1964 – St. Mary Cathedral – Kenzo Tange

The St. Mary Cathedral has been completed in 1964, replacing the old wooden cathedral, in gothic style, burnt during wartime. Tange conceived the new church as a concrete structure, simple in concept and complex in shape, which recalls the lightness of a bird and its wings. The eight walls – the elements which hold the whole structure – are at the same time roof and walls, enclosing the space and opening to the outside through vertical gaps. The walls are curved hyperbolically to express the tension to the sky, and turning the rhomboidal ground floor into a cross at the roof top. The different heights of the wings, asymmetrical, make it a dynamic shape on the sky background. The highest wing is 39,41 m high.


The reflection of the sunlight on the stainless steel external cladding looks as a shining dress on the hard concrete slabs. Although it is a monochromatic cladding, the curves and the U-shaped profiles enhance the dynamicity of the structure. It all makes the church an iconic building in the dense urban context of Tokyo. The effect of the light on the curved walls, changing at every hour, makes the interior atmosphere extremely involving: direct sunlight and diffused reflections accompany the bending surfaces, and the visitor can immediately see and understand the curving of the concrete walls. St. Mary Cathedral is considered one of the most important of Tange’s work, and one of the most interesting architectures in Tokyo. The building puts together an occidental subject and the oriental culture and sensibility, resolving the complexity of the project in a brilliant architecture.

Name: St. Mary Cathedral│Type: Church│Architect: Kenzo Tange│Completed: 1964



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