Tower of Silence
project name : Tower of Silence
location : Tokyo, Japan
year of design: 1990
client: Toyota Motor Corp.
architect: George Ranalli
associates: Robert Silman Structural Engineer
design team: John Butterworth, John Pagnotta, David Jon Rush
photographer: Model Photos: George Ranalli
In 1989, the Toyota Motor Corporation commissioned Tower Of Silence, an architectural study to stimulate the development of corporate philanthropy in the arts. The program did not assign any special function to the monument except that it symbolize the company in its form, potential use, and material. The resulting design, Tower of Silence, is intended to stand in the multi-story atrium for a new Tokyo corporate headquarters. It addresses to people visiting the building, and moving throughout the six floors of automobile showrooms, surrounding the atrium.
The design proposes a contemplative environment within the lobby space: an enigmatic composition of panels, some folded outward like awnings at the bottom and others outlining niches, porches, and stairs, as well as a spherical concert hall for small audiences, all projected from the object’s façade and emphasizing the human scale.
Tower of Silence offers a respite from the activity of the busy showrooms and atrium. The tower can be entered at various levels in order to accommodate people on each floor. People move on bridges across the void of the atrium and into the interior of the tower. Once inside, an individual may roam throughout a series of chambers, which protrude beyond the skin of the structure, or sit in privacy, looking out upon the city beyond. Small groups may gather for collective activity, including karaoke, in the spherical theater, situated at the middle of the structure.
Tower of Silence is supported by a series of paired steel columns, with horizontal supports. At various levels, the tower is covered with sheets of white 2000X material, by the Formica Corporation, cut and mounted to the frame with small horizontal steel elements that extend through the skin. Vertical ribs of 2000X add stiffness. The spherical shape is cast from liquid, in a formwork provided by Formica.
The project offers a multinational corporation an architectural case study on solitude and human interaction through which to explore the arts, philanthropy, and individual creative expression. Tower Of Silence investigates the complex notions of accessibility and contemplation as central components of creative spontaneity. Tower of Silence also examines interrelatational functions, which encourage autonomy and human relations. The project, expressing positive relationships between its inhabitants and product manufacturers, stands as a symbol of the Toyota Company, and of the people who occupy the tower. As an inhabited monument, Tower of Silence metaphorically belongs to the people who use it. Finally, as a construction, it fuses structure, form, program, and material into a synthesis of beautiful public space.