Bottega Veneta joins fight to save Hotel Okura

Hotel Okura Tokyo

Fashion and architecture go hand in hand, and pieces designed by some of the great designers can remain timeless for generations. Tomas Maier, the creative director of Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta, is hoping to spread awareness of some of Japan’s modernist architecture that is at risk of being demolished and lost forever. Of particular interest in Maier’s campaign is the Hotel Okura Tokyo, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi and completed in 1962, which is scheduled to close and be demolished later this year.

Maier’s recent trip to Japan was documented in a collaboration with Casa Brutus in the video below:

View more about Bottega Veneta’s campaign .

About the Hotel Okura Tokyo redevelopment

In May 2014, Hotel Okura announced that they will begin demolishing the main hotel building in late 2015 in order to begin a large-scale redevelopment project due for completion in 2019.

The current 408-room main building will be replaced by two towers – a 13-storey hotel and a 195m tall, 38-storey commercial tower with both hotel rooms and office space.

News of the redevelopment did not come as a surprise to those in the real estate industry in Japan, but has drawn criticism from the many admirers of the hotel across the world.

The announcement of redevelopment has come at a time of rapidly rising construction costs and labour shortages. Although the project will be completed just in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics, the games were not the only factor behind the decision to rebuild.

Hotel Okura was once considered one of Japan’s ‘Big Three’ luxury hotels. The other two included the Imperial Hotel and the Hotel New Otani. In the 1980s, Hotel Okura was ranked as the second best hotel in the world by US magazine ‘Institutional Investor’. In recent years, however, it has been overtaken by the Imperial Hotel along with the growing number of luxury foreign hotels entering the market. Its position atop a hill and a five minute walk from the nearest train station have also made it slightly inconvenient for guests.

The hotel’s occupancy rates in April 2014 were 80%, which is considered relatively low compared to similar hotels in the area. The hotel was also hit by a scandal in 2013 after admitting that their restaurants misrepresented ingredients listed on menus. While this did not cause serious damage to their brand, there was a need to restore their image. Perhaps it is hoped that the redevelopment will help Hotel Okura to reclaim its standing in the luxury hotel market.

In the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, many hotels either built new annexes or upgraded their existing facilities. In recent years, several other hotels in Tokyo have gone through reconstruction or renewals, although these plans were in place prior to the Olympic announcement in 2013. In 2012, the redevelopment of the Palace Hotel in Otemachi was completed. The refurbishment of the Tokyo Station Hotel in Marunouchi was also completed in the same year. In 2014, the Andaz Hotel in Toranomon Hills opened, and Aman Resort opened their first city-based hotel atop the Otemachi Tower Building. Meanwhile, the Grand Prince Akasaka Hotel, designed by Kenzo Tange and built in 1983, was demolished in 2013 and is being replaced by a new hotel, office and residential complex.

Of the original Big Three, the Hotel Okura is the only hotel to be carrying out any major work prior to the 2020 Olympics. Its competitors – The Imperial Hotel and New Otani – will not be doing any remodelling until after the games.

Other modernist pieces at risk of demolition:

Kamakura Museum of Modern Art (1951), Kanagawa. Architect: Junzo Sakakura. View more here.

Kamakura Museum of Modern Art.

Japan Pearl Center (1952), Kobe. Architect: Yoshimitsu Mitsuyasu. View more here.

Kobe Pearl Center 1
Japan Pearl Center.

Yahata City Meeting Hall (1958) and Yahata Library (1955), Kyushu. Architect: Togo Murano. View more here.

[Left] Yahata City Meeting Hall. [Right] Yahata Library.
Senri Newtown Civic Center (1964), Osaka. Architect: Togo Murano. View more here.

Senri Newtown Civic Centre Osaka
Senri Newtown Civic Center (now demolished).

Sources:
‘Tomas Maier’s Quest to Preserve Japanese Modernist Landmarks’ The New York Times Style Magazine, December 12, 2014.
‘Can Tomas Maier and Bottega Veneta Save Japan’s Modernist Architectural Gems?’ Artnet News, January 23, 2015.
Toyo Keizai, May 26, 2014.
The Nikkei Shimbun, May 23, 2014.

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