Ito international Reasearch Centre, Tokyo (Japan)


Ito International Research Center, Tokyo (Japan)

The Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo is like a city within the city. After the 1923 earthquake, it was completely rebuilt in a neo-gothic style. In the 1970s, architect Hisao Kohyama was made responsible for the entire site and tried to reconcile preserving the site’s identity with the development requirements of an internationally renowned university.






Architect: Kohyama Atelier, Contractors: Dohkin Co., Ltd. (Roofer), Kajim Corporation Dohkin Co., Ltd. (Roofer)
Technique: VMZINC® Standing seam, Surface aspect: QUARTZ-ZINC®


Ito International Research Centre, named after the donator, is one of the latest buildings designed by Kohyama on the university campus. It is frequented by Japanese and international researchers working on international relations.



In the urban landscape of Tokyo, the Ito centre has a distinctly European style. Its U-shaped layout creates an Italian-style square and its zinc roof makes it look a little like a Haussmann building. Although the architect make sketches of all the buildings around the square, he was only commissioned to design those in the centre and the left wing. The apparent simplicity of the architecture is deceptive and conceals a highly complex program that reveals itself on a visit to the building. The Indian red sandstone colonnades on the ground floor create a terrace around the building, called engawa in traditional Japanese architecture. The brick facades contribute to the integration of the new building into a complex made up of constructions that are mainly clad in terracotta tiles similar in size to bricks. But its use as a cladding and not as a structural material, the long unaligned windows and the use of an overhang make this a distinctly contemporary building. 


For the architect, the new centre had to be more than just a building, it had to be a gateway to the campus, a new meeting place for the public, researchers and students.



The central square fills this role perfectly. Exclusively natural materials that age well over time were chosen to ensure sustainability of the building, according to Arata Ayai, the architect in charge of the project at the Kohyama Atelier.

The Ito Centre was built to last a hundred years: an eternity in a city where the average life expectancy of buildings is just over twenty years!