This weekend was supposed to be the midpoint of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where the world’s most famous runners, jumpers, throwers, lifts and – for the first time – skateboarders – would gather in the world’s largest city. Let Simon Billy’s fan club forgive me, but the event that fascinated me the most was the hand.
Not for sports, but for the stadium: Yoyogi National Gymnasium was to host a hand-held competition, which is a landmark of modern Japanese architecture designed by Kenzo Tang. The stadium is characterized by its massive, sloping roof formed of two contact cables ̵1; steel cables stretched between concrete pillars like a suspension bridge and perpendicular edges that descend from those axes to the floor. As I rode my bike through Yoyogi Park many years ago, I remember stopping in front of the gymnasium soldering roof panels, watching the steel roofs. It may have been the most colorful venue for this year’s Olympics, even though it was built more than half a century ago.
The coronavirus pandemic has delayed the first postponement of the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020, whose name has not been changed, will now take place in 2021. In July, if it happens at all. Across the Japanese capital is the legacy of another Olympic Games: the 1964 The Summer Games, crowned by 20-year-old Tokyo, have moved from the ruins of fire bombs to an ultramodern megalopolis. (In fact, the “Summer” Games took place in the fall; organizers thought October would be smarter in Tokyo than blooming July.) Those first Tokyo Olympics were debut balls for democratic post-war Japan, which re-introduced itself to the world not only through sports but also design.
Preparations have turned Tokyo into a construction site for the entire city. By Robert Whiting, 1962 Deployed by the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo, it describes pole drivers and hammers who delivered a “massive sensory assault.” Pedestrians walked with masks and earplugs, and wages drank in bars protected from dust-blocking plastic sheets. Japan has become just a few years since it became the world’s second largest economy, and in 1964 The Olympic Games were to become a sign of economic recovery and regained honor.
The wheelchairs came out, the highways went up. The city got a new sewer system, a new port, two new subway lines and heavy pollution. The slums and their inhabitants have been ruthlessly tidied up to leave room for new construction, some of them majestic – such as the magnificent Okura restaurant, which was opened in 1962. Created by Yoshiro Taniguchi (father of MoMA architect Yoshio Taniguchi) – and much forgotten. The new shinkansen, or bullet train, rushed for the first time between Tokyo and Osaka just a week before the opening ceremony. It is only in 2008, when the Games begin in prosperous Beijing, that the Olympic Games will change the city and the nation so drastically.
Tokyo was previously awarded the Games; it was to be held in the revoked 1940s. in the Olympics, which was followed by a Nazi performance in 1936. In Berlin. Therefore, in 1964. the architects and designers of the Games had to pursue a clear ideological goal: This was to be a demonstration of New Japan, a pacifist, and a striker. at dawn, almost without classical Japanese aesthetics or traditional national symbols. No Fuji, cherry blossoms and calligraphy. Any expression of national pride had to be distracted as much as possible from the old imperial militarism.
It was Yusaku Kamekura, the dean of Japanese graphic designers, who mastered modern design from professors trained by the Bauhaus Institute of New Architecture and Industrial Art in Tokyo to create the Tokyo ’64 look. When posters from past Olympics were based on picturesque, often clearly Greco-Roman, Kamekura distilled Tokyo’s ambitions to the simplest emblems: five interconnected rings, all gold, a huge red disk at the top, the rising sun.
The Kamekura poster not only evoked the Western expectations of the “exotic” East for solid, clean modernity. More impressively, the Japanese flag, which was completely banned in the first years of American occupation, was repeated as a symbol of a democratic state. The same bold aesthetic would also characterize the second poster of the Kamekura (1964 and technically intimidating) Olympics, which fully highlights a fraction of a second of the runners ’photographs against a black background.
Major ceremonies and athletic events took place in the nothing special stadium, which has since been demolished. In the Komazava Olympic Park in Setagaya, the control tower, designed by Yoshinobu Ashihara, was 165 feet high in the form of a concrete tree; she still stands, though the reflection of her brutalism has been softened with white paint. But it was a slightly smaller Yoyogi stadium designed by Tange – which will go to build Tokyo’s brazen City Hall and its Sofia Coppola-approved Hotel Park Hyatt – that specifically expressed what Kamekura and other designers did on paper.
1964 Swimming, diving and basketball events took place at Tange Stadium, and his marriage was conveyed louder than anything else that Japan was rebuilt, even revived, because of its mind and dynamism. From the outside, it looks like two improperly joined cut sides of a pair melted in steel and concrete, although the real novelty was the roof. Its stretched structure is evident in Yale University’s recently completed hockey pitch and, even more, in the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels Fair in 1958. Created by his hero Le Corbusier.
Calmerly speaking, the gymnasium leans towards Tange’s most significant work to date: the cenotaph arch in Hiroshima, another reinforced concrete curve. In Hiroshima at Tang, arched concrete became a mausoleum in the dark hour of Japan; In Tokyo, it was a festival of new national life. (Hiroshima’s legacy also corresponded to the opening ceremony in which sprinter Yoshinori Sakai – born on August 6, 1945, the day the first atomic bomb fell – lit up the calendar.)
1964 The Olympics were the first to be broadcast worldwide via the first geostationary satellite for commercial use, and Japanese families with growing household budgets were even able to watch the Games in color. Nevertheless, the most enduring images from Tokyo ’64 appeared in a movie theater, directed by Kon Ichikawa in the three-hour documentary Tokyo Olympics. Filmed in the wide CinemaScope format, rich colors, with newly attached telephoto lenses, the Tokyo Olympics is a few-way route – the largest film ever made about the Olympics. (You can broadcast it along with much bolder feature films from 1912 to 2012, using the Criteria Channel.)
Unlike Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympics”, which took place before the Berlin Games with the Greek dragon of the Aryan athlete gods, the “Tokyo Olympics” immersed itself in modernity from its opening sequence: the burning white sun against a red sky – the inverted Japanese flag – crushed. -cuts into an emergency ball tucked into the poles. The facades of buildings are sunk into powder, bulldozers remove debris. We see the stadium in Tange in the fog, then the relay of flashlights, and then the crowd rushing to see the young foreigners arriving at Haneda Airport. In stadiums, a telephoto lens allowed Ishikawa to capture stunning images of sprinters ’sweat and swan geese, but just as often he photographed almost abstract sequences of fences and cyclists broken down into streams of color.
There are champions and record holders at the Tokyo Olympics, but they share screen time with the finalists. Gold medal competitions are intertwined with unnoticed details when satellites sweep a triple jump track or are shot at officers repelling metal balls. The Japanese Olympic Committee hated the film and ordered another; nationalist magnifiers called it unpatriotic or worse. However, Ichikawa distilled national ambitions into an abstract form and was a feature of Tokyo for 64 years. The Tokyo Olympics has become Japan’s biggest box office success, a record that will last for four decades.
Whether or not they take place in 2021, the upcoming Tokyo Games will certainly have a quieter cultural impact than their predecessors. The first Tokyo 2020 logo was thrown out of alleged plagiarism. The first stadium is also: the original Zaha Hadid project was demolished, replaced by a quieter and much cheaper wooden stadium designed by architect Kengo Kuma.
If Tange steel and concrete expressed the Japanese ambitions in 1964, these natural materials now show a vision of the future, the challenges of which are both ecological and economic. However, Mr Kuma, who in 1964 Participated in the Games as a child, holding Tange’s undulating stadium as his own architect’s career. “Tange treated natural light like a magician,” the Times told two years ago. Kuma, remembering the discovery of his childhood at Yoyogi National Gymnasium. “From that day on, I wanted to be an architect.”