Kenzo Tange

Kenzo Tange

Japanese architect
Date of Birth: 04.11.1913
Country: Japan

Biography of Kenzo Tange

Kenzo Tange was born on November 4, 1913, in the city of Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku in Japan. He spent his school years in Hiroshima. Tange entered the architecture faculty at Tokyo University in 1935 and after graduating in 1938, he began working in the studio of architect Kunio Maekawa. During his time with Maekawa, Tange wrote his first literary work, an essay on Michelangelo in 1939.
Tange's career began during a difficult period for the Japanese people in the late 1930s. The decline of peaceful construction had a significant impact on supporters of "new architecture" who sought to remain true to its principles. Maekawa's studio also faced difficulties due to lack of work, causing Tange to join the Tokyo University graduate school in 1941.
In the early post-war years, Tange created several urban planning projects, the largest of which was the master plan for Hiroshima developed with Asada, Otani, and Ishikawa in 1947. Although he followed the principles of functionalism, Tange also aimed to incorporate ideas that went beyond its boundaries. The work on the master plan for Hiroshima served as a preparatory stage for designing the memorial complex of peace in the city from 1949 to 1956. This ensemble served as a solemn reminder of the vulnerability of human values and their courageous affirmation. The composition was based on a strictly national representation of symbolic space.
The Hiroshima Memorial was the first work by a Japanese architect to introduce something substantially new to the development of contemporary architecture. Tange became one of the most famous and influential architects of today. He also became the sole leader of architectural thought among the youth of Japan, pushing older leaders such as Maekawa, Sakakura, and Raymond into the background. In 1953, the children's library in Hiroshima, designed by Tange, was completed. From 1951 to 1953, Tange built his own house in the suburbs of Tokyo, where he used traditional materials such as wood, tiles, partitions covered with rice paper, with the exception of this one design.
Apart from this exception, Tange's work in the 1950s was associated with the construction of large public buildings, types of which were new to Japan. The majority of orders for his studio were buildings for local government bodies. From 1952 to 1957, Tange worked on the municipal complex in Tokyo. An important stage in the development of the artistic language of Tange's architecture was the creation of the assembly hall in the city of Shizuoka (1956-1957), which is now used as an indoor stadium.
The Kurashiki City Hall building (1958-1960), which appears as a powerful monolith towering over the dusty square of a cozy old town, became the final chord of Tange's work in the 1950s. By introducing it into the established environment, he solidified the role of the center behind the historical core of the city, which was drawn into active industrial development at the turn of the 1960s. This deliberate gesture, which determined the fate of the old quarters, is a testament to Tange's conviction that radical transformations are necessary. The theme of traditions and their role in the work of a modern artist in the 1950s predominates in Tange's literary works. His major essay in the book "Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture" (1960) is a conclusion to his reflections on the duality of Japanese tradition, striving to clearly demonstrate the struggle between two cultures - popular and aristocratic. His book on the Ise Shrine, published two years later, belongs to a similar type of essay.
By the end of the 1950s, Tange had already completed a considerable number of diverse buildings. However, with the exception of the Hiroshima Memorial, they were lost in the chaotic urban environment. Their full use and perception were hindered by the disorder of the immediate surroundings and the randomness of their location within the city system.
In 1961, he led the "URTEC" group, which aimed to bring together architecture and theory. The culmination of Tange's career was the complex of sports facilities built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
In 1963-1964, Tange, together with Tsu-boi, also designed the St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo.
The first half of the 1960s was the most productive period for Tange. The building that concluded this period was the Yamanashi Prefectural Communication Center in Kofu (1962-1967).
For the first time, Tange was able to connect his ideas with real tasks of reconstruction and urban development when designing the center of the Yugoslav city of Skopje, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963. An international competition was held in 1964 for the project of the center under the auspices of the United Nations, and the first prize was awarded to Tange and his team.
The main idea of the project was to introduce a clear structure into the city center's space, organizing a systematic transportation network and creating large symbolic forms that would facilitate people's perception of the city as a whole. According to Tange's thoughts, these symbols should express the character of using urban spaces in such a way as to encourage citizens' participation in public life.
While working on the project for the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, Tange faced the particularly complex forms of collective work but managed to tactfully and wisely incorporate deeply personal ideas that determined the overall character of the complex without suppressing the expression of other architects' individuality.
Simultaneously with the work for the exhibition, Tange led a series of architectural and urban planning projects carried out by the "URTEC" group and his studio at Tokyo University. Among them were the master plan for Flushing Meadows Park in New York (1967), the general plans for the center of Kyoto (1967-1968), the city of Morioka (1970-1971), the sports center and airport in Kuwait (1969), and the train station in Skopje (1970).
The issue of population distribution across the entire territory of the Japanese archipelago, which in the minds of thinking Japanese became a problem of survival or fatal decline of the nation, increasingly occupied Tange's thoughts. In 1967, he published a study called "The Image of the Japanese Archipelago in the Future," in which he argued for the salvation of transitioning from the development of chaotic agglomerations around "super-cities" to a linear system based on a powerful communication spine that would organically connect all centers of the country. The freedom of spatial movement, which facilitates social contacts, led Tange to consider the transition to an "open society" and its beneficial consequences.
In all his searches and wanderings, Tange remains a great artist. The results of his work, like those of any true artist, are more significant than the concepts he formulates.

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