Thursday 10 July 2014

Philistinism in Japan: Capital crimes

Nguồn tin:

The Okura: masterpiece of cool

IF BEIJING’S hosting of the 2008 Olympics was a sporting success, it was a cultural disaster. It provided the excuse for a years-long orgy of greed, vanity and opaque decision-making that tore into the fabric of an extraordinary city and threw up in its place bombastic creations by star architects lacking in context or human scale. Surely Tokyo, capital of a peaceable democracy and the most civil city on earth, could not commit such crimes?

Perhaps it could. Think back to Tokyo’s last Olympics, in 1964. Then, Nihonbashi, the bridge once at the heart of the city’s merchant and cultural life, had an eight-lane expressway thrown over it, while the area’s many canals were all filled in.

Many who hate what happened to Nihonbashi (even an official report called it the country’s greatest eyesore) are up in arms about the new Zaha Hadid-designed stadium planned for the 2020 Olympic games. On July 5th hundreds marched in Tokyo against another round of outsized Olympic vandalism.

The arena designed by the Iraqi-British starchitect is a vast carapace: twice the size of any previous Olympic Stadium and three times as big as the much-loved 1964 stadium, about to meet the wrecking balls. Its construction means evicting many elderly from their homes, and it eats into a rare area of parkland near the Meiji shrine. The ostentation of the design, says Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo, is redolent of bubble-era Japan. Like so much thrown up in the 1980s, the stadium will be a white elephant once the games are over. Several of Japan’s finest architects, among them Kengo Kuma, are up in arms against it.

There is Olympics-related philistinism elsewhere in the city. Tsukiji, the world’s greatest fish market and last chief link to Tokyo’s merchant past, is to be demolished in preparation for the games. The latest architectural crime is the plan to demolish the country’s most admired hotel, Hotel Okura (a place beloved of the current finance minister, Taro Aso, for late-night drinks). It, too, opened for the 1964 games, as part of the country’s emergence from the ruins of war. It is a masterpiece of Japanese traditional design and cool 1960s modernism. Its lobby and bars, as well as the hotel’s impeccable service, are preserved in Bond-era aspic (the hotel starred in “You Only Live Twice”). Yet it is to go in favour of a bland, 38-storey glass tower unless its short-sighted guardians can be reminded of what is being lost. In contrast to Beijing, you are unlikely to be arrested for protesting at mindless destruction.

Đăng ký: Hoc tieng anh



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