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Wednesday, 18th May 2016
In General Japan News,

UNESCO supports heritage listing for Tokyo museum building

An advisory panel from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has backed a bid to put the main building of a Tokyo museum on its heritage list. As well as the focal point of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, 16 others edifices are also included.

They were designed by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, who was better known as Le Corbusier, and was among the pioneers of modern architecture. The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs announced the backing yesterday (May 17th), which could have a huge impact on the way this type of architecture is seen.

Nothing will be finalised until UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee sits in July, but the recommendation by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a good sign for Japan. At present, the country has 20 heritage sites on the list, but none of them are in Tokyo. The 15 cultural and four natural sites so far recognised by UNESCO across the nation are outside of the capital.

The National Museum of Western Art’s main building is located in Ueno Park and was opened to the public in 1959. It was the only edifice in Tokyo to be designed by Le Corbusier, who was actually based in Paris. The main feature of the structure is a winding staircase that leads visitors through the galleries in a gently undulating manner.

In all, ICOMOS explained that the 17 buildings being put forward for the list, showed how answers were derived to some of the biggest social and architectural problems of the 20th century. It went on to say that the architecture of the 21st century owes a lot to such buildings that came before it.

The council also praised the local community surrounding the museum building, as they have done much over the years to preserve its integrity. UNESCO takes a good look at such practices and uses them to help it make a decision as to whether sites should be inscribed on its list, meaning such contributions should not be overlooked.

As the 17 buildings designed by Le Corbusier that have been put forward for the bid are across several nations, it has meant collaboration between the countries. Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Argentina and India all have buildings created by the architect included in the bid.

It is not the first time that the work of Le Corbusier has been under discussion by the World Heritage Committee. Bids put forward in 2009 and 2011 were both considered, but ultimately did not make it onto the list.

Japan has other UNESCO ambitions in the pipeline having put the sacred island of Okinoshima in Fukuoka Prefecture forward to the committee. While a decision won’t be made in this case until 2017, ICOMOS has planned an on-site inspection for this autumn.

Related news stories:
Japan hopes to add Fukuoka ancient monuments to UNESCO list (29th July 2015)
Business Insider recommends best little-known destinations in Japan (1st October 2015)