World-renowned architects

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Architecture in Tokyo

World-renowned architects - Celebrated structures by four Japanese architects

In the first section, let’s go on a journey and explore the worlds of Kenzo Tange, Kisho Kurokawa, Tadao Ando, and Kengo Kuma—four internationally acclaimed Japanese architects whose masterly works breathe beauty into the metropolis of Tokyo.

Kenzo Tange

Photo courtesy of TANGE ASSOCIATES

Kenzo Tange (1913–2005), recognized as one of the first Japanese architects who went global, won international praise for works that fused traditional Japanese and modern Western European styles of architecture. As an urban planner, he proposed and designed new cities across the globe. He was also known for his friendship with the likes of Le Corbusier—one of the three great pioneers of modern architecture—Philip Johnson, Oscar Niemeyer, painter Genichiro Inokuma, and avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto. With a myriad of projects being organized this year to celebrate the centennial of Tange’s birth (2013), now is the perfect time to visit his legacy in Tokyo ranging from the Yoyogi National Stadium to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings, to the Sogetsu Kaikan, to Shinjuku Park Tower.

Yoyogi National Stadium

The distinctive hanging-roof structure that comes into view a short walk from Harajuku Station was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Today, it still serves as the stage for many sports events as well as cultural events like concerts.


Sekiguchi Catholic Church St. Mary's Cathedral

Completed in 1964, the cathedral comprises of eight shell walls arranged in pairs to form a large cross when seen from above, and that can be recognized by looking up at the roof from within. The funeral of Tange himself was held in this interior rising to a peak of nearly 40 meters. The building is beautiful enough to look at from the outside, but as long as you’re there, the solemn interior is worth a visit, too.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings


Fuji Television Headquarters Building


Kisho Kurokawa

Photo courtesy of Kisho Kurokawa Architect & Associates

Kisho Kurokawa (1934–2007) was a founder of the Metabolist Movement, which advocated the organic growth of cities and architecture in line with changes in society and population. He was influenced greatly by the urban development concepts of Kenzo Tange, to whom he apprenticed at the University of Tokyo. The National Art Center, a dynamic structure directly accessible from Nogizaka Station, promises to awe. Kurokawa also designed everyday commercial buildings in Tokyo, like Aoyama Bell Commons and Big Box. Works outside Japan include the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Malaysia.

National Art Center, Tokyo

Opened in 2007, the facility features a striking wavy façade. On top of showcasing exhibitions in one of the largest display spaces in Japan, it also serves as an art center for collecting art-related material and hosting educational programs. Visitors are recommended to spend some time at the restaurant or one of the cafés designed to take in plenty of natural sunlight.


Tadao Ando

photo by Hayashi Keitaku

Tadao Ando (1941–) continues to explore new forms of architecture under the concept of harmony with nature. The self-taught architect traveled the world before returning to Japan and establishing Tadao Ando Architect & Associates. Besides Omotesando Hills and Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line Shibuya Station, his body of works in Tokyo worth visiting also includes the International Library of Children’s Literature and the Fukutake Hall, built for the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies at the University of Tokyo. He also served as a grand design director for the Tokyo Olympic bid in 2020.

Omotesando Hills

Designed to blend in harmony with the landscape, the building is roughly the same height as the zelkova trees lining the street. An atrium stretching three floors above and below ground level cuts through the commercial space, where tenants stand side by side along a spiral ramp that echoes the slope of Omotesando itself. The raw concrete walls and geometrical forms offer a glimpse of Ando’s signature style.


21_21 Design Sight

With a unique form featuring a roof made of giant steel plates that fold over and slope down to the ground, the building is an embodiment of Ando’s wish to show the world that Japan is perpetually exploring new possibilities of design.


Kengo Kuma

©The Courier

Kengo Kuma (1954–) is recognized worldwide for architecture that uses natural materials, respects the surroundings, and relates to the environment. He has handled a large number of high-profile projects such as the Nezu Museum, featuring a traditional Japanese structure that blends beautifully with the Japanese garden; the rebuilt Kabukiza Theater; and the interior of KITTE, Japan Post’s commercial building that opened in 2013. The glass-paneled Akagi-jinja Shrine, in the Kagurazaka neighborhood, defies the conventions of shrine design.

Taito-ku Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center

Renovated in 2012, the facility stands out for its exterior combining glass and wood. The first and second floors offer tourist information, and the eighth floor terrace observatory commands a panoramic view of Asakusa with TOKYO SKYTREE in the distance. The building serves as a symbol of the new Asakusa.

Ginza Kabukiza (Kabukiza Theater / Kabukiza Tower)

Rebuilt in 2013, the theater features a 16th-century Japanese-style exterior, and interior design that takes advantage of fine building materials. Even visitors who choose not to watch a kabuki performance can enjoy the gallery and shops. The 29-floor Kabukiza Tower behind the theater is the tallest structure in the Ginza district.

Photo courtesy of Shochiku Co., Ltd. / Kabukiza Co., Ltd.



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Nezu Museum


Akagi-jinja Shrine

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