Tokyo International Forum

When one finds an amazing building amidst mediocrity it’s a joy. The Tokyo International Forum building by Rafeel Vinoly is such a building.

The Japanese are proud of wonderful craft. This can be seen in every aspect of this building. It was built in 1996 as the result of an international design competition. The amazing thing about this building is its above-ground component, which is relatively small compared to the underground area, but is a jewel of design. This portion of the building has a magnificently crafted interior: the glazing is amazing, the drama of the bridges from side to side, and the two techtonic columns holding everything up. The single piece of sculpture at the edge of the space is a traditional Japanese figure. It is engaged in dialogue with the ultra-contemporary space, creating a great contrast.

One of the best details is the canopy that leads to the nearby metro station. It is a curvaceous canopy made almost entirely of glass.

Although it’s very well done, I’m not sure how one can justify such a dramatic unusable space. The last time I saw such a space was Santiago Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum, which is also a public space bathed in light and unusable for nothing other then social events. I suppose this forum is more appropriate since it’s houses the prefunction registration area for events, while Milwaukee is for social events in an art museum only. The Tokyo International Forum links form with function much better.

As I mentioned, the forum sits adjacent to the Tokyo station (currently under renovation), which is being brought back to resemble the pre-WWII train station that was destroyed in a bombing. And nearby is a buttoned-up corporate district, filled with public art and wonderful streetscape.

There are many videos of the buiding and the architect. Here’s one.


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