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 Master Plan for Tokyo aimed to address the challenges of urban sprawl faced by industrial cities. With a deep understanding of emerging urban trends and a belief in the impact of design, Tange proposed a new physical order for Tokyo to support its growth and revitalization.

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 Tange1

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

Decentralizing Tokyo: The 1960 Plan for the Megacity by Kenzo Tange

The ideals of the Metabolist Movement, which aimed to create a new architecture and urbanism that accommodated a rapidly expanding and transforming city, were exemplified in Kenzo Tange’s 1960 Plan for Tokyo. The plan was proposed as a response to the Tokyo Regional Plan released in 1958, which suggested decentralizing the city to mitigate its growing population boom (from 3.5 million in 1945 to 10 million in 1960).

Tange believed that the introduction of the automobile into urban life had changed the way people perceived space and thus called for a new spatial order in the form of a megastructure. He proposed a linear megastructure that comprised a fixed network of highways and subways with a program that could change and evolve as the population’s needs dictated. This linear system of interlocking loops, designed to expand across the bay, is considered to have initiated the decade-long megastructural movement.

Tange aimed to achieve three objectives in his Plan for Tokyo redevelopment:

  1. Shift from a radial centripetal system to a system of linear development.
  2. Unite the city structure, transportation system, and urban architecture into an organic whole.
  3. Create a new urban spatial order that would reflect the open organization and spontaneous mobility of contemporary society.

Tange used urban concepts such as mobility, urban structure, linear civic axis, and city as a process to create a powerful architectural language that elevated these concepts to a new level of understanding between the whole and the part, as well as between the permanent and the transient. However, Tange’s approach was more symbolic than practical, and his vision of establishing a new spatial order for the continuously expanding and transforming metropolis was 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. It is necessary to divide pedestrians from vehicles and create highways and streets that are for the exclusive use of vehicles. Thanks to the automobile, there is a need for a new order in which a vehicle can move from a fast highway to a slower one and then come to a stop at the destination.

– Kenzo Tange1

Although the Plan for Tokyo was not executed, it marked the beginning of Tange’s later works and experiments in architecture and urbanism, including the construction of the Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The 1960 Tokyo Redevelopment Plan by Kenzo Tange

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 was a Japanese architect of immense influence in the 20th century. He won the prestigious 1987 Pritzker Prize for Architecture and was renowned for his unique approach to architecture that blended traditional Japanese styles with modernism. Throughout his long career, Tange designed a number of iconic buildings in Japan and across the world.

In addition to his architectural achievements, Tange was also a leading figure in the Metabolist movement. He was a visionary who recognized the potential of combining elements of Dutch Structuralism with traditional Japanese design. He famously stated: “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

  1. Kenzo Tange and the Metabolist Movement: Urban Utopias of Modern Japan by Zhongjie Lin