Imperial Hotel
Imperial Hotel
Tokyo, Japan
Booklet available in English on
Heft in deutscher Sprache erhältlich auf
Livret disponible en français sur
Folleto disponible en español en
Folheto disponível em português em
A füzet magyarul ezen a honlapon olvasható
Libretto disponibile in italiano su: Architecture.LEGO.com
© Ayuko Yonezu
Contents
Imperial Hotel ............................................................................................................. 5
Its place in the history of architecture ....................................................... 6
Design and construction process ................................................................ 7
About the architect ................................................................................................. 9
The building today ................................................................................................ 10
Facts about the Imperial Hotel ..................................................................... 12
A Word from the Artist ..................................................................................... 162
The ‘Scale Model’ line – LEGO Architecture in the 1960s ...... 163
References ............................................................................................................... 167
3
Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Imperial Hotel
When Frank Lloyd Wright’s legendary Imperial Hotel opened in 1923, it marked the emergence of Japan as a modern
nation. The building quickly became the most famous landmark in Tokyo and it would go on to have a history as
colorful and dramatic as the country itself. Eventually demolished in 1968, the iconic entrance and lobby wing was
dismantled and rebuilt at the Meiji Mura Museum in Nagoya.
© alamy.com
5
Its place in the history of architecture
Looking for a western architect who could bridge the
cultural divide between East and West, the hotel’s
owners commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design
and build the new Imperial Hotel. In many ways Wright
was the perfect choice for the task. He had long been
fascinated with Japanese culture, especially after his
first visit to the country in 1905, and had become an
avid collector of Japanese prints.
Wright was glad to spend a great deal of time in Tokyo
working on the project that consumed his attention, off
and on, from 1916 to 1922. His goal from the outset was
to design a building that would appeal to many and
genuinely respect the Japanese culture.
The 250 room hotel was designed roughly in the shape
of its own logo, with the guest room wings forming the
letter “H”, while the public rooms were in a smaller but
taller central wing shaped like the letter “I” that cut
through the middle of the “H”. The visual effect of the
planned design would be both stunning and dramatic.
6
Top: Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / Bottom: © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
The original Imperial Hotel was a three-story, wooden
Victorian-style structure built across the avenue from
the Emperor’s palace. It opened in 1890 and was the
only European-style hotel in the country at that time.
By 1915 the hotel was no longer able to accommodate
the growing numbers of visitors and it was decided
to replace the out-dated building with a new, more
modern hotel.
The design & construction process
Wright worked on the Imperial Hotel with 18 to 20
Japanese draftsmen, the only other foreigner apart
from himself being Paul Mueller, an experienced
builder from Chicago.
One of the major concerns during the initial design
and construction process was how to safeguard the
building from the many earthquakes that occurred in
the area. Wright had noted that Japanese architects,
trained by centuries of natural disasters, always “built
lightly on the ground.”
With between 18m and 21m (60-70 ft.) of alluvial mud
beneath the 2.4m (8 ft.) of surface soil, it would be
impossible to obtain the rigidity needed for traditional
foundations. Instead, his idea was to float the building
upon the mud using shallow, broad footings. This
would allow it—in Wright’s terms—“to balance like a
tray on a waiter’s fingertips.”
Other design features to combat the threat caused
by earthquakes included cantilevered floors and
balconies to provide extra support, seismic separation
joints every 20m (65.6 ft.) along the building, tapered
walls that were thicker on the lower floors, plus the
consistent use of smooth curves which were more
resistant to fracture.
elaborate ornamental carving and decoration. Wright
was particularly impressed by the craftsmanship of
the Japanese stonemasons. So much so he modified
many of his original decorative concepts to make the
most of their talents.
Furnishings were exquisite. Furniture was designed for
specific seating areas and the restaurants. Oya stone
carvings in the shape of peacocks and other intricate
patterns adorned the walls; ceilings were hand painted
or embellished in gold leaf on both interior and exterior
wall surfaces. Over a hundred specially designed
abstract, geometric, patterned rugs and carpets were
created by Wright so they could be easily woven in
China.
The new Imperial Hotel opened on September 1st 1923.
The same day a massive earthquake would rock Tokyo
and the surrounding area. Wright was in Los Angeles
at the time and it would be ten long days of conflicting
reports before it was confirmed that hotel still stood.
Indeed, thanks to Wright’s unique design features, it
would be one of the few buildings to survive the quake.
The main building materials used were reinforced
poured concrete and brick, while the choice of soft
volcanic Oya stone enabled the extensive carving of
Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
7
Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
About the architect
Arguably America’s greatest architect and among the
world’s most gifted, Frank Lloyd Wright was also a man
of boundless energy. In a career that spanned over 74
years, he designed more than 900 works – including
houses, offices, churches, schools, libraries, bridges,
museums and many other building types. Of that total,
over 500 resulted in completed works. Today, over 400
of these buildings still remain.
OBMA ® F. L. Wright Foundationn
Wright’s creative mind was not only confined to
architecture. He also designed furniture, fabrics, art
glass, lamps, dinnerware, silver, linens and graphic
arts. In addition, he was a prolific writer, an educator
and a philosopher. He authored twenty books and
countless articles, lectured throughout the United
States and in Europe.
Wright was recognized as a brilliant architect by his
peers and continues to be revered today. No other
architecture took greater advantage of setting and
environment. No other architect glorified the sense
of “shelter” as did Frank Lloyd Wright. As he famously
stated: “a building is not just a place to be. It is a way
to be.”
Wright was born in 1867, in the rural farming town of
Richland Center, Wisconsin, just two years after the
American Civil War ended and passed away at the age
of 91 in 1959. While there is evidence of Wright attending
both high school and the University of WisconsinMadison, there is no record of him graduating from
either. In 1887 Wright moved to Chicago and by the
early 1890s he was already head draftsman at the
architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan.
As an architect and artist, Wright was both intrigued
and inspired by the Far East, and especially Japan. He
would eventually design and complete six buildings in
the country, the most famous being the Imperial Hotel.
9
The building today
By 1968, the Wright designed Imperial Hotel had
survived several earthquakes, a growing Japanese
population, and increased pollution which had
deteriorated some of the intricate Oya stone carvings
and other decorative details of this masterpiece.
Thousands of hotel guests had stayed, visited, or
attended grand events held at the hotel.
10
Current management made a most difficult and
controversial decision to demolish this iconic Japanese
landmark to make way for a newer and larger multistory structure. However, the main entrance and lobby
wing were carefully dismantled and rebuilt at the Meiji
Mura Museum and can be seen in Nogoya, Japan.
© Christophe Richard
Facts about the Imperial Hotel
Location:..........................
Architect: .........................
Date: ..................................
Construction type: ....
................................................
Materials:.........................
Original Cost: ...............
Surface area: ................
Originally Tokyo, Japan
Frank Lloyd Wright
1916-1923
Hotel: 250 rooms, 5 ballrooms, 10
banquet rooms
Reinforced Concrete and Brick
Approximately 6 million yen
34.765m2 (114 058.399 sq. ft.)
© Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
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Wright expected the shallow
foundations of the hotel would
allow the foundations to
“balance like a tray on a waiter’s
fingertips”.
© Frank Lloyd Wright
Foundation
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Wright designed a shallow pool
outside the lobby that could
provide a source of water for
fighting the fire-storms that
occurred after an earthquake.
© Ayuko Yonezu
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The copper rain gutters atop the
perimeter of the building ensured
rainwater would drain through
elaborately patterned grills.
Courtesy of the Frank
Lloyd Wright Foundation
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© Wikipedia.org
The Great Kanto earthquake of
September 1st 1923 was most
powerful one ever recorded at
that time. It measured 7.9 on
the magnitude scale.
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Instead of traditional heavy
roof tiles that always caused
dangerous debris during
earthquakes, Wright opted for a
lightweight copper roof.
© Ayuko Yonezu
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Approx. 600 craftsmen were
employed continuously for
four of the seven years of the
construction process.
Courtesy of the Frank
Lloyd Wright Foundation
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A Word from the Artist
‘‘As a LEGO architect, I set myself a triple challenge while
designing this model: to faithfully capture Frank Lloyd
Wright’s genius, to respect and accent the Japanese
nature of the building and to create an intriguing
model, that would be placed alongside existing Frank
Lloyd Wright’s sets in the LEGO Architect series.
The task began with choosing what to actually
represent in LEGO; the whole of the hotel, or only the
entrance lobby that was dismantled and reassembled
at the Meiji Mura open-air architectural museum. This
part of the building showed great potential for fulfilling
my aspirations.
This entrance lobby is (relatively) small-scaled but
richly decorated; so the next challenge was how to
translate as many of the architectural elements of the
original as possible, while keeping the overall size of
the LEGO model small. The starting point became the
demanding cross section with many different levels,
coupled together with the side-wing elevation with its
windows.
At the end, the harmonious whole of the model was
achieved with a variety of LEGO techniques, including
offsetting, sideways construction and SNOT (Studs
Not On Top) techniques, as well as the use of LEGO
holder plates together with light saber blades as the
horizontal accent. ‘‘
162
The Imperial Hotel model was created in close
collaboration with the LEGO design team. They look
at the model from a LEGO building point of view and
ensure the construction process is simple and logical,
and a positive experience for the user.
The ‘Scale Model’ line – LEGO Architecture in the 1960s
The history of the current LEGO Architecture series can
be traced back to the beginning of the 1960s when
the LEGO brick’s popularity was steadily increasing.
Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, the then owner of the
company, began looking for ways to further expand
the LEGO system, and asked his designers to come
up with a set of new components that would add a new
dimension to LEGO building.
coloured LEGO boxes, and also included ‘An Architectural
Book’ for inspiration.
Though the five elements remain an integral part of the
LEGO building system today, ‘Scale Model’ line was
phased out in 1965. It would be over 40 years before its
principles would be revived in the LEGO Architecture
series we know today.
Their answer was as simple as it was revolutionary: five
elements that matched the existing bricks, but were
only one third the height. These new building ‘plates’
made it possible to construct more detailed models
than before.
This greater LEGO flexibility seemed to match the
spirit of the age; where modernist architects were
redefining how houses looked, and people were
taking an active interest in the design of their dream
home. It was from these trends that the LEGO ‘Scale
Model’ line was born in early 1962.
The name itself was a direct link to the way architects
and engineers worked and it was hoped that they and
others would build their projects ‘to scale’ in LEGO
elements.
As with LEGO Architecture today, the original sets
were designed to be different from the normal brightly
163
Architect series
164
Landmark series
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References:
http://www.franklloydwright.org
http://designmuseum.org
http://wikipedia.org
Customer Service
Kundenservice
Service Consommateurs
Servicio Al Consumidor
www.lego.com/service or dial
00800 5346 5555 :
1-800-422-5346 :
167
LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2013 The LEGO Group. 6037642
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