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
- Architects: Le Corbusier | Biography & Bibliography
- Supervisors: Junzo Sakakura, Kunio Maekawa, Takamasa Yoshizaka
- Typology: Cultural Architecture / Museum
- Location: 7-7 Ueno-Koen, Taito-Ku, Tokyo, Japan
- Building structure: Reinforced concrete
- Construction: Shimizu Corporation
- Completion:February 28, 1959
- Site area: 1,587 square meters
- Gross floor space: 4,399 square meters
- Exhibition galleries: 1,533 square meters
- Images: © Courtesy of XIA ZHI
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 Art2
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 the New 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 its return. 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 guide the future extension.
Le Corbusier asked that his three Japanese apprentices: Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, and Takamasa Yoshizaka, be responsible for developing the detailed drawings and supervising the construction.
The museum is square in plan with the main body of the galleries raised on piloti to the first-floor level. The layout is influenced by Le Corbusier’s Sanskar Kendra museum in Ahmedabad, which was being designed simultaneously.
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 Gallery
- Tadayoshi, Fujiki, August 1959 “The Modular in the National Museum of Western Art” Japan Architect, p48
- Text extracts from Wikipedia
About Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier, byname of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (1887 -1965), internationally influential Swiss architect and city planner, whose designs combine the functionalism of the modern movement with bold, sculptural expressionism. He belonged to the first generation of the so-called International school of architecture and was their most able propagandist in his numerous writings. In his architecture, he joined the functionalist aspirations of his generation with a strong sense of expressionism. He was the first architect to make a studied use of rough-cast concrete, which satisfied his taste for asceticism and sculptural forms. In 2016, 17 of his architectural works were named World Heritage sites by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).