Kenzo Tange (Tange Kenzō, b. 1913–d. 2005) was arguably the most prominent Japanese architect in the 20th century. His long career had been tied to the changing trajectory of the nation, making him an important cultural figure to study in modern Japan. Inspired by Le Corbusier since his youth, Tange followed modernism throughout his career with strong faith in its rational order, technological power, and universalizing values, yet he always tried to incorporate them with a Japanese identity and aesthetics. The triumphs in two open design competitions sponsored by the wartime militarist government lifted him to the national stage at a young age but have remained controversial since. He emerged again as the leader during the country’s postwar resurrection and economic takeoff and designed a series of national projects, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Tokyo City Hall, and the National Olympic Gymnasiums, and led the team in the planning and design for the 1970 World Expositions in Osaka. Japan’s continuing growth of economic power in the 1970s through 1990s sent him all over the world with large-scale designs in Macedonia, Italy, Singapore, Middle East, Africa, and the United States, among other nations. Tange was also an influential urbanist, an aspect that has in the early 21st century drawn greater interest of scholarship. His seminal work of city design was the 1960 Plan for Tokyo, which articulated a spectacular though incremental expansion of a linear megastructure cross the Tokyo Bay to carry a new city of five million to decentralize the overcrowded metropolis and basically influenced all his ensuing attempts of inventing inclusive urban frameworks for the transforming postindustrial cities. This endeavor was shared by the architects of Metabolism, who launched the avant-garde movement that Tange helped flourish in the 1960s. Tange’s collaborations with artists, critics, and photographers, as well as his constant engagement in global intellectual exchanges, also generated rich outcomes and served his aspiration for Japan’s cultural identity and international influence, manifest in his coauthored accounts on the Katsura Villa and Ise Shrine, respectively, as well as in Expo ’70. As an accomplished educator, Tange taught for most of his career at the University of Tokyo. His architectural laboratory there and the Department of Urban Engineering that he cofounded have trained generations of Japanese architectural and urban thinkers and practitioners. The author would like to thank Professor Yatsuka Hajime in Tokyo and Yihan Yin of University of Pennsylvania for their inputs to this article.
Several scholarly books have been published in Japanese and English in the early 21st century. Kenzo Tange Associates 1987 and Tange and Fujimori 2002 represent comprehensive surveys of Tange’s career. Kuan and Lippit 2012 gathers a series of essays and draws from the collection of the Kenzo Tange Archives. Lin 2010, in English with a Chinese translation (2011) focuses on Tange’s urbanism and his relationship to the Metabolist movement. Toyokawa 2012 studies the research of Tange’s team at the University of Tokyo and reveals his academic contributions.
Kenzo Tange Associates. Kenzo Tange. 3 vols. Tokyo: Process Architecture, 1987.
A three-volume compilation of the architectural works of Kenzo Tange Associates from 1946 to 1987 (Vol. 1, 1946–1979; Vol. 2, 1983; Vol. 3, 1987), from the Hiroshima Peace Centre through the Tokyo Prince Hotel. In English and Japanese.
Kuan, Seng, and Yukio Lippit, eds. Kenzo Tange: Architecture for the World. Baden, Germany: Lars Müller, 2012.
An edited volume in a format that alternates essays and Tange’s design works, focusing primarily on his postwar career.
Lin, Zhongjie. Kenzo Tange and the Metabolist Movement: Urban Utopias of Modern Japan. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.
A critical account linking Tange’s urbanism to the Metabolist movement and resituating their urban utopias in the context of Japan’s urban reconstruction, economic miracle, and sociopolitical reorientation.
Tange Kenzo and Fujimori Terunobu. Tange Kenzo. Tokyo: Shinkenchiku-sha, 2002.
This comprehensive volume combines a biography of Tange and a monograph of his architecture and urban design through his life.
Toyokawa Saikaku. Gunzō to shite no Tange Kenkyūshitsu: Sengo Nihon kenchiku, toshishi no meinsutorīmu. Tokyo: Ohmsha, 2012.
Translates as “Architectural theories and practices by Kenzo Tange Laboratory: Mainstream of postwar Japanese architecture and urban history.” Based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, this book analyzes the wide range of research in architecture, engineering, urban studies, and social sciences carried out at Tange’s laboratory at the University of Tokyo and reveals the connections of these research projects to his design practices.
Toyokawa Saikaku. Tange kenzō: Sengo nihon no kōsōsha. Tokyo: Iwanamishoten, 2016.
Translates as “Kenzo Tange: Imagineer of postwar Japan.” A handy book for a general audience, introducing Tange’s career and contextualizing his work in the postwar Japanese society and architectural profession.
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