Pavilion Tokyo 2020 Exhibitor Interview
2.Interview with Architectural Historian and Architect Terunobu Fujimori (Part 2)
【According to Museum Director Etsuko Watari, the idea behind this project comes from the gap between the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics she had experienced as a child. Watari said, "With the 1964 Tokyo Olympics approaching, we were so excited by drastic changes occurring in the city of Tokyo, where major constructions including Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway and many buildings were underway. This time, on the contrary, we don't feel the same kind of excitement at all. I want to provide today's children exciting experiences that will remain in their memories––so that they will remember strange buildings or teahouses that popped up in the city in 2020. And we definitely wanted Professor Fujimori to design one of them.】
―― Architects including Kenzo Tange, Yoshinobu Ashihara, Mamoru Yamada among others built Olympic facilities for the 1964 Olympics. Kengo Kuma is building the New National Stadium this time. You mentioned previously the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics probably would not cause significant changes in the city of Tokyo today.
Yes, I still think so. I had a chance to see an aerial view of the city of Tokyo the other day, and it turned out that the most easily identifiable buildings in Tokyo were designed by either Kenzo Tange or Nikken Sekkei. Tange's buildings includes Yoyogi National Gymnasium, St. Mary Cathedral, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, and Nikken Sekkei's buildings include Tokyo Dome and skyscrapers. I also noticed that the number of buildings designed by Nikkei Sekkei and other large architectural firms are increasing, while the number of Tange-designed or a similar type of buildings has not increased.
I was also fascinated by super high-rise condominiums along the bay side. I had never seen a spectacular view like that in the past. It is quite beautiful. When heading to Haneda Airport early in the morning, we can see super high-rise condominiums located right at the edge of the water as we cross the Rainbow Bridge. High-rise condominiums in New York are not located in such close proximity to the water. It is a fantastic and unprecedented view.
Another notable thing was roof greening. There are many green roofs around Shinjuku. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government issued a regulation requiring roof greening in all public buildings and also in privately owned buildings which floor areas exceed the designated value. Laws and regulations have a strong impact on the city. When an architect wants to make green roofs, the client may turn down his/her idea by simply saying, "What do we need that for?" But if an architect tells the client roof greening is required by the regulation, he/she can make it happen. It was quite surprising. I think Tokyo is probably of the first cities to have issued a green roof regulation ahead of the rest of the world.
―― And roof greening in Tokyo have expanded rapidly because so many new buildings are being constructed one after another.
Exactly. Roof greening would not expand in the same way in Europe, because not so many new buildings are built there.
―― Professor Fujimori, you specialize in the history of urban planning and wrote a book entitled Meiji no Tokyo Keikaku (Tokyo's Urban Planning in the Meiji Period.) What phase of urban planning do you think the city of Tokyo is at today, after having gone through multiple transformations since its establishment in the Meiji Period?
Basically, I think that the city center is becoming like a fortified city: areas around the center are becoming higher and higher due to the concentration of tall buildings. Unlike cities in Europe, cities in Japan are surrounded by extensive suburban residential areas. But I think the city center will probably continue to grow higher until it reaches a certain height.
The government issues legal restrictions in order to properly regulate urban planning at first, but these restrictions somehow become loose gradually. One of the typical examples is the redevelopment of the skyscraper district in Shiodome. In the past, the provision of public open spaces was strictly required for the construction of skyscrapers in order to provide places for people around skyscrapers. But there are very few public open spaces in Shiodome today. I must say it was a failure.
―― Isn't there any plan like Kenzo Tange's "A Plan for Tokyo" underway today?
None at all. Major construction companies are merely building boring stuff using lots of steel, based on banal images of the future. Speaking from my experience, Archigram was the last architectural firm who successfully translated dreams for the future into city planning ideas. Construction companies and large architectural firms in later days only continue to build many skyscrapers due to the lack of imagination. In today's society, architects can no longer unleash their imaginations for the city's future. In my view, they can no longer think about the future anymore.
【Fujimori had traveled all over the country to see modern architecture masterpieces in Japan as a member of the Architectural Detectives in his youth. In his opinion, the situation in which people develop a "love for architecture" like that is changing today.】
One of the big differences between the 2020 Olympics and the 1964 Olympics is that many people come from the world to see Japanese architecture today. There were very few people like that in the past. Only people engaged in architecture had been invited to Japan, including Bruno Taut to begin with, to see Japanese architecture. But today, an increasing number of people, including those who are not engaged in architecture, come to see architecture in Japan.  
An increasing number of Japanese people enjoy seeing architecture, too. I don't understand why people in general are so interested in architecture, because I grew up in a time when people visited art museums to see art and not the building itself. I go to see buildings because I love architecture by nature, but I feel that these people seem to take an interest in architecture for different reasons. It is difficult to understand.
In 1964, there were no "architectural fans" like them. Come to think of it, Tange's Olympic swimming pool (Yoyogi National Gymnasium) had been largely criticized at that time because of technical implications associated with the construction as well as the tremendous cost. As for the cost, the then-Minister of Finance Kakuei Tanaka approved budget increases. I think people in general didn't like the building, and it was popular only among those specializing in architecture. The building gave significant impact on architecture throughout the world, but people in general probably found it rather bizarre.
―― Considering the number of "architectural fans," the aim of this project is to show them not only the Kengo Kuma-designed New National Stadium but also architectural works of many other architects.
When people in general see architecture, they post photos on social media. On the other hand, we architects don't post photos on social media when we see architecture. Architects generally use cameras to take photos of architecture, and they take photos of architecture in order to keep records for themselves. When architects talk about architecture they have seen, they usually don't show off photos of architecture they took. It would be embarrassing. For example, when I talk to someone about Toyo Ito's building and recommend him/her to go see it, I don't show him/her photos of the building I took. I think showing amateurish photos of Ito's architecture would be disrespectful to him.
But people today think and act in different ways. The current situation is very different from the time when only people engaged in architecture went to see architecture. The way information is shared is completely different now. I expect that photos of this pavilion will be posted on social media. I want visitors to take many photos of the pavilion, hopefully in contrast with Kuma's stadium, so that many people will say, "Wow! Amazing!"
―― Considering the difference in size of the two buildings, your tea house should definitely come in front, with the stadium in the background.
Yes, definitely! They can't shoot them together from the opposite side.
【According to Museum Director Watari, the "Pavilion Tokyo" buildings will be open to the public basically free of charge. Bus tours will be offered on weekends. Tea ceremonies will be held at Fujimori's tea house as part of the related events.】
Terunobu Fujimori
Born in 1946. Completed his doctorate at the University of Tokyo. Currently serving as Director of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Specially Appointed Professor at Kogakuin University. After engaging himself in research on modern architecture history and urban history, he made his debut as an architect in 1991 at the age of 45 when his first work was completed. Fujimori has completed many architectural works integrating nature and artefact, while actively using locally produced natural materials in each region. A group of amateurs called Jomon Kenchiku Dan occasionally participate in constructions of his buildings. His representative works include Tanpopo House, Nira House, Takasugi An among others. He has recently completed , and at La Collina Omi Hachiman among others.
Wakato Onishi
Editorial Board Member for the Asahi Shimbun. Born in 1962. Earned his Bachelor of Engineering and studied in the Master's Program at Department of Urban Engineering, the University of Tokyo. Joined Asahi Shimbun in 1987. He mainly specializes in architecture and art. He has contributed to publications including Tadao Ando's Miracle: 50 architectures x 50 evidences (Ando Tadao no Kiseki 50 no Kenchiku x 50 no Shogen, Nikkei BP) , Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2012 (Daichi no Geijutusai Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2012, Gendaikikakushitsu) among others.
The first interview features architectural historian and architect Terunobu Fujimori (Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo.) He shared his ideas about the pavilion with us in addition to some of the sketches of his design.
Image courtesy of Arts Council Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture
After discussing his pavilion in Part 1, Terunobu Fujimori talked about how the city, architecture, and people of Tokyo have changed, in addition to his expectations for Tokyo's future in relation to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in Part 2.