The Second Architectural Heritage Seminar took place on 26 November in the Marunouchi area of Tokyo. Under Professor Simone's guidance, we examined 8 buildings - unique examples of pre-war commercial architecture in Japan (東京駅、旧東京中央郵便局、日木工業俱染部会館、東京銀行集会所、明治生命館、農林中央金庫有楽町ビル、帝国ホテル、三菱一号館).
The problems of conservation, restoration and adaptation of contemporary architectural heritage are among the most urgent for Tokyo, which was repeatedly confirmed during the seminar led by Professor Shimoda.
Throughout the walk, students tried to understand the current situation of pre-war architecture in the city centre, and sought to answer the question: how to make the best use of preserved buildings?
Marunouchi, one of Japan's major and oldest business centres, began to be actively developed in the 1890s when the land was purchased by the Mitsubishi Corporation.
As Tokyo Station was built, the area gained a central status in the city that is still preserved today. The students visually concluded that pre-war era buildings have been partially or completely preserved but have high-rise superstructures in contemporary office design as the headquarters of major corporations are located thereby inevitably breaking the 'skyline' that existed in pre-war times.
Surprisingly for us, almost some historic buildings can be entered and scrutinised from inside their interiors, many of which have established historical museums (明治生命館, 旧東京中央郵便局, 三菱一号館).
In addition to the practice of museumisation, historic buildings could be used as a shopping centre (旧東京中央郵便局), a hotel (東京駅), an office (明治生命館). Nevertheless, it was discovered that buildings in Marunouchi continue to be demolished and rebuilt (東京銀行集会所, 東京海上日動ビル新館).
We also learned how to compare the existing volume, interior space, and details of the preserved building with the original, using the photographs shown by Professor Shimoda. Distinguishing between the original details and the new-made ones, and finding the junctions between the historic structure and the contemporary one also seemed to be very useful for the students' own research.
A topographical comparison of the area using historical and modern maps helped to understand the intensity of development in the area at different times, thus assessing the impressive concentration of buildings that has become typical of Marunouchi.
Through The Second Architectural Heritage Seminar, the students were able to understand the specifics of the preservation of pre-war reinforced concrete architecture, methods of restoration as well as options for their use in the modern context, using illustrative examples. The study will continue in the next seminar, which will focus on post-war architecture.
Reported by Anton Sidorov (D1)