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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Topic: Architecture / Travel
One of Tadao Ando's most recently completed projects, and one of his largest commissions, is Omotesando Hills, a high-end shopping complex on Tokyo's boutique-lined street, Omotesando. It supplants the famous Aoyama Apartments, a landmark of early Japanese modernism, that were controversially destroyed before the new construction began. Ando has kept the shell of a portion of the original structure, erected in 1927 by Doujunkai, a governmental design bureau. I think this small gesture, combined with his attempt to echo some of the forms and proportions of the original, doesn't really exude a full-fledged historical sensitivity, but rather exposes a certain architectural guilt. Ando has a deep understanding of architectural history, as well as a firm rootedness in his national culture, and I'm sure it is only with profound reluctance that he participated in the replacement of a local landmark with a luxury shopping mall.

If only it didn't fall so flat. The rich textures of the old Doujunkai apartments (creeping ivy on rough concrete) have been replaced by Ando's (admittedly beautiful) signature smooth cast-in-place walls, but also layers of steel structure and slick glass. It's all a bit too common. There are of course some wonderful Andoan (?) moments, where shadows meet a running stream of water that separates the front facade from the sidewalk, but then once entered the space is overrun with gaudy lighting effects, decorations, and an open atrium that really seems like an oversized, conventional mall space.

I feel that Ando has made so many great smaller commercial and residential buildings (and some large museums and religious spaces) that display a powerful sense of monumentality in their materials and spatial experiences. It's a shame that a larger commission like this doesn't present an opportunity for those traits to really shine. There's a plan for a Tokyo Tower II for which Ando is listed as a supervisor. This is another apparently-conventional large scale endeavor, and while I understand the importance of a highly accomplished architect to progress and evolve, I worry that his talents should be focused on more sensitive, contemplative, or experientially interactive programs .

Official Site (ENG)
Video: Digital Facade
More Images
Interview with Ando re: Omotesando Hills (ENG)
Specs, Details and Images (JPN)
Tokyo Tower II

Posted by thenovakids at 9:54 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007 4:24 PM CDT
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