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Passing Down Culture through Architecture:Tsuyoshi Tane's Creations that Interact with the Memory

Tsuyoshi Tane is a Japanese architect who heads the Paris-based, international team, ATTA – Atelier Tsuyoshi Tane Architects. ATTA carries out research into the “memories” attached to a place, and based on what they uncover, they design lasting architecture to carry us into the future. Tane has won numerous awards, such as Le Grand Prix AFEX for French architecture overseas in 2021 for the red-brick Hirosaki Museum of Contemporary Art in 2020. His other projects, including the Estonian National Museum, Todoroki House in Valley and “LIGHT is TIME” demonstrate his distinctive vision. Here, Tane shares his thoughts on the role of architecture as an element of culture.

Tsuyoshi Tane

Meeting People and Place, Widening Values

When Tane was little, he had a quiet personality, but he loved sports, playing football whenever he had the chance.

“Rather than winning the game,” he recalls, “I was more interested in forming a good team. In football, each team member must pay close attention to each other while constantly moving on the field, and it’s important to be able to bring out the best in your fellow members. It’s a totally different ball game from my current work, but there’s a lot I learned from it that’s still useful for what I do now.”

In senior high school, he was on the youth team and aspired to be a professional football player, but he had to change course due to an injury. In 1998, he entered Hokkaido Tokai University’s School of Art and Technology, Department of Architecture. As an undergraduate, he went on a study abroad programme to Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. After graduating, he was a visiting researcher for one years at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Denmark. He then worked at architecture offices in Denmark and in the UK.

Through meeting international students from all over the world and learning about their cultures, he felt his own worldview and values expand.

The turning point came when he was twenty-six years old. In 2006, he won an international competition to propose a design for the Estonian National Museum, which he entered it with two fellow architects. Their concept was praised for utilizing the airstrip of a former Soviet military base: a building that will pass down the national memory of Estonian people. Taking this opportunity, they established DGT (DORELL.GHOTMEH.TANE / ARCHITECTS) and started their activities based in Paris, France.

Tane values encounters with people, and he collaborates with world-leading creators. One of those collaborations is with Kei Kobayashi, the first Japanese chef to win three Michelin stars in France, to redesign the interior of Restaurant Kei. Kobayashi’s restaurant is in a historical building in the Empire style of Paris. The idea was to redecorate the interior to create a space that will complement the world of Kobayashi’s artistic, refined cuisine. Using crystals and marble, Tane created a light-flooded space, “La galerie des glaces: the hall of mirrors.”

“For ATTA, it was the first time we built something for a three-star level restaurant,” says Tane. “Since spaces in the French classical style are decreasing, even in France, we incorporated features resembling the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles as one way of symbolising high-quality status.”

“I’d like to do good work with people I can trust and respect,” says Tane. This seems to be his guiding principle for creating unique architecture with a strong team.

Estonia National Museum © Propapanda / image courtesy of DGT.

“Place, memory, time, and space are inseparable”

As the internationalization of construction industry emerged with the modernisation of the twentieth century, the culture of architecture—meant to create an environment that supports the lives of ordinary people—turned into a system of industrial production.

“Industrial production offers its services to encourage more and more consumption,” says Tane. “All architecture need space to be built. That order shouldn’t get reversed. But now, economy and efficiency are often prioritised.”

He believes that this tendency is especially evident in Japan.

“When they see that the value of a building has gone down with the passage of time, they decide to tear it down. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking. There are so many buildings that become more valuable as time goes on. Once you destroy them, the culture and the civilization attached to that particular place is lost, and then forgotten. Place, memory, time, and space are inseparable. It is critical that we consider just how important it is to preserve the cultural architecture of a place: to preserve the memory of the land and to keep cultivating it.”

From early in his career, Tane’s work has been concerned with “memory of place.” His thinking on this theme has deepened over time, and he continues to explore the role of the architect in society.

Archaeological Research © Atelier Tsuyoshi Tane Architects

“We have the most profound trust for memories of place”

Tane describes his process: “We excavate the essential memories from a place through research with an archaeological approach. Based on what we find, we build the design, incorporating some experimental aspects. Every place has memories—an accumulation of the wisdom of humanity—and I want to preserve that for the future.” With “Archaeology of the Future” as their manifesto, ATTA is making progress with multiple projects that create architecture rooted in the memory of place.

For their latest project, ATTA designed a new museum space for the Al Thani Collection inside the Hotel de la Marine, an iconic structure located on Place de la Concorde in Paris, built by Louis XV in the eighteenth century to house the royal collection of furnishings. The new museum opened to the public on 18th November. As an architect of the new era, Tane continues to stride forward in his endeavours to connect distant memories of the past with the future.

“We want to discover memories from a place. If the place remembers for us, its culture can be passed down across generations and eras. I believe architecture has the power to make that happen.”

Tane is constantly exploring the role and purpose of architecture in society. Always receptive, listening to what the land has to tell him, his creations emit a fierce individuality, with a compelling message to shape the future.

Hirosaki Museum of Contemporary Art © Daici Ano

The Al Thani Collection museum space ©Takuji Shimmura


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