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Kenzo Tange’s 1960 plan for Tokyo was proposed at a time when many cities in the industrial world were experiencing the height of urban sprawl. With a unique insight into the emerging characteristics of the contemporary city and an optimistic faith in the power of design, Tange attempted to impose a new physical order on Tokyo, which would accommodate the city’s continued expansion and internal regeneration.

A plan for Tokyo 1960 technical information

I feel however, that we architects have a special duty and mission… (to contribute) to the socio-cultural development of architecture and urban planning.

– Kenzo Tange

A Plan for Tokyo 1960 Article
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Model of Kenzo Tange plan for Tokyo

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The ideals of the Metabolist Manifesto were perhaps best exhibited and advocated by Kenzo Tange in his 1960 Plan for Tokyo. In 1958 the Tokyo Regional Plan was released which proposed a series of satellite cities and general decentralization as the solution to Tokyo’s rapid population boom (rising from 3.5 million in 1945 to 10 million in 1960). Tange argued that the movement that the automobile introduced into urban life had changed peoples’ perception of space and that this required a new spatial order for the city in the form of the megastructure, not simply a continuation of the radial zoning status quo. He proposed a linear megastructure based on a ‘fixed’ open network of highways and subways around which a ‘transient’ program would create as the needs of the population dictated. The scheme, featuring a linear series of interlocking loops expanding Tokyo across the bay, has often been regarded as initiating the decade-long megastructural movement.

Kenzo Tange declared the goals of his plan of Tokyo redevelopment:

  1. To shift from a radial centripetal system to a system of linear development;
  2. To find a means of bringing the city structure, the transportation system, and urban architecture into organic unity; and
  3. To find a new urban spatial order that would reflect the open organization and the spontaneous mobility of contemporary society.

Tange incorporated urban concepts such as mobility, urban structure, linear civic axis, and city as a process into a powerful architectural language and tried to elevate them to a new notion of the relationship between the whole and the part, and between the permanent and the transient.  However, Tange’s approach to these concepts was symbolic rather than practical, an orientation that was also manifest in his later works. His vision for establishing a new spatial order for the continuously expanding and transforming metropolis was ultimately a utopian ideal.

In the past, people walked along streets until they came to their destination and then simply disappeared into the door. With automobiles on the street, however, everything is different. In the first place, it is necessary to divide pedestrians from vehicles, to create highways and streets that are for the exclusive use of vehicles. Thanks to the coming of the automiobile, there is needfor a new order in which a vehicle can move from afast highway to a slower one and then come to a stop at the destination.

– Kenzo Tange

Though unexecuted, the plan for Tokyo heralded Tange’s works in the following years. In 1964, he experimented with the concept of “city as process” in the design of the Yamanashi Communication Center in Kofu. The idea, again, was based on the notion of differentiating the two types of space units, namely those of a permanent character and the flexible zones depending on future development.

A Plan for Tokyo 1960 Plans
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The urban plan for Tokyo

Works from Kenzo Tange