Kenzō Tange died on the 22nd of March 2005 at the age of 91; he was a Japanese architect, and winner of the 1987 Pritzker Prize for architecture.
Born on the 4th of September 1913 in Osaka, Japan, Tange spent his early life in the Chinese cities of Hankow and Shanghai; he and his family returned to Japan after learning of the death of one of his uncles.
In contrast to the green lawns and red bricks in their Shanghai abode, the Tange family took up residence in a thatched roof farmhouse in Imabari on the island of Shikoku.
After finishing middle school, Tange moved to Hiroshima in 1930 to attend high school. It was here that he first encountered the works of Swiss modernist, Le Corbusier.
His discovery of the drawings of the Palace of the Soviets in a foreign art journal convinced him to become an architect.
Although he graduated from high school, Tange’s poor results in mathematics and physics meant that he had to pass entrance exams to qualify for admission to the prestigious universities.
He spent two years doing so and during that time, he read extensively about western philosophy.
After graduating from the university, Tange started to work as an architect at the office of Kunio Maekawa. During his employment, he travelled to Manchuria, participating in an architectural design competition for a bank, and toured Japanese-occupied Jehol on his return.
When the Second World War started, he left Maekawa to rejoin the University of Tokyo as a postgraduate student.
He developed an interest in urban design, and referencing only the resources available in the university library; he embarked on a study of Greek and Roman marketplaces.
In 1942, Tange entered a competition for the design of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere Memorial Hall. Tange’s interest in urban studies put him in a good position to handle post war reconstruction.
In the summer of 1946 he was invited by the War Damage Rehabilitation Board to put forward a proposal for certain war damaged cities.
He submitted plans for Hiroshima and Maebashi. His design for an airport in Kanon was accepted and built, but a seaside park in Ujina was not.
After World War II, Tange worked as an urban planner, helping to rebuild Hiroshima, and gained international attention in 1949, when his design for the Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park was selected.
He also taught at the University of Tokyo, where throughout the 1950s he mentored some of the most significant names in 20th century Japanese architecture including Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki, Sachio Otani and Arata Isozaki.
Although his style was modernist, as can be seen in his Yoyogi National Gymnasium and St. Mary Cathedral, Tange was also inspired by Japanese history and culture.
He was quoted as saying: “Architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart, but even then, basic forms, spaces and appearances must be logical. Creative work is expressed in our time as a union of technology and humanity.
The role of tradition is that of a catalyst, which furthers a chemical reaction, but is no longer detectable in the end result.