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Twenty-First-Century Tokyo Architecture (Photos)

Satō Shin’ichi (Photographer)[Profile]

For many years, Tokyo was famous as a testing ground for modern architecture. How will the city evolve in the twenty-first century? We take a tour of the architectural wonders of contemporary Tokyo.

Regenerating City

Among all the world’s cities, there is nowhere quite like Tokyo. The city stands out for its vast array of modern architectural styles and the ever-changing nature of its skyline. Regeneration seems to be never-ending here, and new construction projects are constant fixtures of the scenery as you move around the city.

Despite a gradual shift from a scrap-and-build approach to sustainable urban landscaping in response to the demands of the times, there is a persuasive case in earthquake-prone Japan for replacing buildings as they age. This is one of the factors that have led to the ongoing revitalization of cities.

Compared to cities in Western Europe, Tokyo is relatively free from the constraints of history and form, and the city is full of cutting-edge architecture. During the years of rapid economic growth during the 1960s and the Bubble era of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tokyo became something of an experimental playground for bold and creative architects from around the world.

From Public Construction Projects to Commercial Developments

In the early years of the twenty-first century, globalization brought a return of speculative developments such as apartment complexes. But at the same time, a major change was underway in the construction industry. The rush was on to construct buildings for luxury brands and global fashion houses.

As a witness to the changing face of the city’s architecture and interior spaces, photographer Satō Shin’ichi notes that the quality of buildings in Tokyo has changed during the first decade of this century.

“Architects who had previously worked on designs for public buildings started to get actively involved in commercial properties. A new trend developed of companies collaborating with architects to refine their brand image. Many companies started to use architecture as a bold new way of expressing their brand identity.”

(Originally written in Japanese by Katō Jun, architectural writer. With thanks to the editorial desk of Shōten kenchiku [Commercial Architecture] and Tōbu Hotel Levant Tokyo [Tokyo Skytree]. Photographs by Satō Shin’ichi.)

  • [2012.02.16]

Photographer, born in 1966. Has used classic view cameras since buying a 4x5 camera at the age of 20. His works take full advantage of the fine detail and distinctive transparency ultra-high-resolution cameras offer.


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