After Hotel Okura, Tokyo’s 1960s icon, was partially demolished in 2015 to make way for renovations, an outcry of disappointment rippled through architecture and design circles. Now, it has been announced that the building will make its dramatic return in September 2019, complete with a design that aims to recreate signature rooms from the original, and bring back some of its modernist flair.
The new hotel, remodeled to be more earthquake-proof, will reopen as The Okura Tokyo and house 508 rooms—a hundred more than the original—in addition to 18 new stories of office space. The hotel will open with its added space in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in hopes of accommodating an influx of tourism amid a rise in real estate costs.
In an attempt to recapture some of the magic of the original hotel, the project will mimic design elements from the 1962 scheme, including the dimly lit lobby and the retro-chic Orchid Bar that attracted movie stars and diplomats alike. Meanwhile, decor saved from the hotel’s previous life, such as lamps alluding to hexagonal paper lanterns, will adorn the interior. Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, whose father Yoshiro Taniguchi helped design the original hotel, is leading the design of some of the main guests areas.
The announcement of the billion-dollar renovation was met with shock and opposition from the global design community, with the demolition being seen as the latest domino to fall in Tokyo’s dismantling of its postwar architectural masterpieces to accommodate the upcoming Olympics. The original Okura opened two years before the first Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
While the inside may summon memories of the historic landmark, the exterior will decidedly not, with a glass skyscraper taking the place of the unassuming facade that stood there before.
The original hotel also has a place in James Bond lore, as Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel “You Only Live Twice” had the famous spy stay at the Okura—with the real lobby serving as a set piece for the 1973 movie adaptation.