The National Museum of
Western Art, Tokyo 7-7, Ueno-Koen
Le Corbusier with Kunio Maekawa,
Junzo Sakakura and Takamasa Yoshizaka 1959 (extension Kunio Maekawa 1979)
The National Museum of Western
Art, one of three museums designed by Le Corbusier according to his
prototype for a 'museum of unlimited growth', was originally established
to house and to display the Matsukata Collection. Kojiro Matsukata,
once-president of the Kawasaki Shipbuilding Company, collected a large
number of paintings, sculpture and prints during his travels to the west.
The financial crisis of 1927 led to the sale of his art collection; after
World War II many of the works became the property of the French
government, which returned them to Japan in 1959.
Located within the woods of Ueno
Park, the museum is approached through a landscaped plaza. Its blank
textured facade of green pebbles set in concrete panels is suspended on
pilotis. The horizontal rhythm of the facade is interrupted only by a
large window with a projecting concrete balcony and stair.
The organization of the building
is based on a spiral within a square. An upper level of galleries wraps
around a central double-height court, penetrating it with balconies at
several locations. A ramp within the skylit central court winds its way to
the upper gallery level. In addition a pinwheel pattern of circulation
along linear paths leads to the exit stairs.
The museum, begun by Le
Corbusier was later completed by his students. In 1979 a new wing was
added to the Main Building creating another central courtyard between it
and the existing Main Building, this courtyard open to the exterior.
Further construction to the museum was completed in 1997 with a
below-grade addition of the Special Exhibition Wing containing galleries
for temporary exhibitions and an auditorium. Along with the construction
of the Special Exhibition Wing the Main Building was renovated and made
earthquake-resistant without changing its original design, through the
fitting of earthquake shock absorbing devices to its foundations.
Kari Silloway 2004
How to visit
The museum is a two-minute walk
from JR Ueno station (Park exit), seven-minute walk from Keisei Ueno
station or eight-minute walk from Ueno station of Ginza or Hibiya subway
It is open 9:30am-5pm
Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and 9:30am-8pm Friday. Last admission
is 30 minutes before closing time.
It is closed Mondays and
December 28-January 4.
Free days for Museum collection:
The second and the fourth Saturday of each month and November 3.