Although Paradise Leased is essentially a blog dedicated to Southern California’s historic architecture on occasion we like to veer from the text if we feel it merits doing so. I recently rediscovered a set of photos and plans from one of the great lost buildings of the world – Frank Lloyd Wright‘s stunning Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan and wanted to share. These photos appeared in the April 1923 issue of The Architectural Record and accompanied an article by the great Louis H. Sullivan himself. I thought you would enjoy seeing the pictures and floor plans as well as some excerpts from Sullivan’s florid text and mourn with me the loss of this visionary masterwork.
This great work is the masterpiece of Frank Lloyd Wright, a great free spirit, whose fame as a master of ideas is an accomplished world-wide fact.
In this structure is not to be found a single form distinctly Japanese; nor that of any other country; yet in its own individual form, its mass, and subsidiaries, its evolution of plan and development of thesis; in its sedulous care for niceties of administration, and for the human sense of joy it has expressed, in inspiring form as an epic poem, addressed to the Japanese people, their innermost thought.
In a sense it is a huge association of structures; a gathering of the clans, so to speak.; it is a seeming aggregate of buildings shielding beauteous gardens, sequestered among them. Yet there hovers over all, and as an atmosphere everywhere, a sense of primal power in singleness of purpose; a convincing quiet that bespeaks a master hand, guiding and governing.
Upon further analysis…it is disclosed that the structure is not a group, but a single mass; spontaneously subdividing into subsidiary forms in groups or single, as the main function itself flows into varied phases, each seeking expression in appropriate correlated forms, each and all bearing evidence of one controlling mind, of one hand moulding materials like a master craftsman.
The dispositions throughout the entire building are so so dexterously interwoven that the structure as a whole becomes a humanized fabric, in any part of which one feels the all-pervading sense of continuity, and of intimate relationships near and far.
In this especial sense the structure, carrying the thought, is unique among hotel buildings throughout the world. Japan is to be felicitated that its superior judgment in the selection of an architect of masterly qualifications, of such nature as to welcome new problems of time and place, has been justified.
The longer the contemplation of this work is continued, the more intense becomes the conviction that this Master of Ideas has not only performed a service of distinction, but, far and above this, has presented to the people of Japan, as a freewill offering, a great gift which shall endure for all generations to come as a world exemplar, most beautiful and inspiring, of which Japan may well be proud among the nations as treasuring it in sole possession.
The Imperial Hotel stands unique as the high water mark thus far attained by any modern architect. Superbly beautiful it stands – a noble prophecy.
The Imperial Hotel went down in 1968. Here is its replacement.
Progress is inevitable and it is certainly not always bad, but there are times when progress, no matter the immediate profit it may generate, must be halted in the face of sheer genius. Is the world better off today because this run down old building was replaced by a much bigger, more efficient high rise?
For a great blog post on the Imperial Hotel’s history (with more photos) check out Todd Larson’s excellent Architalk post here.