1969 – Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary – Togo Murano

The present compound designed by Murano actually replaced smaller, earlier wooden facilities of the seminary. One of the leading theological study centers in Japan and the training ground for many eminent religious leaders, the Lutheran Theological Seminary formerly occupied a site in another of Tokyo’s residential areas. Yet as the buildings grew old and the school outgrew the site, it became necessary to seek more spacious grounds. The new site was selected within a grove of beautiful mature trees near International Christian Uni-versity in Mitaka, a quiet Tokyo suburb.

At the request of the seminary the buildings — faculty residences, student dormitories, classrooms, library, and chapel — were all designed and completed in con-secutive stages. Despite this, Murano succeeded in creating an attractively unified composition that radiates a strong religious mood as well as the vitality of active student life. Because the Japan Theological Center occupies a neighboring site, the main entrance to the Lutheran campus was located on the west side to facilitate exchanges among the students of the two institutions.

To achieve a blend of religious symbolism and active student life in the building’s architectural expression, the designer found the lectures of the noted American priest and architect of religious buildings E. A. Sövik very helpful. Murano was also influenced by the sculp-tural forms and somewhat romantic architecture of Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale University (1962) in New Haven, Connecticut, by Eero Saarinen.

Five residences and one guest house on the south-ern end of the site face the faculty apartments; the approaching path leads through a landscaped and grassy area with flower beds. The location, plan, and window placement of every building are designed to guarantee maximum privacy for each unit while taking into careful consideration functional efficiency. At the same time, the modulated masses of the building groups, complemented by the soft visual quality of their spray-stucco-covered walls, assures a highly successful response to the rich natural surroundings.

The exten-sive light-and-shadow effects created by the solid wall masses, together with the texture of their surfaces, impart a mood of serenity that characterizes the archi-tecture of the campus. This mood, coupled with a feeling of solemnity, reaches its epitome in the intri-cately lit interior of the small chapel.


Name: Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary│Type: Education│Architect: Togo Murano│Completed: 1969

Literature: Togo Murano: master architect of Japan by Botond Bognar; with an introd. by Fumihiko Maki, New York, 1996.

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