November 12, 2008

A Taste of Gaudi in Waseda

With its 125-year history, the Waseda University campus is a careful balance of old, storied buildings and new constructions. The surrounding area, with its Shinto shrine, fast-food chains, and used bookshops similarly balances the traditional with the modern. While quietly charming and ideal for students, it is hardly the greatest source of style and creativity in Tokyo.
Walk a few minutes away from Okuma Auditorium (named after the university's founder) in the opposite direction of the school, and you might be tempted to reconsider this last statement. What was once the headquarters of the student Marxist movement of the 1960s has given way to a confection not unlike a gingerbread house--with surreal touches.

(Tiles, ceramics, and stones decorate the outer wall)

Wholly unexpected and endlessly intricate, the Dorado Waseda is the masterwork or architect Von Jour Caux. Born Toshiro Tanaka in 1934, the graduate of Waseda's Architecture department is understandably and justifiably referred to as "Japan's Gaudi". Dorado Waseda, which was built in 1983 is informally referred to as "that Gaudi building" among students.

Surprisingly, the building is advertised in real estate ads as a residential building. (Yours if you can shell out 170,000 yen, or 1,737 US dollars in our current economy.) Considering the rooms do not come equipped with a shower or a bathroom, in reality they are most likely used as offices. Throughout the years, the most visible first floor has been used for a hair salon, and later, a barbershop.
If the building at first glance seems inscrutable, extended viewings only increase its mystique. Students rushing past the Dorado on their way to class either take one glance and look away, as if they don't want to wonder why its there, or betray their surprise by letting their eyes bug out. The more adventurous (and less busy) venture inside, and are most likely delighted by the giant beckoning hand, right next to the mail boxes on the first floor.

(The ceiling of the first floor)

My most fervent wish is to see the other floors, and inside the rooms. I almost had my chance once. Hovering below the windows, I was trying to peek inside, when a woman stuck her head right out and asked, "Are you Kana-san?" Imagine what I could have seen if I had just said yes!


AKandKO said...

I saw this building today for the first time, and I Googled "Gaudi building in Waseda". I'm happy to find your post on it and the other Von Jour Caux buildings. What a dude. I wish I had had him design my house! How interesting his works are. Thank you for documenting his works around Tokyo.

Sachiko Shiota said...

Thank you! A friend of mine actually moved into one of his buildings, so I was recently able to see it from the inside as well. It's great how he makes affordable housing that is also fun and stylish.

Bruce Barnett said...

Hi Sachiko. I’m reading your blog before setting out tomorrow to find a couple of the buildings you’ve written about. I hope they haven’t been pulled down in the 3 years since you posted. This Tokyo architect does remind me a little of work by that Vienna architect you mentioned, some of who’s work I recently saw in NZ.
From Sydney