Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

:"This article is about the historic Frank Lloyd Wright building. For the modern Japanese hotel chain currently in operation, see Imperial_Hotel."

Tokyo's Imperial Hotel was the best-known of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings in Japan. The original Imperial Hotel in Tokyo was built in 1890. To replace the original wooden structure, the owners commissioned a design by Wright, which was completed in 1923. Time took its toll, and in 1968, the facade and pool were moved to The Museum "Meiji Mura", a collection of buildings (mostly from the Meiji Era) in Inuyama, near Nagoya, while the rest of the structure was demolished to make way for a new hotel on the site.

The Frank Lloyd Wright version was designed in the "Maya Revival Style" of architecture. It incorporates a tall, pyramid-like structure, and also loosely copies Maya motifs in its decorations. The main building materials are poured concrete and concrete block. The visual effect of the hotel was stunning and dramatic, though not unique; in recent years, architectural historians have noted a marked similarity with the Cafe Australia, Melbourne, Australia (1916) designed by Prairie School architects Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin.

While the Imperial Hotel was originally owned and partly funded by the imperial family, the current owner of Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, the new hotel on the grounds on which Wright's Imperial Hotel once stood, is Imperial Hotel, Ltd., which runs a chain of luxury hotels in Japan.

1923 earthquake

The structure completed in 1923 survived the magnitude 7.9 Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. A telegram from Baron Kihachiro Okura reported the following:

Hotel stands undamaged as monument to your genius [.] Congratulations [.] cite book|title=Earthquake|series=Planet Earth|author=Bryce Walker|publisher=Time Life Books|year=1982|page=153|id=ISBN 0-8094-4300-7]
Wright's passing the telegram to journalists has helped perpetuate a legend that the hotel was unaffected by the earthquake. In reality, the building had damage; the central section slumped, several floors bulged, and four pieces of stonework fell to the ground.cite book|title=Earthquake|series=Planet Earth|author=Bryce Walker|publisher=Time Life Books|year=1982|page=154|id=ISBN 0-8094-4300-7] The building's main failing was its foundation. Wright had intended the hotel to float on the site's alluvial mud "as a battleship floats on water." This was accomplished by making it shallow, with broad footings. This was supposed to allow the building to float during an earthquake. However, the foundation was an inadequate support and did nothing to prevent the building from sinking into the mud to such an extent that it had to be demolished decades later. Furthermore, alluvial mud, such as that at the hotel's site, has the nasty effect of amplifying seismic waves.cite book|author=Robert W. Christopherson|title=Geosystems - An Introduction to Physical Geography|page=347|publisher=MacMillan|year=1992|id=ISBN 0-02-322443-6]

The hotel survived an earlier earthquake that struck Tokyo during its construction. While many buildings in the area were destroyed, the hotel itself - while shaken - stood completely undamaged. [cite journal |last=Szolginia |first=Witold |year=1974 |month=March |title=Genialne idee "szalonego architekta" |journal=Młody Technik |pages=38-45

The hotel had several design features that made up for its foundation:

* The reflecting pool (visible in the picture above) also provided a source of water for fire-fighting, saving the building from the post-earthquake firestorm;
* Cantilevered floors and balconies provided extra support for the floors;
* A copper roof, which cannot fall on people below the way a tile roof can;
* Seismic separation joints, located about every 20 m along the building;
* Tapered walls, thicker on lower floors, increasing their strength; and
* Suspended piping and wiring, instead of being encased in concrete, as well as smooth curves, making them more resistant to fracture.

Most important, the hotel passed the most crucial test for any structure during an earthquake: it stayed standing.

The Imperial Hotel


External links

* [ Imperial Hotel, Ltd.] (株式会社帝国ホテル; "Kabushiki Gaisha Teikoku Hoteru").
* [ Main Entrance Hall and Lobby of Imperial Hotel in the Museum Meiji-Mura]
* [ Old Tokyo - Imperial Hotel (Wright)]
* []

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