Tokyo has incrementally transformed after the Great Fire of 1872 from the historical and ephemeral city of interspaces—physical, programmatic, and phenomenological thresholds that provoked diverse and simultaneous activities—into a generic high-density city of towers. This change was accelerated by the imported Western model of tower-and-podium with standardised design and strict functional zoning, which replaced the layers of interspaces and erased a rich urban fabric and ground articulation.
The problematic transformation of the ground was recognised in the discussions emerging in the 1960s between Kenzo Tange’s concept of “megastructure” and Fumihiko Maki’s idea of “group form”. Both were seeking a specific Japanese solution that could challenge the Western model of the podium. Tange argued for a city-in-the-air that would create a new layer of coherent growth while retaining the old city fabric, thus, he read the ‘podium’ as a mediating void between public infrastructure and private architecture. Maki in his critique of Tange proposed the return to traditional spatial models, which he reinterpreted through a modernist language in the design of new urban block, with the ‘podium’ representing to him the layering of public and private activity in the city.
The aim of this project, Tokyo Podium, is to rethink the podium typology as an interface between the city and its dominant architecture, the towers. While returning to the unresolved and in parts fictitious discussion between Tange and Maki, it argues that the podium can be seen as a new architectural form in which the richness of interspaces will create an alternative possibility of densification and reprogramming. The site of this speculation is Tokyo’s central high-density and mono-programmatic district of Marunouchi.