Aerial View of the master plan for Tokyo by Kenzo Tange designed in 1960
Plan for Tokyo Top View | Kenzo Tange

Kenzo Tange’s 1960 plan for Tokyo was proposed when many cities in the industrial world were experiencing the height of urban sprawl. With a unique insight into the contemporary city’s emerging characteristics 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 Photographs

Model of the city of Tokyo by Kenzo Tange - designed in 1960
Model of Kenzo Tange plan for Tokyo
Floor Plan of the structures | Kenzo Tange
Floor Plan of the structures | Kenzo Tange
Model and Plan of the city of Tokyo
Kenzo Tange’s Model and Plan of the city

The decentralization of Tokyo

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 to solve 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 merely 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 population’s needs 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 an organic unity.
  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 the process” in the Yamanashi Communication Center design in Kofu. Again, the idea 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

Section of the city of Tokyo
Section of the master plan for the city of Tokyo
The urban plan for Tokyo 1960
Kenzo Tange’s Urban Plan for Tokyo

About Kenzo Tange

Kenzō Tange (1913 –  2005) was a Japanese architect, winner of the 1987 Pritzker Prize for architecture. He was one of the most significant architects of the 20th century, combining traditional Japanese styles with modernism. His career spanned the entire second half of the twentieth century, producing numerous distinctive buildings in Japan and worldwide.

Tange was also an influential patron of the Metabolist movement. He said: “It was, I believe, around 1959 or at the beginning of the sixties that I began to think about what I was later to call structuralism” (cited in Plan 2/1982, Amsterdam), a reference to the architectural movement known as Dutch Structuralism.

Works from Kenzo Tange

Cite this article: "A plan for Tokyo 1960 / Kenzo Tange" in ArchEyes, October 9, 2022,