“Tokyo Review 021” Nihombashi area-5
Nihombashi Mitsui Tower: compatibleness of cultural heritage preservation and redevelopment
Let’s turn our eyes to the finance and business functions in the Nihombashi area. In 1896, the headquarter of the Bank of Japan was built on the former site of Kinza (place where gold coin casting, appraisal, inspection was done) in Nihombashi Hongoku-cho. It was designed by the Architect Tatsuno Kingo with reference to the National Bank of Belgium and designated as an important cultural property of the country in 1974. It has the Neo-Baroque style body with Renaissance style walls, and above the front entrance are two male lions roaring, each of them standing with their rear legs upon six cash boxes, holding the bronze coat of arms with the logo mark.
Nomura Securities head office (Nihombashi Nomura Building) was built beside the Nihombashi Bridge in 1930, at the number 1 plot in Nihombashi 1-chome of that time. Although it is following the three-layer structure, it eliminates the pillar shapes, incorporates the oriental essence, and it demonstrates a different appearance in existing pre-war architecture. Thereafter, the Tokyo Stock Exchange was established in 1949, banks, securities companies, insurance companies, and etc. built their headquarter buildings around the area one after another.
Among them, the Mitsui Main Building built in 1929 is a full-fledged office building that adopts the American-Beaux-art neoclassical style in which uses Italian marble for interiors and Ibaragi granite for exteriors, with the Corinthian order column pillar of the outer wall and the Doric order columns around the atrium which can be nominated as the most representative office building in Nihombashi. It has 7 floors with 2 basements, and a general floor area with 31,660 m2. The building was constructed after the demolition of the former “main building” of steel frame, and it is said to be strong enough to endure earthquakes twice as large as the Kanto Great Earthquake, aiming to become the symbol of Nihombashi area restoration.
Nihombashi Mitsui Tower was built in 2005 on this site where the Mitsui Main Building and Mitsui Nigoukan (annex) existed. However, since all of the buildings were within the absolute height limit of 31m, they were not making full use of the allowed “floor area ratio”. On that site, the skyscraper with 39 storeys and 195m in height was built. The upper part of the building is the highest-grade rental offices, and “Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo” is located from the 30th to 38th floor. “Sembikiya flagship store” is on the 1st floor and other shops, hotel banquet halls and hotel restaurants are in the podium. On 7th floor of the preserved building is the Mitsui Memorial Art Museum.
Looking at the website of Mitsui Fudosan and other sources, we can understand the process of the development as follows:
・ Mitsui Fudosan have fully appreciated the value of this building when the cultural agency asked for designation of important cultural property of “Mitsui Main Building.” At the same time, they have found the importance of the redevelopment of the site with the theme of revitalizing Nihombashi Area;
・ they were plagued whether “preservation” and “development” could be compatible or not;
・ From this situation, based on a logic to protect the cultural property which is also the common wealth of the citizens and serve it is as significant as having the public open space in the site, a system called the “Specified District Special Type for Cultural Property ” was established, and this project became the first application.
It should have not been easy to design and construct a complex that combines the state-of-the-art office functions and luxury hotel functions with the historical building as an integrated space. On the ceiling of the atrium, the stained glass of the former “Mitsui Nigoukan (Annex)” had been repaired and relocated. In the plaza that was set up as a space to appreciate the “main building”, a “historical wall” had been installed in Corinth style column pillars, expressed by 25 meters high glass etchings. The contribution to the establishment of a system greatly expanding the possibilities of preservation of famous building and revitalization of the district has been appreciated. The series of activities surrounding this project was honored with the achievement prize in the “Architectural Institution of Japan Award”.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo had got the world’s first “six star” honor. There is a main ballroom at the banquet hall on the 3rd floor of Nihombashi Mitsui Tower, and it is connected to the Mitsui Main Building by a bridge, and four banquet halls are also installed here. It is worth trying to hold a party such as a wedding reception in the magnificent space with a front chamber in a part of the building in the early Showa era, isn’t it?