Tokyo is known for its mix of modern and traditional architecture, but for long-term residents it is easy to feel like the concrete is winning out. Old buildings come down on an almost daily basis, inevitably replaced with utilitarian concrete structures that would not look out of place in Stalinist Russia.
The buildings done by acclaimed Tokyo-based architect Kengo Kuma are different. Next month, his new ward office, or city hall, for the Toshima district in Tokyo opens. In Ikebukuro, a Northern Tokyo urban wasteland, the 95 sq. meter, 49-story building stands out, pleasant and green in an otherwise drab area. Its multi-layered exterior, making use of plant life and wood, creates geometric irregularity unseen in most modern architecture with natural materials.
“The idea with the Toshima City Office was to softly divide the interior and exterior using what we named ‘Eco Veil’,” Kuma tells Quartz. “This concept groups four kinds of panels, each with its own function.” Solar panels, recycled wood, window blinds and spaces for plants are used equally to layer the exterior. “The panels work like leaves do for trees,” Kuma said. “For this building, we adapted the Japanese concept of the ‘gentle divide’ to the modern context.”
From inside, the building has fewer distractions than the city’s glass skyscrapers and brick-and-mortar constructions. Its layered exterior blocks out a portion the powerful Tokyo sunlight, without leaving the building in darkness; provides the plant life often lacking in the center of the city; and gives privacy to those working without preventing them from seeing outside. […]