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Notes for a short architectural tour of Tokyo and its surroundings (I)

Episode 1: Roppongi Hills & the Mori Museum

by Giacomo Donati

Roppongi hills represents the largest private-sector urban redevelopment project in Japan’s history.

Developed by real estate tycoon Minoru Mori between 1986 and 2003, it represents the centerpiece of a 28-acre mixed-use development at the heart of the Tokyo metropolitan area and it is almost a city within a city.

©Naoya Fujii

Located along the Roppongi dori arterial highway, the development offers a unique mix of functions closely linked with lifestyles, working environments, entertainment, leisure, learning and creating, with an idea in mind: putting its inhabitants closer to every essential city function, in order to give them more spare time for themselves.
A goal which hasn’t been really achieved in a city where spare time is almost a unfulfillable daydream.

With an average of 100,000 visitors on weekdays, approximately 20,000 employees in offices and commercial establishments, and about 2,000 residents, the complex houses gigantic hotels, such as the Grand Hyatt, a variety of cultural uses, office space, plus the West Walk, a seven-story high space designed by Irie Miyake Architects which connects three buildings with over 200 shops and restaurants, a structured parking for 2,760 vehicles, and a comprehensive infrastructure, such as a district heating and cooling system.

The heart of Roppongi Hill is the Mori Building, named after its above-mentioned developer Minoru Mori: designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox with an obvious earthquake-resistant design, it is a 54-story mixed-use skyscraper and still the fifth tallest building in Tokyo at 238 meters (781 ft).


The building is primarily used for office space, with 4.500 square meters per floor (the largest space per floor of any other building in Japan), but it also includes retail stores, restaurants and the renowned Mori Art Museum, located on the 53rd floor, which hosts some of the best exhibitions in town of modern and contemporary art: the project by Gluckman Mayner Architects includes the atrium lobby, the art museum, and the Tokyo City View, an observation deck on the 52nd and 54th floors where visitors can view the city from a point of view that embraces it entirely at 360 degrees.

The “museum cone”, a separate structure at the base of the tower, provides a distinct and iconic entrance to the museum.
The Architecture Museum’s galleries on the 52nd floor form a sequence of inwardly focused spaces, while the two Art and Technology galleries, enclosed in translucent glass, float above the 52nd floor observation decks and extend to the very edge of the building, offering a spectacular view of the city.


Finally, just behind the building lies the Mori Garden, one of the best spots for cherry blossom in Tokyo, with over 70 pastel pink cherry blossom trees and an awesome illumination that makes it one of the favorite place to stroll during Hanami at night.