The Village Velodrome Appreciation Society

A blog about jitensha and jogging

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tokyo Midtown and 21_21 Design Sight

Usually this blog is about bicycles and running, but I thought I'd share with you some pictures of Tokyo's tallest building - the brand new Tokyo Midtown building.

The Midtown project has been built on an old defense force site in Roppongi. To get there, take the subway to Roppongi and follow the signs to Exit 7 of the station.

It has a gallery designed by uber-architect Kengo Kuma, and a design center - 21_21 Design Sight - designed by the internationally renowned architect Tadao Ando.

Here's some photos of both. I believe the building opens to the public sometime this week...

The interior doesn't try too hard. There's no curvy walls and not much polished stainless steel - just wooden floors, opaque glass panels, and an atrium with a simple, ceiling-to-floor water feature.

Water is a common theme in the building. There is a water wall near the entrance that links the subway with the building, and on the basement floor there is this tree-filled water feature.

The 21_21 Design Sight building doesn't sully its surroundings with tacky souvenir shops and food stalls - instead it sells its merchandise from this ever so tasteful pair of Nissan Cube vehicles parked in its garden. Possibly the worst decision taken by the Tokyo Midtown planners. The team that oversaw the whole project by the way was SOM, the firm that is overseeing New York's Freedom Towers build.

The Tokyo Midtown building is the tallest in Tokyo, beating even the government building in Shinjuku by 5 meters. Due to the proximity of airports to Tokyo, it is unlikely a taller building will ever be constructed in Tokyo.

The view looking out of the Midtown building toward the gardens and the 21_21 Design Sight vans.

The walkway linking the subway and building has some great shops - including the Established cafe, which specialises in Australian beers and wine - and other diversions, such as this sculpture by Hokkaido artist Kan Yasuda.

The 21_21 Design Sight building viewed from between its souvenir-selling vans.

One gripe I had with the whole building is its lack of international outlook. You would think that, as a showpiece building, the signage would be written in at least two and maybe three of four languages - English, Korean and one other language would have been a good idea. The Canon art gallery has no English descriptions of the pieces on display (including four Warhols by the way) and in some places the directions to the subway are written only in kanji. The book shop has no international books, the 21_21 Design Sight building has no multilingual brochures. Close to 400,000 people who live in Tokyo don't use Japanese as their first language, and Japan has 1.2 million foreigners by birth, yet this new public space seems to completely ignore them. That said, the building looks great, and hey, this is Japan, I guess if we want to buy a book or find the subway station we should learn Japanese (I'm trying).

26 March 2007 - Running update

Back to running, I went for a run today. 32 minutes. The left leg was almost perfect. The right ITB pain came on at about 25 minutes, but didn't get very bad. The right knee pain under the patella was so-so, never got bad, but always felt like it could. Overall, I feel like I've taken another step toward recovery.



At 9:46 pm, Anonymous Craig said...

Congrats on the knees and thanks for the Midtown rundown -- looking forward to checking this space out in person.

At 10:07 am, Blogger oldsprinter said...

Hi Craig, when you're there, one place to check out, which isn't widely publicised, is the Japanese Industrial Design Promotion Organization. I think they're on the 6th floor. They have an exhibition space and will be putting on free shows of poster designs, photography and of course industrial product design. They'll be getting some input from Delft University in the Netherlands, too. Could be good.


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