Cover (Photo: Federal Land)

Japanese architect, Paul Noritaka Tange, defines what makes Japanese architecture both distinct and versatile—and speaks on his latest project in the Philippines

The fascination we have for Japanese culture extends itself beyond manga, anime, and sushi. In fact, the influence of Japanese culture is seen in multiple facets of our lifestyle including architecture, design, and engineering. Due to its versatility, people may not immediately recognise it, but rest assured the Japanese influence is a popular choice of style for many designers, builders, and thinkers. "Simplicity and subtleness are the hallmarks of Japanese architecture, which makes it very adaptable," said Paul Noritaka Tange, Chairman of Tange Associates. "We want that [our] building be a natural part of the cityscape." 

"At the start of every project, it is crucial to understand what the client requires," Tange added of his process. "This is achieved through dialogue. Secondly, we need to understand the locality and culture of the project site. Finally, understand the greater surrounding environment of the site." 

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Needless to say, Tange's body of work has benefited multiple skylines following this philosophy. His father, also an architect, designed the Yoyogoi National Gymnasium which was originally constructed for the Tokyo 1964 Games.

Located at the heart of Shibuya, the Yoyogoi National Gymnasium is a grand feat that connects two train stations. It incorporates a modern take on the traditional Japanese roof that creates synergy between both athlete and spectator. 

Inspired by his father, Paul Tange placed a bid to become an architect for the Beijing Olympics. Though he was one of the finalists, his bid was ultimately not chosen.

Fast forward to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paul Tange was chosen to create the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, which houses an impressive Olympic swimming pool east of Tokyo. "Three companies, Yamashita Sekkei, Arup, and Tange Associates, as one team, joined the selection competition for the architect of the Olympic aquatic facility, which was conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government," the architect explained. "Our team gave a presentation of our concept, submitted our bid and was awarded 1st prize."

The entire building was inspired by the Japanese bamboo forest and the Japanese grid screen. Surrounding the building is also a veranda or colonnade, which the architect described as a true Japanese feat. "[Unlike in Western architecture], Japanese architecture does not employ walls to divide between the exterior and interior," he said. "It's often screens or open spaces." 

Though Tange has many other works present around the globe, he also names Singapore's JadeScape as one of his most impressive. This was inspired by the uniqueness of Japanese brush strokes. 

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In the Philippines, Tange unveils his latest project with Federal Land as The Grand Midori in Ortigas (after the completion of The Grand Midori in Makati). Unlike the JadeScape, The Grand Midori Ortigas is inspired by Japanese weaves as seen in its latticework facade and shoji screens. It also incorporates the philosophy of Zen, so much so in fact that the very name itself—"Midori", which translates to "green"—represents the freshness and tranquillity of new life: fresh shoots, baby leaves, and young plants.

Speaking on The Grand Midori, Tange said: "What is important [in architecture] is understanding what makes the people who are living, working and visiting [the building] comfortable. We need to consider people as the centre of the project and not lose sight of the fact that we are designing for the people." As such, The Grand Midori has become a comfortable haven for all its residents. It carries multiple amenities that include a yoga room, game room, study lounge, and children's playroom, all of which encourage a holistic lifestyle very much in tune with Zen, which means "to be completely alive". 

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