Since last summer, when it was announced that Tokyo's famously atmospheric 1962 Hotel Okura would be demolished in favor of two glass towers, design buffs have been aghast. Monocle magazine started a petition to "Save the Okura," while the CEO of Italian luxury goods company Bottega Veneta flew right to Tokyo and shot a video about the hotel, along with other modernist buildings he believes deserve the same protection as temples. Sadly, the plans for the iconic wood-paneled hotel have not changed; the landmark modernist building designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi and Hideo Kosaka across from the U.S. Embassy will still be torn down this summer. The Okura's president, Masaki Ikeda, recently gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he said, of the $1B, 3.5-year renovation project, "we are going to create something that is even more aesthetically pleasing."
The hotel opened just in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as a gleaming showpiece symbolizing Japan's return to the world stage after World War II. Ironically, it's the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics (along with Japan's infamous tear-down culture) that helped initiate plans to replace the glamorous retro hotel with a pair of five and a six-star hotels in sterile glass towers. The principal architect for the redesign is the original architect's son, Yoshio Taniguchi, who also redesigned New York's Museum of Modern Art. As a "rationale" for tearing it down a building where President Obama stayed just last year, hotel president Ikeda claims that the 53-year old building has outdated plumbing (totally fixable) and that making it compliant with modern earthquake regulations will be too expensive (more than the $1B they're spending to build a new one? Doubtful.) Either way, the hotel is currently running a "see it while it lasts" promotion, with room prices of $4K per night.
All photos via Save the Okura
· As Olympics loom, a landmark of Japanese modernism will be torn down [Washington Post]
· Save the Okura petition [Monocle]
· All Midcentury Modern posts [Curbed National]