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Kenzo Tange (1913-2005)

Long ago, when I was “reading architecture” at Cambridge University (it turned out that you had to do more to architecture than merely read it if you wanted to become an architect), I remember noting the name of Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. The majority of the architectural gods we students were then offered as objects of worship turned out to be deluded fools, but Tange was, I believe, the genuine article.

And now he has died, at the age of 91. I had no idea that he had lived this long.

I think he deserved to, and that if for some reason he did not look back on his work with a sense of pride and accomplishment, he should have and was entitled to.

I know that many readers here loathe the architectural modernism that is being done now, just as they loathe the architectural modernism that was done in the sixties and seventies. But for me, there has been a sea change. Style is back. Expressiveness is back. The Great Lump style is being abandoned, and often dynamited.

If they look at these pictures, I think that at least some readers here may agree that this man was way ahead of his time. Now, modernistic buildings which look interesting rather than deadly dull, which celebrate the expressive possibilities of modern building technology instead of merely using it to erect giant blocks of boredom, are all the rage.

Tange did perpetrate quite a few concrete lumps, but on the whole, he did better than that.

How many other architects were making buildings as interesting and dramatic looking as this, in the nineteen sixties? Not many.

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