Born : August 8th, 1952 in Yokohama
Kuma is one of the most popular architects in Japan now as he will be designing the main stadium for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
He likes to use wood that will blend in with the surroundings; it is also the main theme behind the new stadium which will be built on the outer area of Meiji Shrine.
However his earlier works were much different. The M2, originally built as a showroom for Mazda featured a post-modern design. It received so much criticism that he had to work in more rural areas for about ten years before he got another project in Tokyo.
Works that can be seen in Tokyo:
M2 (1991, above photo) is now operating as a funeral house after the original owner Mazda sold the building in 2002. The appearance has stayed mostly the same with the new ownership, though visits to the inside is now difficult.
Location: 2-4-27 Kinuta, Setagaya-ku
Access: About 10 minutes walk from Chitose Funabashi Station on the Odakyu Line
The Haruki Murakami Library (renovation, 2021)
Kuma was brought to renovate a dull looking classroom within the Waseda University campus into a library dedicated one of its famous graduates, Haruki Murakami. Another Waseda graduate, Tadashi Yanai (Head of UNIQLO) covered the cost for this project.
Public Toilet, Shibuya (2021)
Kuma is one of the many top-name architects participating in the "Tokyo Toilet Project" and he was in charge of the loo at Nabeshima Shoto Park.
Near the Shoto Museum of Art, this is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the entire city.
Takanawa Gateway Station (2020)
The latest work by Kuma is a rail station for JR East, in the area north of Shinagawa.
The abundance of glass panels allow the light to reach the platforms (the opening on the street level should allow the wind to blow through, hopefully keeping the station cool in the summer months, but we will see...) and the high roof really gives the place an open feeling that is rare for a Japanese rail station.
Part of the "Global Gateway Shinagawa" project, new offices, hotels and a convention hall will be completed around the station by 2024.
Originally Zaha Hadid was in charge of the design, but her plan was scrapped due to cost concerns. Kuma got the call for a more reasonable, sustainable design, but the new stadium still comes at a cost of 150 billion yen, three times the cost of the London Olympic Stadium.
Plans to convert it to a soccer stadium after Tokyo 2020 has been meet with fierce opposition from local track & field officials, so its long-term plan is uncertain at the moment.
This Zen temple is in the Shirokanedai neighborhood of central Tokyo, one of the most expensive areas in the city. The U-shaped buildings that Kuma designed houses the offices and living quarters of the priests.
Visits of the exterior possible between 9am-5pm, opposite the street of the No. 2 Exit of the Shirokanedai Station.
Location: 3-21-19 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku
Sunny Hills (2013)
Retail space for a Taiwan pineapple cake brand, the building is said to resemble a fruit basket. Technique usually found in traditional furniture is used in the structure.
It's in the Omotesando area not far from the Prada, but on a backstreet and a bit tough to find at first.
Location: 3-10-20 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku
Kabukiza Theater （renewal, 2013）
Directly connected with Higashi Ginza Station on Hibiya and Asakusa Lines.
Much of the looks from the former building on the same site was retained. However there is also a 28-story building attached behind that has certainly changed the skyline of the area. For about 25 days a month, there is a Kabuki act regularly played here and you can watch a single act for as little as 1,000 JPY.
Nezu Museum (renewal, 2009)
Also in the Omotesando area, this art museum featuring a private collection also has a Japanese garden inside. Exhibits are held a few times a year with opening hours from 10am-5pm. It is closed on most Mondays.
Doric Building (1991)
Along with the M2, this is another example of the earlier post-modern styles that Kuma preferred.
It's on the busy Gaien Nishi street, closest to the Gaienmae Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.
Location: Minami aoyama 2-27-11, Minato-ku
Takaosanguchi Station (2015)
The station is at the foot of the 599m Mount Takao, a popular retreat for locals but also an area of deep spiritual meaning for residents in the past. It is the final stop on the private Keio Line, about 45 minutes west of Shinjuku.
ONE Omotesando (2003)
Standing close to the Omotesando intersection, this work is somewhat overshadowed by the other famous projects in the area.
We notice a similarity in design with the FRAC Marseilles on the open space on the fifth floor. The LVMH Group has their Japan office on this building. Location: 3-5-29 Kita Aoyama Minato-ku
Works outside of Tokyo:
Stone Museum, Tochigi Prefecture (2000)
Kuma is known for the use of wood, but here he connected old warehouses with newly-built galleries using thinly cut local Ashino stone. Such a technique had never been used before for buildings, and it took a full four years to complete the facility. In place of windows, there are numerous small openings on the stone walls.
The museum is about a 15 minute drive from the JR Kurodahara Station. It is possible to visit as a day trip from Tokyo, however public transportation is very limited in this area. Admirers of Kuma's works with certainly find it worth the extra miles to this quiet town in northern Tochigi Prefecture.
Location: 2717-5 Ashino-nakamachi, Nasu Town, Tochigi Prefecture
Kadokawa Musashino Museum, Saitama (2020)
Following the V&A Dundee, Kuma has designed another museum using stone.
The museum/library for major publisher Kadokawa is 30 meters high (5 stories) an uses 20,000 pieces of granite, each weighing 50-70 kgs.
Part of the Tokorozawa Sakuratown project, once all completed the site will feature the HQ of Kadokawa plus many shops, restaurants and a hotel themed on anime as Kadokawa has a major presence in this genre.
The facility is about 10 minutes north of the Higashi Tokorozawa Station on the JR Musashino Line, which runs a semi-circular route through the northern suburbs of Tokyo.
Location: 3-31-3 Higashitokorozawa Wada, Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture 359-0023
Starbucks, Dazaifu (2010)
In Fukuoka Prefecture near the Dazaifu Tenjin Shrine, this seems to be a project that later developed into the plans for the structure seen in the Sunny Hills building.
FRAC Marseille (2013)
Kuma has done many projects outside Japan, mainly in China but also a few in Europe.
This contemporary arts center sits on a triangular site, similar to the layout of the Doric Building in Aoyama.