Architect Toyo Ito’s Models, Drawings, Bound for Canada; Adequacy of Japan’s Archival Institutions Questioned

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Toyo Ito says he chose to donate materials to a facility where young architects and researchers will have easy access to them.

Globally acclaimed architect Toyo Ito’s drawings and other materials related to his early works will be donated to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).

The 82-year-old architect made the decision due to the lack of an appropriate place in Japan to preserve the materials.

Experts and others in the architectural world are voicing concern that the move could accelerate the outflow of Japanese architects’ materials overseas.

Ito has designed such buildings as Sendai Mediatheque in the city of Sendai and the National Taichung Theater in Taiwan. He has received major global architecture prizes, such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel Prize.”

The materials to be donated include Ito’s architectural drawings, sketches and models. They relate to 31 projects from 1971, when he became independent, to 1989. Materials related to such important projects as the White U house in 1976, which was Ito’s representative work in his early days, and Silver Hut in 1984, which is the architect’s private residence, are among those planned to be donated.

Located in Montreal, the CCA is one of the most prestigious architectural research institutions in the world. It collects and stores materials on architecture worldwide from the Renaissance period to the present day.

Ito decided on the CCA because it will accept all the materials in bulk and is willing to share access to its resources, making it easy for young architects and researchers to make use of his materials.

Previously, architectural drawings and models by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (1913-2005) were donated to Harvard University in 2011.

In response to outflow of important architectural material from Japan such as the Tange donation, the National Archives of Modern Architecture, Japan’s first national facility dedicated to architecture, opened in 2013.

However, the national institution has accepted very few architectural models and digital drawings due to lack of storage space and staff members to process materials. Slow progress in digitization of materials stored at the facility is another problem.

“I initially considered making donations to domestic facilities, including universities. But I gave up, taking into consideration the points of bulk storage and openness to the public,” Ito said. “It was a tough decision.”

He said he also plans to donate materials dating from 1990 and afterward to the CCA.

Osamu Nakagawa, professor emeritus of the Kyoto Institute of Technology, thinks Japan does not have a sufficient system and human resources to preserve architectural materials.

“People need to be aware that they are important resources to trace back the thinking process of architectural designs,” said Nakagawa, an expert on architectural history.

Some of the materials to be donated to the CCA will be displayed to the public for free at Shibaura Institute of Technology’s Toyosu campus in Koto Ward, Tokyo, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 20.

Ito’s sketch of the White U house, to be donated to the Canadian Centre for Architecture