A Brutalist with a Heart: Surveying the Work of Kenzo Tange

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kenzo Tange would have been 99 years old today. One of the most significant architects of the 20th century, his work combined traditional Japanese design principles with modern advancements in technology and materials to meet the social needs of a country devastated by World War II.

In Kenzo Tange: 20th Century Masters, Paolo Riani wrote that in Tokyo “there were not even the mountains of rubble of German towns; the wooden structures had gone up in flames and smoke.” It makes perfect sense then that Tange turned to the béton brut, or raw concrete, that defined the new Brutalist movement. The style was often criticized for being cold and oppressive, but Tange’s interpretations were different from the totalitarian aesthetic that gave the severe offshoot of modernism a bad rap. Hoping to erase the memory of mankind’s darkest hour, his creations ushered in a new Japan. Summing up his intentions, Tange said “there is a powerful need for symbolism, and that means the architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart.”

To honor one of the greatest architects of our time, join us as we take a virtual stroll past some of his most famous designs. From the Hiroshima Peace Park that launched his career to the Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, click through to check out the enduring legacy of Kenzo Tange.

Tange House — Tokyo, Japan (1953)

Image credit: kureator

Using a similar skeleton structure to the project that put him on the map — the Hiroshima Peace Museum — Tange House is the most traditional structure that Tange ever designed, using paper and timber throughout. Based on the traditional Japanese module of the tatami mat, the largest rooms were made with flexibility in mind, and could be separated into three smaller rooms by fusuma sliding doors.