Hotel Okura

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A recent article in Town and Country brought Hotel Okura to my attention. Apparently the potential remodel plans of the Minato, Tokyo hotel have upset many fans of mid-century design, rightly so. I have to say I have notced that here in Japan things are either new and modern or old and traditional - there's no in-between. I have to agree that preservation of something representative of Japanese design in the 1960's is worth saving. Especially considering that the head architect was Yoshiro Taniguchi.

The hotel opened in 1962. It is famous for appearing in Cary Grant's final movie,"Walk Don't Run" and a Sean Connery Bond film, "You Only Live Twice". This lobby looks so serene but very stylized for the era. The lanterns are traditional okura-style which is made in a 'kiriko tamagata' (faceted gem shape). The founder of the hotel was so inspired by these lanterns that they are the namesake.

I love the details in the tilework. This natural Tago sandstone accent wall has such a beautiful texture.

Of course there are economic pressures. This is a low-rise building in a very high-rent area. A high-rise would be substantially more profitable. But one can't ignore the magnificent design and details that would be lost. For example, the South Wing was added in the 1973 with this remarkable mosaic painting by Yoshiro Taniguchi based on the print "Saginawate-no-Saku" by Shimo Munakata.

Some more details, I love the textures!

In the Town and Country article they point to the paradox of Japan's lack of architectural conservation unless something is really, very old and survived quite by accident. I see it in talking to friends here. They would not live in a "used" house more than 20-30 years old. My friend Keiko says that, "bad energy from previous owners" would keep her from moving into an older home. Will Hotel Okura go the way of Kenzo Tange's Akasaka Prince Hotel and Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel?

Sources: Monocle, Town & Country and Hotel Okura

Parnassus said...

Hello Ann, What a great example of 60's ambiance viewed through the lens of Japanese quality and elegance. Unfortunately, I fear for its future. Preservation and taste rarely trump development and money making.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

talk about consumer culture, i think that is a place where the green industry is going to become important. I know a number of people who feel the same way here, they don't want anything 'used' -but it's not the majority by any stretch. So those of us who favor 'used' antiques are helping the environment! haha.

Ann said...

All too true, Jim. We'll see but I am optimistic this bit of Western press will help. The Japanese are also generally concerned with their global image.