The flow of ideas: From the West to the East and from the East to the West.
Created Sep 12 2007 by Walus, Mirek
Frank Lloyd Wright brought radiant floor heating from...
Frank Lloyd Wright brought radiant floor heating from Asia to
American homes. This is the story of an American engineering hero in Tokyo, tea
rooms, earthquakes, architectural design excellence and far away
...Someone once asked the legendary Frank Lloyd
Wright (1867-1959) An American Champion of "organic architecture" if he
believed in God. He replied: "Yes. And I spell it 'NATURE'. " - That helps form the basis of Wright's ideas of how nature is part of
everything, including architecture
Wright had long been intrigued by Japanese culture (he was an avid
collector of Japanese prints), so when the opportunity came to build
a State-Of-The-Art hotel in Tokyo, (The TÔKYÔ IMPERIAL HOTEL),
he lobbied for the project. Commissioned in 1916, the hotel was to represent the
emergence of Japan as a modern nation and symbolize Japan’s relation to the
West. It was supposed to be a symbol. With that in mind, Wright designed the
building as a hybrid of Japanese and Western architecture. Japan at the
time was an ultra conservative society just opening to the world after several
hundred years of insulation (Edo closed its frontiers in XVI Century) and
there was a notable opposition to let the Westerner directing the project with
'Imperial' in its name and Imperial in its design scale.
During the early project stages, Wright was invited to the home
of a Japanese nobleman. There he found a fascinating tea room that was
different from typical Japanese rooms.
The floor was covered with yellow paper and it was warm. It was
a Korean Ondol room!
The Japanese gentleman had discovered Ondol in Korea and could
not forget it. After returning from Japan he had an Ondol room built in his
home. "The indescribable comfort of being warmed from below" impressed Wright.
He decided then and there that Ondol was the ideal heating system and began
incorporating it in his buildings.
Wright in fact invented the modern radiant floor
heating, using hot water running through pipes instead of hot air
through flues. From the true hybrid of Japanese and Western architecture came a
true hybrid of the heating system.
The Imperial Hotel complex (帝国ホテル Teikoku
Wright's Art Deco design: Imperial Hotel plates, bowls and
Back in Japan Wright had developed a heroic reputation due to
the fact that on Sept. 1, 1923 his Imperial Hotel on the very day of its grand
opening had survived a massive Tokyo earthquake. The Great Kanto
Earthquake of Taisho Era, 12th year razed vast sections of Yokohama and
Tokyo, killed tens of thousands of people, but left the new Imperial intact with
minimal damage. The Imperial became the social center of Tokyo for the
international community. This was an architectural gamestone with most
extravagant features of Mayan and Art Deco design, executed in highly porous
green volcanic rock, pierced terra cotta grillwork and yellow brick. Narrow,
low-ceilinged, sinister-looking passageways led into airy lobbies and ballrooms
whose ceilings were hand-painted in peacock designs and shimmering with gold
leaf. Heads of state, royalty, industrial tycoons and movie stars came and went
Destruction of government printing office and Tokyo
September 8, 1923 Dear Mr. Wright,
The first shock was enough to lay many buildings flat, and
... the second shock easily leveled what the first had loosened...Fire billowed
from every house and those people who survived the crush and sought places of
safety out in the open were killed by the smoke and scorching hot air, roasted
by hundreds and thousands. All steel buildings proved fatal, enough to show
that our architects were fools. What a glory it is to see the Imperial
standing amidst the ashes of a whole city! Glory to
Endo (Sab Shimono)
The TÔKYÔ IMPERIAL HOTEL - Tôkyô / Inuyama* 1923
was demolished in 1968. The entrance lobby was saved and reconstructed at the
Meiji Mura architecture museum in Nagoya.