Design & Architecture: Renovating Kisho Kurokawa’s Churis Akasaka 11F

Renovating any property is a huge undertaking, more so when the property you are tasked to renovate was designed by one of Japan’s most famous architects, Kisho Kurokawa.

Kurokawa rose to prominence as one of the founding members of Japan’s Metabolism Movement in the 1960’s that emphasized the impermanence in architecture; that buildings should be built to be removable, interchangeable and adaptable to the times.

Architects around the world studied Kurokawa and Riccardo Tossani of Riccardo Tossani Architects was no different.

Earlier this summer, Riccardo Tossani Architects broke ground on an extensive renovation of an 11th floor unit in Churis Akasaka. The building was the only residential project Kurokawa had designed in his career.

“Working with the heritage of Kurokawa demanded from us a very good design.” said Riccardo Tossani.

Outside of having to follow in the footsteps of a master, one of the largest challenges with the design outside was taking an apartment built in 1983 and bringing it into the 21st century.

However in keeping with the Metabolist philosophy, the original building layout allowed Tossani to amplify the kernel of what was already there.

Space wasn’t an issue as the unit has 312+ square meters to work within. According to public record, the unit was originally zoned as two apartments built together as one unit.

However the original design was compartmentalized in that within a large space there were many smaller rooms bunched together. This was characteristic of late 20th century architecture, especially in Tokyo.

According to Tossani, 21st century architecture demands space and light more the previous generations which were front and centre during the design process.

Usually in other projects, the restrictions are things like pipe spaces, drainage shafts and structural walls that can’t be moved or altered.

While this apartment has all of these out of necessity, they were placed in the original design that allowed for a high degree of flexibility with regards to modernizing.

“People’s expectations today are higher in the sense of finishings and materials used.” said Tossani. “There is a stronger desire for more access to open spaces and natural light from families in Tokyo.”

For Tossani, what he needed to do was bring things like lighting and mechanical systems, bathrooms and the kitchen up to a standard that was appropriate for the 21st century using contemporary, high grade equipment which simply didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago when the apartment was first created.

“Kurokawa’s original building design allowed us to achieve this.” said Tossani.

While working on the project, Tossani said that it felt that Kurokawa seemed to future proof the apartment in his original thinking.

This shouldn’t be surprising as Kurokawa was also a futurist and he and his Metabolism colleagues were all about the future, all about society and thinking about how people would be living multiple decades hence.

For Tossani, this renovation was proof of concept in many ways of Kurokawa’s original motivation and intent according to the tenants of the Metabolism Movement he helped originate in the 1960’s.

“We found the project, the creative opportunity and the end result, to be very gratifying.” said Tossani. “We had to follow in the footsteps of a master and stand on his shoulders to create something even better.”

See more of Churis Akasaka and take the video tour, here.