Renzo Piano to design replacement for Kunio Maekawa-designed building

Tokio Marine Holdings has announced that Italian architect Renzo Piano will be designing the replacement for the Tokyo Marine Nichido Insurance Building in Marunouchi, Tokyo.

The current building was built in 1974 and designed by Kunio Maekawa, one of Japan’s great modernist architects. At 108 meters tall, it was Marunouchi’s first high-rise, although original plans were for a 130-meter tall building. That height drew a lot of criticism due to its proximity to the Imperial Palace, with the Tokyo Government rejecting the proposal in 1967. In those days, Marunouchi had been designated an Aesthetic District to protect the area in front of the palace. It is now somewhat short in comparison to its more recent neighbors, including the 197-meter tall Shin-Marunouchi Building (2007), located across the street.

Earlier this year it was announced that Tokyo Marine will be demolishing the 25-story building along with its annex building (1986) in response to changes in working styles and to prioritize safety in the event of a natural disaster.

Demolition will start as early as October 2022 with the new Piano-designed building to be completed sometime in 2028. It will incorporate a lot of domestic-sourced wood, including using wood for structural posts and floors to create one of the world’s largest hybrid wood buildings. The new building will have 19 floors and be around the same height as the former building.

Piano’s only other commercial building in Tokyo is the iconic Maison Hermes glass block building in Ginza. His other works in Japan are the Kansai International Airport and the Ushibuka Haiya Bridge in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Did you know?

Up until the early 1960s, building heights in Japan were limited to 31 meters. This was done away with in 1963 with a revision to the Building Standards Act, with height limits in certain districts replaced with floor-area ratios (FARs). These changes were introduced primarily to encourage more green and open spaces around buildings by allowing them to build upwards rather than cover entire blocks.

Japan’s first skyscraper is the Kasumigaseki Building. It was built in 1968 and stands at 147 meters tall. It was the first building in Japan to exceed 100 meters. Today, the tallest building in Japan will be the 390-meter tall Torch Tower under construction near Tokyo Station. Completion is scheduled for 2027.

The Mainichi Shimbun, October 2, 2021.
Nikkei Business Publications, October 7, 2021.

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