Maki's Hillside Terrace
by Fumihiko Maki
The Hillside Terrace project, a medium-density mixed-use development of apartments, shops, restaurants, and cultural facilities, took exactly 25 years from the first plans I drew in 1967 to the completion of its sixth phase in 1992. Although I have designed buildings and complexes far greater in physical scale over the past several decades, no other project has occupied my thoughts so continuously over time as Hillside Terrace has.
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The flow of time can be measured against its diverse buildings and their relationship to the city of Tokyo as it grew to envelop them. Changes in the project's architectural character, materiality, and expression from phase to phase also reflect shifts in my own consciousness with the passage of time.
The opportunity to design Hillside Terrace — a commission I received almost immediately after setting up my architectural practice in Tokyo — was my first chance to confront the idea of modern architecture engaging, even creating, its urban context.
Though I was unaware of it at that time, the project would bring me a deeper understanding of the "collective form" phenomenon that had fascinated me in my early years of architectural study, strengthening the notion that architecture and cities share a distinct relationship to time.
In the mid-1960s, the Daikanyama district still retained traces of the wooded hills for which the greater Musashino region was once known. After each rain, the air was heavily laden with earthy scents. Zelkova trees rose high over the low townscape. Downtown Tokyo, though geographically close, was still perceived as a distant place.
It was in this context that my clients, the Asakura family, who for many generations had owned a 250-meter- (850-foot-) long strip of land along Daikanyama's main road, asked me to design a number of apartments and shops to be built in separate phases. I was still in my late thirties when I started on Hillside Terrace, and I felt quite fortunate to be given the opportunity to design several buildings on a single site at that age.
I realized that in designing a group of buildings, I could also generate exterior public spaces of a particular character.
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This article is excerpted from Nurturing Dreams: Collected Essays on Architecture and the City by Fumihiko Maki, edited by Mark Mulligan, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, MIT Press.