Where is this place?: Statue of Josiah Condor

The Statue of Josiah Conder today stands in the tranquil campus of the Faculty of Engineering, the University of Tokyo and seems to have been a part of this landscape since the beginning. Situated off center of this garden area and facing south with the Faculty of Engineering Building 1 at his back, this full-length monument does not intimidate or inspire awe from the passers-by but creates an atmosphere of intimacy. Sometimes people picnic in the lawn around the statue.

Originally from Great Britain, Conder (1852-1920) was hired by the Meiji government at the age of 25 and became a popular designer of both government and private buildings. His works include Rokumeikan (taken down in 1940 for more efficient use of the land), the old building of The Tokyo National Museum (damaged in the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake), and Kyu-Iwasaki-tei (the previous mansion of the Mitsubishi Family) in Yushima. He studied under Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), an ukiyo-e artist and cultivated the new generation of Japanese architects including Tatsuno Kingo (1854-1919) and Katayama Tokuma (1854-1917) as a teacher at Kobudaigakou, the predecessor of the Faculty of Engineering, the University of Tokyo.

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Statue of Josiah Condor

This statue, produced two years after Condor’s death, was designed by Ito Chuta (1867-1954), an architect and architecture historian, and sculpted by Shinkai Taketaro (1868-1927). Ito had no particular connection with Condor, however, he was a student of Tatsuno Kingo. This lineage again demonstrates the significance of Condor in the history of modern Japanese architecture.

Portrait of Josiah Condor by Shirataki Ikunosuke, 1920, Collection of The Department of Architecture, The Faculty of Engineering, The University of Tokyo., http://www.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publish_db/1998Portrait/03/image/029.jpg, accessed June 3 2014.

Portrait of Josiah Condor by Shirataki Ikunosuke, 1920, Collection of The Department of Architecture, The Faculty of Engineering, The University of Tokyo., http://www.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publish_db/1998Portrait/03/image/029.jpg, accessed June 3 2014.

Not unlike the portrait painting by Shirataki Ikunosuke (1873-1960), this statue also reflects the designers’ own interpretation and artistic expression. Famous for his fondness of monstrous creature motif, which can be seen in Tsukiji Hongan-ji Temple, Ito designed a pedestal flanked by two crawling monstrous figures. The two monsters symbolize earthquake and thus commemorate Condor’s contribution to earthquake-resistant construction. They may also remind people of the ghosts in Kawanabe Kyosai’ ukiyoe.

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Details of the pedestal of the Condor Statue

The Faculty of Engineering Building 1 that serves as the background of the statue was built on the old site of the Main Building of Kobudaigakou designed Tatsuno Kingo. The old building was damaged in the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and replaced by today Uchida Yoshikazu’s (1885-1972) design. Uchida was also a student and later a teacher at this faculty. Standing there for more than nine decades and warmly lit up during the evening, Condor seems to continue watching over the students and the development of Japanese architecture. Next article will focus on the open space surrounding the statue.

作成者  | 2014-09-16 (火)
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