By now, thanks to an effort to have the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno listed as a World Heritage Site, many people know that Le Corbusier designed one building in Japan. (Much) less well known, until it was featured on a recent TV documentary, is that Frank Lloyd Wright, the other master of modern architecture, also has a footprint in Japan. In fact, he and his wife lived here for a while during construction of the landmark Teikoku Imperial Hotel – demolished in 1968.
In fact, Wright was heavily influenced by Japanese architecture. In particular, he found Japanese templed, which merge with the landscape, which blur the division between inside and outside, inspirational in his signature prairie house style.
Until recently, Wright’s contribution to Tokyo’s world-class architecture scene slipped under the radar. In 1999, however, renovations began on the neglected Wright-designed campus of Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, The School of the Free Spirit, in Ikebukuro. Today the buildings are still used by school alumnae, and the public can visit the site when not otherwise used.
The school is an example of Wright’s signature “prairie house style”, with long horizontal lines, low ceilings, and high vaulted windows. For a couple of extra hundred yen you can have coffee and cookies in the so-called Lounge Hall.
Worth a visit for architecture fans and anyone who appreciates the impact of good design.