National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

The National Museum of Western Art designed by Le Corbusier was the premier public art gallery in Japan specializing in art from the Western tradition. The Museum is located in the museum and zoo complex in Ueno Park in Taito, central Tokyo. The museum is also known by the English acronym NMWA (National Museum of Western Art).

National Museum of Western Art technical information

The modular, which Le Corbusier developed after many years of research, is like a musical scale which gives order to the infinitude of possible musical pitches. Based on the size and proportions of the human body, it is a means of fitting architecture to the human spirit, of ordering the infinitude of possible proportions in such a way as to make them conform to the human shape. In the new Museum of Western Art, the modulor system has been observed in everything from the structural members to the architectural details and furnishings

– Tadayoshi, Fujiki1

National Museum of Western Art Photographs

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

© Xia Zhi

National Museum of Western Art description2

The Main Building was designed by the Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (1887–1965) and opened to the public in 1959. It is the only representative example of his work in the Far East; and theNew York Times review of its opening suggested that the building itself presented an “artistic significance and beauty” which rivaled the paintings inside.

The museum was built to house the collection of works gathered by the industrialist Matsukata Kojiro between 1920 and 1923. His collection had remained in England and France until after World War Two when the Japanese Government asked France for its return to Japan. After France stipulated that a French architect should design the museum that would house the collection, the works were returned to Japan. Le Corbusier was selected for this task.

Le Corbusier designed a masterplan to include the area surrounding the museum. The design itself evolved into a building far exceeding the original brief and the library, a small lecture hall and a room for distinguished guests had to be removed. Nonetheless the removed elements were retained on the plans to provide guidance for future extension.

Le Corbusier asked that his three Japanese apprentices: Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura and Takamasa Yoshizaka be responsible for developing the detail drawings and supervising the construction.

The museum is square in plan with the main body of the galleries raised on piloti to first floor level. The layout is influenced by Le Corbusier’s Sanskar Kendra museum in Ahmedabad which was being designed at the same time.

Externally the building is clad in prefabricated concrete panels which sit on U-shaped frames supported by the inner wall. The building generally is constructed of reinforced concrete and the columns have a smooth concrete finish.

National Museum of Western Art Plans

National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier

National Museum of Western Art Gallery

  1. Tadayoshi, Fujiki,  August 1959 “The Modular in the National Museum of Western Art” Japan Architect, p48
  2. Text extracts from Wikipedia
Cite this article: "National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo / Le Corbusier," in ArchEyes, June 26, 2016, http://archeyes.com/national-museum-western-art-tokyo-le-corbusier/.