Tokyo Skytree: The Creation of a new Landmark

Posted: July 8, 2012 in English, Kaffeeklatsch
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Globalisation is seen to have a huge impact on cities all around the world. Especially so called Mega or Global Cities becoming more and more similar to each other. Advancement in technology and the global spread of ideas and architects have lead to the phenomena that similar forms, shapes and eventually buildings can be found in different places all around the world. City planners are confronted with an increasing homogenisation of architecture resulting in a lack of individual identity of these Global Cities. In order to prevent the loss of identity and to even promote the uniqueness of a City ‘Landmarks’ are gaining more and more importance for architects, places and people.

Historically a Landmark describes a geographical feature, that helps people to navigate through a particular territory. By identifying and relating the specific geographic feature to a place they know, they associate certain memories to it. These days the term Landmark is usually used to describe a specific architecture or building that people can easily relate to a certain place or city. These buildings are therefore linked to a certain memory or image that people have about a place. They represent the identity and sometimes even the values of the place and its people. The Statue of Liberty in New York, as such a Landmark, represents not only an extraordinary piece of architecture or aesthetic but it deeply incorporates the main idea and values of people from New York and the US as a whole. Having the same Landmark in Las Vegas or Odaiba can therefore not have the same effect, since these places are associated with different values and ideas. Landmark, incorporating the identity of places and people, can become more than just sole architecture, they become the icon and the symbol of the nation.

Also Tokyo/Japan has created a new Landmark, which is suppose the have a huge importance for the region. The new Landmark, The Sky Tree has three main purposes. The underlying reason why the tower was build is the transmission of digital terrestrial broadcasting. Since buildings in Tokyo, in particular Skyscrapers are getting increasingly higher every year the old Tokyo Tower has become to small to effectively send a broadcasting signal to every household. Six Japanese broadcasting Companies therefore joined forces and planned to build a higher tower: The Tokyo Sky Tree.

But as I mentioned this is not the only purpose of the tower. The other two purposes are directly linked to each other and represent the functioning of the Sky Tree as a landmark. First, it is giving the area a certain identity. Important here is that the aim is not to make and impose a new identity to the area but to create a „fusion of traditional Japanese beauty and neo-futuristic design.“ The Sky Tree is continuing and emphasising the already existing identity by linking the past to the future. The hight for example is 634 meters, because 6-3-4 in old Japanese numbers means “Musashi” the name of the former Region. Also the colours try represent this concept of identity. The white steel symbolises the colour “Ajiro” which is associated with the traditional craftsmanship which exists around the tower. At night the Sky Tree is lightened in the Colours “Iki” and “Miyabi” that represents the ‘essence’ and ‘aesthetic’ of the Edo period and “express the concept that ‘today’ is connected to ‘tomorrow’, and, beyond tomorrow expands the ‘future’“

Last but not least every Landmark has a promotional purpose, the so called Bilbao-effect. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao successfully managed to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and increased enormously the reputation of the City. By creating the highest Tower in the world and promoting it through every possible merchandise product (from Sky Tree shaped water bottels to Hallo Kitty Special editions) and tremendous media coverage within and outside Japan the Tokyo Sky Tree was able to attract more than 1 million Visitors in less than a week. So far it seems that Tokyo’s city planners have successfully managed to create a new Landmark, which not only underlines the existing identity of Tokyo and its people but will also be able to promote this to others.

However there are still questions regarding its future, its economical effect on the region and what will happened to the Tokyo Tower, which seemed to be fully replaced. I will keep on pushing further into this topic…

  1. Bill Chance says:

    Really interesting post. I remember the old Tokyo Tower from when I was a little kid and Mothra used it to spin its cocoon.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks! Skytree and its futuristic look has a lot of movie potential too. Maybe we going to see it soon in some Monster Japan/Hollywood movie… Looking forward to it!

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