Kenzo Tange's Yoyogi National Gymnasium was originally built for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. The building still stands today as a symbol of progress. It was built at a time of great transition for Japan as it bounced back from the devastation of WWII. The fact that it’s still being used today is a testament to the design quality, and imagination of Tange.
The building combines modernism, and traditional Japanese design springing from Shinto shrine architecture. This combination is most evident in its grand swooping roof reminiscent of the hundreds of temples across Japan. Of course, the roof is not built using traditional methods. Instead, Tange invented a structure that mocks a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. The weight of the roof is held up with cables that are tied to two anchors on the ground at opposing ends of the building.
Tange was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Palais of the Soviets; a design that was never built, but nonetheless had a lasting impression on Tange. One component of Palais of the Soviets that stuck with Tange was a roof held up not by the structure of a building below, but by an arch that had cables going from the arch to the roof below it.
Originally, the building showcased swimming at the 1964 Summer Olympics. The good news for Yoyogi National Gymnasium is that it will be used again during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the handball competition, a slightly less popular sport than swimming.