Kenzō Tange belonged to the architects and urban planners of the modern movement, and like many of his contemporaries, he was confident in his role of remaking the post-war world. In fact, working on associated redevelopment projects in his native Japan is what helped him establish as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century.
Before setting his first steps in Skopje, to join the group effort of reconstructing the city after the devastating earthquake of 1963, he had already made a name for himself.
His interest in urban studies had provided him a significant advantage to handle post was reconstruction projects, and in 1946 he was invited by the War Damage Rehabilitation Board in Japan to put forward a proposal for certain war damaged cities. He would go on and submit his first plans for the cities of Hiroshima and Maebashi, and the first proposal he got approved was a design for an airport in Kanon, Hiroshima.
Moreover, the Hiroshima authorities were also up for building a Peace Memorial and preserve buildings situated near the ground zero. At this point, Japan was indeed recovering from the numerous deadly air raids that took place at the conclusion of World War II, as well as the two atomic bombings, which claimed the lives of 129,000 people alone, in the first and only act of using nuclear weapons for warfare in history. Now, it was time to also settle a memorial building.
An international competition was launched for architects to design a Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and it would be Tange to claim the prize for a design that proposed a museum whose axis runs through the park, intersecting a so-called Peace Boulevard and an atomic bomb dome.
Work on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial had started in 1950. The building erected on massive columns that frame the view along the structure’s axis. As work had begun, Tange had refined the design from its initial vision, improving it, and placing the museum at the center of the complex. In addition to the architectural symbolism, the memorial center was to reflect, Tange also thought that it is very important for the design to center around the building that houses the information about the atomic explosions.
Bare reinforced concrete overwhelmed the design of the museum, and the first floor of it was lifted six meters above the ground on huge piloti. The rhythmical facade comprises vertical elements that repeat outwards from the center, the entire building made accessible via a freestanding staircase. Just like the exterior of the museum, the interior was also finished with rough concrete, the idea of which, to keep the surface plain so that nothing could distract the visitor from the contents of the exhibits.
The Peace Plaza made the backdrop for the museum, designed to allow 50 thousand people to freely gather around the peace monument in its center. Furthermore, Tange had designed the monument as an arch composed of two hyperbolic paraboloids, supposedly based on traditional ceremonial tombs from the Kofun Period, one that extends well back in time, having lasted from 250 to 538 AD in Japan.
As the project certainly established Tange as an architect, he later proceeded to work on more genuine designs and urban plans for other cities in Japan such as Tokyo, but very soon, he was known worldwide. Many ideas he was not able to explore in Japan, he was able to do so once he came to work on the redevelopment plan of Skopje.
Did you know?
Back in high school, Tange performed really poor in mathematics and physics.
Kenzō Tange’s own home
Tange certainly had the taste for building his own home too, the work for which had commenced in 1951 and was finished two years later. His own home used actually a similar skeleton structure raised off the ground as the Hiroshima Peace Museum, however, he had it fused with more traditional Japanese design elements.
The house is base on the traditional Japanese module of the tatami mat, with the largest rooms designed to allow flexibility so that they can be separated into three smaller rooms by using fusuma sliding doors. The facade of the house was also designed with a rhythmic pattern, while a two-tier roof topped the entire piece.
We also thought to remind you of how Skopje became the city of solidarity