The Story Behind the Iconic Design of The Park Hyatt Tokyo
Bathed in soothing sea foam green carpets and low lighting, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is a masterpiece of design.
“We’re trying to make people feel at peace,” Paul Tange, who helped his father, architect Kenzō Tange, design the Park Hyatt Tokyo, said during an informal talk earlier this month on the building of the hotel.
The former general manager of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, Philippe Roux-Dessarps, who is now Vice President of the Global Brands for the hotel group, echoed the sentiment earlier in the week when asked why the hotel still gives out room keys to guests, instead of the now more commonly used electronic cards.
“We want people to feel like they’re coming home,” he said.
That relaxed atmosphere is actually a carefully curated experience created by Tange and the hotel’s interior designer, John Morford. Morford was the hotel’s only designer, meaning he had control over every aspect of the hotel’s aesthetic, down to the books that are housed in the hotel’s library and in several of the suites.
Morford considered the way the books were arranged in the library as a work of art. After guests check them out, careful attention is paid to returning the books to their original position. Roux-Dessarps joked that Morford would have to be consulted before even a page were turned in one of the carefully laid out books. In the suites themselves the choice of reading material revolves around a theme. In the Presidential Suite every book is about gardening. In the Tokyo Suite, named after the iconic Japanese film Tokyo Story, directed by Yasujiro Ozu, more than 1,000 books on entertainment are precisely arranged throughout the rooms.
For Tange, one of the design aspects of the Park Hyatt that makes him proudest is the roof, which forms a kind of optical illusion. From certain angles, it looks as though it’s topped by just one triangular peak; in reality, it’s set with two of these glass peaks. Tange calls the design choice “iconic,” because the sun hits each one at a different direction depending on the time of day.
Tange is carrying one of Japan’s most iconic architectural legacies: His father, Kenzō Tange, also designed the gymnasium and swimming pool used during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which can be seen from the lobby the Park Hyatt. Tange will now design the new aquatic center for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
He’s even involved in a friendly competition with one his father’s most stand-out creations: Originally, the Park Hyatt Tokyo – which started out as a mall with offices housed on higher floors – was designed to be taller Tokyo’s city hall, but under city regulations, no building can be taller than those run by the government. Tange challenged the government on the rule, but the hotel still ended up 237 meters tall compared to city hall’s 254 meters.
Tange recalls arguing passionately with Morford over the design of the hotel. Because Morford wasn’t Japanese, Tange didn’t want to listen to his ideas—he thought Morford couldn’t possibly understand what Japanese people would want from their hotel. But eventually he softened. That “different perception of Tokyo,” Tange eventually conceded, is itself Japanese as well.
The result is what Tange calls a “synergy” between designer and architect, a “modern” space that has a “welcoming feeling,” he explained. “We want to make everyone’s life better.”