisco

Tokyo's Modernist Gem, Hotel Okura, To Be Demolished

Talk about Modernist Japanese architecture, and you can hardly fail to bring up Tokyo's Hotel Okura. Built in 1962 under the design direction of Yoshiro Taniguchi, Hideo Kosaka, Shiko Munakata, and Kenkichi Tomimoto, the hotel has long been a landmark not only for the city, but for Japan. Now, however, the hotel's owners have decided that the main building for the hotel will be demolished in September of 2015, with a new hotel taking its place. To learn more - including how to sign the petition for preservation - keep reading after the break.

Zaha Hadid Architects Reveals Modified Tokyo National Stadium Designs

Update: The Japan Sport Council has now unveiled images of ZHA's redesigned Tokyo National Stadium, which Zaha Hadid Architects say will make "make the stadium even more efficient, user-focussed, adaptable and sustainable." The capacity of the stadium will remain at 80,000 seats.

After sustained protest from Japanese architects and citizens alike, Zaha Hadid Architects have confessed that they are modifying their designs for Tokyo's National Stadium, the centerpiece for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After repeated criticism, including a petition launched by Pritzker laureates Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki, the Japanese Government had already announced a plan to reduce the cost from its original budget of $3 billion to a more manageable $1.7 billion.

Now, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has added fuel to the fire by saying that it would support a scaled-back plan for the entire event: "We want to see more existing venues, we want to see the use of more temporary grandstands," said Committee vice president John Coates.

More on Tokyo's plan to dial down its Olympics after the break

Shigeru Ban Designs Temporary Pavilion for the World Cup

In honor of the World Cup (which starts today), the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, has invited Shigeru Ban, this year's Pritzker Laureate, to build a temporary pavilion.

Spotlight: Toyo Ito

As one of the leading architects of Japan's increasingly highly-regarded architecture culture, 2013 Pritzker Laureate Toyo Ito (born June 1, 1941) has defined his career by combining elements of minimalism with an embrace of technology, in a way that merges both traditional and contemporary elements of Japanese culture.

Japanese Architect Launches Second Petition Against Zaha Hadid's Tokyo Stadium

Tokyo-based architect Edward Suzuki has launched another petition against Zaha Hadid's design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium, claiming it is "overwhelmingly large for the context" and "will desecrate the 'sacred grounds' of Meiji Shrine Outer Gardens". This is the second petition against the design and is intended to support the earlier petition by Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki by providing an equivalent targeted primarily at English speakers, aiming to "pressure our government not only from within but also from outside of our country." You can see the petition in full here.

Video: Shibaura House by Kazuyo Sejima

As a part of his ongoing film series about Japanese architecture, French architect and filmmaker Vincent Hecht has created this visual exploration of Kazuyo Sejima’s Shibaura House. Completed in 2011, this five story office space is walled almost entirely in glass and features double-height, split level floors that showcase the paths of travel through the building. The building also features a public cafe on the ground floor, and a roof terrace.

Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki Petition Against Zaha Hadid's Tokyo Olympic Stadium

Though it seemed a compromise was met last October, when Japan’s minister of education, Hakubun Shimomura announced plans to reduce the cost and scale of the Zaha Hadid-designed Tokyo Olympic Stadium, the debate rages on.  

Pritzker laureates Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki have launched an online petition to “defend the ginko tree-lined landscape of blue sky and Jingu Outer Gardens” from the construction of Hadid’s “oversized” stadium. 

The petition (now with more than 13,000 signatures) urges the Japan Sports Council, who hand selected Hadid’s winning design alongside Tadao Ando, to reconsider upgrading the existing Meiji Jingo Gaien Stadium and the gardens surrounding it. This solution, they believe, is a more affordable and sustainable alternative that would prevent the relocation of nearby residents. 

Take a tour though Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic Stadium and share your thoughts about the design (and petition), after the break...