The culturally unique blend of futurism and traditionalism in Japanese design is something that has transfixed the west for centuries. David Keyte, co founder of Universal Works, has been hooked on this since his first visit to Japan in 1992. With the Olympics now underway, we thought it might be a good time to share some candid snapshots of his time spent in Japan starting with a look at his favorite building: the iconic Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium – which was used for the 1964 Olympic Games. He makes an effort to visit the stadium each time he’s in Japan, so you could say, he’s a bit of a ‘superfan’. Here, he talks us through why it’s one of his favourites.
“I’ve always been interested in contemporary architecture – I just like modern things, I guess. There’s something about the way of recognising the past, while striving to be in the present and stay relevant in the moment. This is the way that I think about design in general and at UW, we approach the design process by being aware of reference points in history, but engineering clothing for the way we live now. When it comes to buildings, one of the greatest examples of this philosophy for me, was the stadium built for the 1954 World Wrestling Championships in Japan, which then became the main venue for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It looks SO Japanese. It totally understands its references in history and culture but was built at the height of modernity in mid-century Japan. It’s an incredible building – it’s a piece of art really.”
“Everything about my first trip to Japan was new and exciting, as well as a total culture shock. I did all the tourist spots of course, and I remember being in a taxi, driving past this amazing and incredible building. I was looking out of the window thinking, ‘wow – what the hell is that? And how the hell is it a gym?!’. It was just sitting there, like some Shogun spaceship in central Shibuya. I was hooked and I’ve loved it ever since.”