Togo Murano - Japan

Tōgo Murano  May 15, 1891 – November 26, 1984) was a Japanese architect. Although his formative years were between 1910 and 1930,[1] he remained active in design throughout his life and at the time of his death was responsible for over three hundred completed projects.[2]

Although his work lacked a distinctive singular style[3] he was recognised as a master of the modern interpretation of the sukiya style.[4] His work included large public buildings as well as hotels and department stores and he has been recognised as one of Japan's modern masters.

After serving two years in a volunteer military corps Murano entered the Department of Electrical Engineering at Waseda University in 1913. In 1915 he transferred to the Architecture Department before graduating in 1918.[5] Unlike his contemporaries, he moved from Tōkyō to Ōsaka and started work at the Kansai office of Setsu Watanabe. Murano spent eleven years at Watanabe's office learning all aspects of design and working on many large projects such as offices, commercial buildings and cultural facilities. In 1920 he was sent to America and Europe to further his knowledge and architectural vocabulary. In 1929 he left Watanabe to start his own office.[6]

During the Taishō Period when culture in Japan became liberated for the first time from authority, culture became politicised and nationalistic overtones brought modernist architects into conflict with the state. The liberal Murano channelled this conflict into an interest into sukiya architecture which allowed him to balance tradition and modernisation in his work.[7] Unlike his contemporary, Antonin Raymond, Murano courted simplicity, concentrating on the high arts like tea ceremony and conceptual elegance.[8] As well producing many sukiya-style buildings, such as the Kasuien Annex to the Miyako Hotel in Kyoto, Murano used the sukiya style to incorporate Japanese tradition with borrowed elements of Western style.[9] The emphasis of the sukiya style on surfaces, the juxtaposition of materials and elaborate details can be found in his work, for example, the mother-of-pearl encrusted ceiling of the Nihon Seimei Hibiya Building and Nissei Theatre in Tōkyō.[10]

In 1949 Murano reorganised his office and entered into partnership with Tiuchi Mori.[11] During Murano's trip to Europe in the 1920s he became interested in Nordic architecture. Aspects of Saarinen's and Östberg's work such as Stockholm City Hall can be seen in his post-war projects such as the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace (1954), Yonago Public Hall (1958) and the Round Library at Kansai University (1959).[12] Some of his later projects introduced angular motifs, circular plans and sensuous curves (like the Tanimura Art Museum in Itoigawa). In others, like the Industrial Bank of Japan, he blurred the boundaries between wall and ground.[13]

The scope of Murano's work throughout his career covered many styles of architecture. He was influenced by Japanese and Western architecture but did not commit himself to one particular ideology.[14] Although the sheer volume of his work led him to be criticised as simply a commercial architect,[15] he always gave top priority to the requirements of his clients.[16]

He was the author of a few publications in his lifetime. These included Staying above style! in 1919 and The Economic Environment of Architecture in 1926. In his 1931 Looking While Moving he riled against Le Corbusier and the Modern Movement and declared that the skyscrapers of Manhattan were the way forward.[17]

In addition to his works of architecture, Murano designed the first-class lounge and dining rooms for the luxury cruise ships, Argentina Maru and Brazil Maru, both launched in 1939. The ships were sunk during World War II.[18]

In 1973 Murano was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Waseda University. Docomomo listed five of Murano's buildings in its selection of the 100 most important Japanese modernist buildings. Japanese design magazine Casa Brutus named Murano one of Japan's modern masters in their April 2009 special issue.[19]

1953 World Peace Memorial Cathedral, Hiroshima

1958 New Kabuki Theater, Osaka