This was the Future, Vol.37

typed for your pleasure on 5 May 2009, at 12.53 am

Sdtrk: ‘Three piece suit’ by Trinity

I have a friend named Jeff Lilly, aka Wolfgang — he used to live in Michigan but is now a schoolteacher in Japan — and he and I would get into friendly debates now and again as to the use or abuse of concrete in architecture, as well as the whole Bauhaus ethic of austerity. I’d champion austerity, saying that the vision of how the future was supposed to look was quaint and cool, like in ‘Rollerball’ and ‘THX 1138’, and WG would respond that living in those kind of buildings would turn society into the kinds of people you’d see in ‘Rollerball’ and ‘THX 1138’.
He would utterly despise this building.

The Kyoto International Conference Center, or ICC Kyoto for short, was designed by Sachio Otani, and opened in 1966, which explains why it looks like it belongs in an episode of Ultraseven. And that’s pretty much all I can tell you about it. For one, it’s a conference hall, so the history isn’t tremendously interesting, and any information deeper than surface level is all in Japanese. In fact, through my Inter Net scourings, I’ve only been able to locate one photo of the interior that wasn’t like the huge conference hall, and it was taken by an ‘amateur’ photographer:

photo by

Dig that hallway! Isn’t that fantastic??
Like I said, WG would punch this building if he could, but me, I love it. Looking at the outside from certain angles, the architecture suggests a Brutalist’s take on feudal Japanese castles, what with the projecting balconies and the use of criss-crossing lines. Perhaps that’s what Otani was aiming for when he designed it?
UPDATE (28 May): Just found a fantastic amount of fantastic photos of the place on Flickr, both interior and exterior, by Caspar B. Check them out!

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

mein letzter Freitag / Another Space-age Bachelor Pad on January 20th, 2005

Message in an (architectural) bottle on July 9th, 2007

14 have spoken to “This was the Future, Vol.37”

  1. Laura writes:

    That hallway looks like the interior of the Death Star.

  2. Davecat writes:

    Perhaps they were both designed by the same contracting firm? *insert ‘Clerks’ reference here*

    Maybe you’ll know the answer to this, Star Wars Lady: What exactly was the deal with the Death Star interior having all those walkways with no railings that were miles above the floor, or those holes in the hangar floors? Does the Empire want to get sued for potential on-the-job injuries? Cos one call to OSHA, and that whole rinky-dink operation gets shut down faster than you can say Chewbacca, if you know what I’m sayin’.

  3. Laura writes:

    I dare you to try to file unemployment on Vader. That is if you live through the firing process.

  4. Everhard writes:

    Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House sheds light on the import of post-WWII German ‘worker housing’ to the USA for no apparent good reason. (I mention this so I at least appear to have interests other than dolls and hang gliding, but it was a boring book. Unlike The Right Stuff…)

  5. Davecat writes:

    Laura-chan –
    I think, at this stage in the game, I’d rather work for the Empire. Not only do they have snappy uniforms, at least you know exactly where you stand when you’re employed with them…

    Everhard –
    Interests in things other than Dolls and hang-gliding? Surely you jest, sir!
    Nothing wrong with being focussed on a handful of specific interests! Take it from me! *gestures towards ‘Shouting etc etc’*

    I might have to check out Mr Wolfe’s book. There’s a void in my knowledge of the Bauhaus aesthetic; I know about it, but I don’t know enough about it. Unless it’s indeed as boring as you say; in which case, I’ll simply peer at the Internet for more facts!…

  6. safetinspector writes:

    Looks a bit like the spaceports from Wall-E on the outside.

    Or a portion of the Thunderbird campus from that series of puppet college movies from the late sixties. Flying libraries and dormitories, lovertly dream sequences with hep orbital night clubs, etc.

  7. Davecat writes:

    Now that you mention it, ICC Kyoto does look a bit like a more extravagant Spectrum Cloudbase, from ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’.
    Why am I not watching some Captain Scarlet eps right this very minute??

  8. Tim writes:

    I’ve been to the conference center, and I can’t remember why. It was pretty forgettable, obviously. There’s so much ugly architecture in Japan that I never noticed its ugliness. I do remember it being inconveniently located upriver from downtown.

    Have you done a post like this on Montreal’s Olympic Stadium?

  9. Tim writes:

    Also, have you seen the so-called “gunkan” (warship) building in Tokyo? It’s still standing, but apparently abandoned or in some state of legal limbo.

  10. Davecat writes:

    Hey! HEY! Don’t you slander ICC Kyoto! That building’s held many conferences over the years! How many have you held?? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    As the Montreal Olympic Stadium is very Logan’s Run-esque, I might well have to detail it in a future volume…
    And HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT FOR THAT NEW SKY BULDING NO.3. I MUST HAVE IT. It’s like a building that Gerry Anderson designed for George Orwell!

  11. Wolfgang writes:

    First of all, thank you for your reporting of my argument… it was more articulate, distinct, and downright cool than I remember doing myself!
    Second, I don’t REALLY hate this building… I just think it’s odd. I’ve been inside it, incidentally, though it was close to ten years ago now and I really don’t remember too much of it… I will say, however, that it looks cooler at night, where it resembles nothing so much as an interstellar troop ship or other harbinger of imminent alien invasion.
    Third, I have nothing against Bauhaus… really. Bauhaus would never have allowed cheap materials or, say, shoddy aluminum window frames (shudder) and other neo-Stalinist crap that the pretenders tacked on later in an attempt to save a buck or three.

  12. Davecat writes:

    It’s Wolfgang, ladies and gentlémen! *applause*
    As far as my recollection of our debates, I simply distilled their essence and wrote it down. Although I remember you managed to bring Lafayette Towers to tears. Both towers!

    Re.the Bauhaus school: part of the problem of being a trendsetter are all the people jumping on your bandwagon after the fact. The other part of the problem are people who don’t know any better associating the bandwagon-jumpers with the bonafide trendsetters. In short, I need to study up more on the architecture that I love, in order to be able to spot the genuine articles from the rubbish…

    And I can imagine ICC Kyoto being a hell of a thing to see, illuminated in the darkness of the evening. You should grab some photos if you can!

  13. Gowan writes:

    I just thought I’d mention that the ICC Kyoto has appeared in at least two films (probably more): Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza, from 1975, with Robert Mitchum, and Frankenheimer’s The Challenge with Scott Glenn and Toshiro Mifune, made in 1982. The final showdown in the latter film was actually set in and around the ICC. I think you can find a clip on youtube. And yes, lit up at night, it looks like it’s going to lift off any moment for an interstellar mission.

  14. Davecat writes:

    See, Gowan; with your comment, you’ve proven that even if the building isn’t exactly the most beautiful one taking up a bit of acreage, it’s at the very least distinctive enough to warrant its use in the film industry. ‘Hey! Check out that unusual-looking structure! Let’s write a script around it.’
    It turns out that ICC Kyoto actually did appear in an episode of the original Ultraseven series! Of course I can’t recall which one off the top of my head, but I’d seen a clip from an episode on YouTube recently. I think he fought King Joe in front of it? Gods, I can’t remember.

    Now I’m going to have to hunt down ‘The Yakuza’ and ‘The Challenge!’ Thanks for posting, sir! 🙂

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