The St. Mary’s Cathedral, located in Tokyo, Japan, was designed by the renowned architect Kenzo Tange and built in 1964. This building was constructed to replace the old wooden cathedral, which was burnt down during wartime. The new cathedral departed from the traditional gothic style, reflecting Tange’s unique approach to architecture that combined Modernist and Metabolist styles.
Tange’s design for St. Mary’s Cathedral is both abstract and symbolic, showcasing his ability to balance seemingly conflicting elements. The exterior of the building is bright and polished, with a sleek and modern look, while the interior is rough and textured, providing a sense of contrast and depth. Despite its abstract and symbolic design, the St. Mary’s Cathedral is a powerful expression of Tange’s vision and one of the most iconic buildings in Tokyo.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Technical Information
- Architects: Kenzo Tange
- Location: 3-6-15 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-Ku, Tokyo, Japan
- Topics: Modernism, Metabolism, Church
- Construction: Taisei Construction Company
- Client: Roman Catholic Church, Archdioceses of Tokyo
- Area: 2541 sqm
- Height: Cathedral: 39.4 m (129 ft) | Tower: 61.6 m (202 ft)
- Project Year: 1964
- Photographs: © Xia Zhi
After experiencing their grandeur, trying to reach the sky, and their ineffably mystical spaces, I began to imagine new spaces, and I wanted to create them using modern technology.– Kenzo Tange
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo Photographs
The building’s layout is in the form of a cross, from which eight hyperbolic parabolas rise like a contemporary landmark cathedral located in San Francisco, also referred to as St. Mary’s Cathedral.
At the same time, the eight walls are roof and walls, enclosing the space and opening to the outside through vertical gaps. The walls are curved hyperbolically to express the tension to the sky and turn the rhomboidal ground floor into a cross at the rooftop.
The layout of the building is in the form of a cross, from which eight hyperbolic parabolas rise like a contemporary landmark cathedral located in San Francisco, also referred to as St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The parabolas open upwards to form a cross of light, which continues vertically along the length of the four facades. Other secondary constructions are added to this rhomboid volume, including the baptistry and baptismal font.
The rectangular shapes contrast with the symbolic character of the cathedral. The bell tower is 61.6 m (202 ft) high, standing a short distance away from the main building. The exterior cladding is made of stainless steel. In 2004 a large organ built by the Italian firm Mascioni was installed.
The sunlight’s reflection on the stainless steel external cladding looks like a shining dress on the hard concrete slabs. Although it is a monochromatic cladding, the curves, and the U-shaped profiles enhance the structure’s dynamicity. It all makes the church an iconic building in the dense urban context of Tokyo.
Tokyo’s St. Mary’s Cathedral Plans
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo Gallery
About Kenzo Tange
Kenzo Tange (1913 – 2005) was a Japanese architect and 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. Tange was also an influential patron of the Metabolist movement.
Influenced from an early age by the Swiss modernist Le Corbusier, Tange gained international recognition in 1949 when he won the competition for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park design. He was a member of CIAM (Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) in the 1950s.
His university studies on urbanism put him in an ideal position to handle redevelopment projects after World War II. His ideas were explored in designs for Tokyo and Skopje.