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Rethinking Tokyo towards 2020

Kengo Kuma is a globally acclaimed, contemporary Japanese architect. His name became even more widespread since the Kengo Kuma & Associates was chosen to design Tokyo's Olympic Stadium for the 2020 games.

References to Japanese tradition, the use of natural materials, the research of harmony and simplicity, the light and shadows effects are all recurrent elements in Kuma’s design that he described during the seminar held at the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ICCJ) on the 10th of June. Participants had the chance to learn the choices that guided his design. These choices undoubtedly provide an insight to foresee how future projects will turn out.

Regarding the Olympic Stadium project, the simple design made Kuma’s work the winning proposal: trees and shrubbery both inside the building and around it create harmony with the landscape of Tokyo, in particular with the Meiji park.  Kengo Kuma mentioned that not far from the Stadium, there is one of the most important religious places for the Japanese; it is the shrine were the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his family are honoured. This Shintoist building is surrounded by a huge forest that represents one of the most spiritual sites of the city. The design of the stadium draws on traditional Japanese architecture and the wood features the building. Kuma himself mentioned that, “while normal stadiums offer facilities only for sportsmen, this stadium is open to the public every day.”

Kengo Kuma also described the ideas leading the Nakagawa-machi Bato Hiroshige Museum. Also in this case he declared the purpose to keep a deep relation with the nature: “I tried to translate Utagawa Hiroshige’s philosophy in my project, using local craftsmen and natural materials as much as possible, like paper, wood, stone, water and bamboo, symbol of the essence of the nature”. As a result, a fascinating hall connects the space facing the main entrance with the museum and the mountains behind, where is sited the ancient Satoyama shrine, a reminder to respect the nature. It is the way to create a harmonic line that relates the inside and the outside, natural and human creations evoking a welcoming sensation.

The famous architect talked about the simple units that feature many projects: these are single modules that can be assembled in order to create installations and buildings magnificently. Also brightness and shadows effects contribute to create the impression of harmony. The ‘pavilion’ made in the Tuileries Garden of Paris is one of this projects. The structure is based on small elements that are assembled using techniques typical of traditional Japanese carpentry; iron nails are not used. “The pavilion consists of identical wooden pieces that have been stacked, twisted and assembled to create a poetic dynamic volume” stated Kuma.

During the seminar, Kengo Kuma described the project of the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center in Tokyo. This building was required to rise up in one of the most old and historic areas of the ancient Edo, very close to a traditional market, a pagoda and a shrine. Starting from these assumptions, the result is a structure made of 7 floors, each of them appearing as an independent house. Each floor relates differently to the outside, giving a unique character to each space that is also used in a different way: conference room, multipurpose space, theatre, etc. 



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