Cities have always been the breeding ground for new ideas and technologies. They are the platforms where innovation takes place every second of the day. Cities often move at lightning-fast speed to feed and push the inhabitants to match their pace. Survival of the fittest can be witnessed to the very bones when we live in a city, especially in a metropolitan cityTokyo, a prefecture of the country of the rising sun, has a contrasting yet balanced proportion of the neon-lit atmosphere with traditional architectural styles. The city represents a well thought and composed packaging of architecture of Tokyo, both new and old, in several shapes and sizes. 

Normally, when an individual is asked to re-create or re-imagine something, they often run with their imagination and do not take references to the object’s existence and physical nature. While the city of Tokyo is an experimentation hub for all kinds of art forms, its present environment and culture are deeply rooted and influenced by its history. 

Due to the two catastrophic events of the Kanto earthquake and the WWII firebombing, it has reshaped itself to withstand all future calamities and attacks but has almost eradicated the pieces of evidence of such instances of history to portray strength and rejuvenation

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Yodalica(2014) Tokyo, Japan

Dynamics of the City | Architecture of Tokyo

A fishing village initially, Tokyo rose to become one of the most influential and important cities in the world with great economic, cultural and demographic strength. The city has been through so many changes and events that have wiped its roots from existence, but it has still rebuilt itself into one of the world’s richest cities. 

Even though its history may suggest grandness and superscaled monuments and structures, modularity and modest scales in the suburban contexts are what is experienced by an individual. A typical street of Tokyo may have many meanings and appearances but its very core is the principles of modularity, flexibility, practicality, and modernity established.

The present cultural dynamic of the city

Tokyo’s past is deeply embedded with its history of disasters, occupational diversities, and art and craft. The richest art forms can be found in the city like calligraphy, ukiyo-e paintings, etc., along with pop culture phenomena like anime, manga, ceramics, and other myriads of art forms. The intriguing point of their art is that it respects and bows down to its predecessors in such aspects and learns from these to evolve into the present cultural integrity it carries. 

Several new artists are practising ancient techniques to create new art. Along with art, the collections of its city museums celebrate its rich and diverse history with several incredible pieces of its past. 

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Hokusai, Katsushika(1826-33) The Great Wave of Kanagawa.
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Studio Ghibli (2020), Spirited Away Poster with anime-style drawings.

Modernism in Tokyo | Architecture of Tokyo

As the city is a hub for new technological advancements and innovations, these factors have greatly influenced the form and appearance of the architectural appeal of the city. The current urban landscape is extremely contrasting; it’s suburban yet fuses beautifully. The urban fabric of the city is ever-changing and dynamic due to its necessity of allocation of houses in such scarce land availability. 

Due to the mountain-laden environment, the abundance of the landmass is mostly mountainous rather than flat. Hence the urge to provide for the growing economy and population, high-rise residential complexes and urbanization has taken over its low-rise homes and modest structures. 

Architecture in Tokyo existed with beautiful wooden canopies resting on wooden columns to concrete fabrications of modular capsules to provide maximum output in minimum spaces. It has been always deemed to be the only way to recognize development and modernism when the structures built using vernacular material and construction technologies are replaced with new-age developments using concrete, steel, and glass. 

Yet, this could not hold its bases of destruction due to calamities proved it to be weak and prone to destruction. The only way to re-establish the architectural strength was to revive its original vernacular roots and bend them towards the modern touch and symbol.

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Meow, Jordy(2013), The Nakagin Capsule Tower.
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Kengo Kuma and Associates, SS Tokyo(2015), Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building.

The new age of architecture

Tokyo, being the largest economic capital in the world, serves as a core area to several corporations and industries. Due to such major influences of modern and futuristic backgrounds, the architecture in the city is different from what we expect. The demographic of the country is mostly the old-aged population but yet the young and millennial sects of the demographic create major domination over the language and fabric of the city. 

The suburbs of the city are filled with traditional wooden material language while the new age is running towards modular housing using concrete and masonry. Although being prone to natural calamities, the city is now slowly changing the architectural language of the structures. Traditional wooden architecture of the country is making a comeback due to the resilience and durability of the material but also due to its zen appearance and aesthetical appeal.

LifeStyle Koubou(2014), House in Itsuura by ADX.
LifeStyle Koubou(2014), House in Itsuura by ADX.
Sasakura, Yohei(2020), House with a margin by Yukawa design lab
Sasakura, Yohei(2020), House with a margin by Yukawa design lab

What lies ahead? | Architecture of Tokyo

Several cities and countries are trying to create their mark and identity using various techniques to enhance their culture, demographic, political stability, and architectural impact, yet cities like Tokyo stand out by procuring their knowledge and skills from the past into the present. Maybe that is what one should chase after. Learning through the history of their nation and their elders to reshape not just stand on their own but to influence others to learn from their past and provide for the future. 

The rapid pace of Tokyo may be difficult to match but one can always dwell into its nuances and understand the city’s growth and aura to create new beginnings for the betterment of society and future generations.  


Ashwini is an architecture student who is trying to pursue her love for writing. She is an avid reader and also has an interest in graphic designing. She believes that the power of the pen can bring out the soul of a building to the mortal world.