In 1970 Japanese architect Minoru Takeyama designed a building in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, simply called the Ni-Ban-Kahn (Building Number Two), while his Building Number One was located just a few metres away. This building gained wide notoriety thanks to American critic Charles Jencks, who put it on different editions of the cover of his seminal The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, originally published in 1977.
Ni-Ban-Kahn is formed by several volumes growing from a common platform, a composition conceived in order to achieve the maximal density allowed by the lot. Some feature a horizontal roof while others are covered with a single roof. The combination of volumes reflects the chaotic nature of Tokyo’s built environment and react differently to the various built situations around this corner of the city. The focus on the volumes and the geometric richness are paired with an extremely inventive graphical work by Kiyoshi Awazu composed by patterns, optical lines, commercial and written signs, making the complex an interesting example of commercial and leisure facility designed with the codes of “intellectual” architecture in mind. Jencks wrote that the building deserved to be put on the cover for its being “a radical expression of functional difference and more for its social realism than its uplift (…) Moreover, it was the most vivid, built example of Venturi’s contradiction in architecture“. (Quote via)
The outside street enters the ground floor without any gates or doors: the interior space of the building is, in fact, in continuity with the public space of the city of Tokyo.
The building was commissioned by a Korean client with the aim of realizing a centre for entertainment made up of many different interior functions and rented out to multiple tenants. Multifunctionality and perennial adaptability are thus taken into account since the beginning of the design process and even the façades often changed their graphical patterns over time: although they were mostly colored at the beginning, they are black and white, nowadays. Also, the functions evolved rapidly and while the area was still, at the time of construction, mostly residential, today is part of Kabukichō, the red-light and entertainment district. Not by chance, the building houses as of today (2016) a series of male host clubs largely advertised on the envelope.
All images © Minoru Takeyama
Charles Jencks, Language of Post-Modern Architecture, London: Academy Editions, 1977; New York: Rizzoli, 1977. Excerpt.