Utopian visions: post WW-II Japanese Olympic and international exhibition architecture
Bell, EK, Utopian visions: post WW-II Japanese Olympic and international exhibition architecture, Proceedings of the 28th International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, 7-10 July 2011, Brisbane, Australia, pp. 1-13. ISBN 978-0-646-55826-4 (2011) [Refereed Conference Paper]
Japan’s post-WWII recovery included a gradual resumption of participation in celebratory global activities. Opportunities such as international exhibitions and the 1964 Olympic Games facilitated Japanese architects’ engagement with contemporary architecture in these internationalised settings. From the 1950s, Japan departed from its previous international exhibition program of asserting the country’s long cultural duration through replicas of historic architecture, instead putting forward an assertively modernist architectural stance. Works such as Kunio Maekawa’s Japan Pavilion, La Main Nippone et la Machine, for the 1958 Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles brought together traditional Japanese spatial organization and craft sensibilities with the glass, steel and reinforced concrete material language of modernism. In 1964, successful orchestration of the Tokyo Olympics definitively marked Japan’s reconciliation and peaceful re-engagement with the broader international community. The Olympics’ building program, symbolized by Kenzo Tange’s award-winning National Indoor Stadium further focused attention of the international community on Japan, confirming its participation in contemporary architectural discourse. With the staging of Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan finally secured the long-desired opportunity to take the lead in determining the setting and parameters in which both it and other nations would be briefly displayed for critique and consumption. Expo ’70, under the spatial and architectural organisation of Tange, provided a vehicle for younger, avant-garde architects associated with the Metabolist group to design and erect Expo pavilions – a rare opportunity for realization of architectural experiments that would in other circumstances remain as paper concepts. These included the Festival Plaza by Tange with Arata Isozaki, the Steel and Automobile Pavilions by Maekawa, Kurokawa’s Takara Beautillion and Kikutake’s Expo Tower. This paper considers Japan’s Olympic and exhibition architecture of the first decades after WWII. It draws on Japan’s official records and then-contemporary publications and on the research of writers including Stewart, Lin and Reynolds.