Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Looking for Continuity"

In pondering my interest in the 1929 Sanshin Building, it occurred to me that its standing in the middle - between the beginning of the Meiji era (1868) and today - makes it a kind of link enabling a feeling of continuity.  Tokyo is badly lacking this feeling of continuity - there are some old pre-Meiji things, and then everything else "newer" than that 1868 line is relentlessly destroyed to feed the voracious appetite of the construction industry.  When buildings are made better and stronger, it's generally a good thing to replace them, but that's not always the case (as recent news has shown).

The Sanshin Building was built in 1929, not long after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that destroyed Tokyo, and they seem to have overbuilt the structure, if anything, so I don't think there's any issue with the building's safety.  It appears to just be a case of suits armed with PowerPoint thinking they can get more money out of the land by making a modern tower there (by also knocking down the next building and using the combined space) and making yet another structure with overpriced shops and restaurants at the bottom and top, and overlit sealed air system office space in the middle - the whole towering box casting an ugly shadow over neighboring Hibiya Park.  And they're right I suppose, but this line of thinking is destroying the culture of the city.  I suppose many European countries go to the other extreme, and would do better to renovate a little more, but Tokyo has almost eradicated its own history - what's left of value, like the Sanshin Building, should be kept alive to use and help future generations tie together the flow of time and the changing of generations.

The Dai-Ichi Building, just down the street, is being preserved, which is great - but it's a completely different style, and there's a highrise that's been put in the middle of it!  In walking around the building a few days ago, it looks as though they disassembled the rear of the building, put up the tower, and then reassembled the facade of the old building around that on the back half of the block.  The front, as least, seems to be unmolested (they may have only taken off the back of the building to make it one with the new tower).  Fine, but it's a completely different style and type of building than the Sanshin Building.  Well... whatever!  I'm getting tired of thinking about it, but I really would like to see that building put to good use!

There are a good set of photos of the Sanshin Building at this (Japanese language) site:

And my page (previously mentioned) in English:

- and in Japanese:

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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