Asakusa – ‘old town feel’ I read in the guidebook. But not really as our first stop was the Tokyo Sky-Tree. This broad casting tower is a tourist attraction and was filled with people on a Sunday afternoon. The engineering is really impressive with massive white trusses all around. It is apparently the second tallest structure in the world totaling 634m, almost double that of the Tokyo Tower. It also has an aquarium inside among all the other shops – there must have been hundreds of little shops similar to a shopping mall hence we spent a good few hours just wandering around including the floors of dining and restaurants. Lunch was okonomiyaki, the kind where you sit in front of a strip of hot plate where the pancakes are served instead of on a normal plate – so good!
The plan was to check out Kengo Kuma’s Infomation Centre but we didn’t make it out of Sky Tree until it was dark (Tokyo winter means it gets dark after 4pm on most days). The Information Centre is in a prime location directly opposite the famous red gates that mark out Nakamise Street leading to the Sensoji Temple. It was closing up time as we wandered down the lane of snack and souvenir shops but we did get to try a sweet snack – little balls of mochi on a stick rolled in a sweet brown sugary/nutty powder.
Kuma’s project was pretty impressive, the shape reminds me of SANAA’s New Musuem as well as Diller + Scofidio’s Eye Beam building. However it is unique in its stacking and shape of the sections. Maybe it’s my camera lens but the buildings looks a tad wide and distorted compared to the ones on the net such as Kuma’s own website which shows a more slender and tall rendition.
The outside vertical lourves are a Kuma aesthetic, I’ve come to see many of his works featuring vertical striations. These cedar sunshades create a regular rhythm in contrast to the changing floor and roof lines. The splitting of the floors give an image of stacking several different shaped boxes on top of each other. The inside features oak floors and also wooden roof beams adding to the striated aesthetic. Overall it is a fitting project for such an important location which is mostly low-rise. The use of wood recreates the Japanese traditional aesthetic in a contemporary way.
Thanks to Nigel for pointing this project out to me – really worth the visit!