Tokyo may be among the world’s largest cities, but it has some of the smallest buildings. At critical nodes such as Roppongi and Shinjuku, the city has plenty of skyscrapers and hulking commercial complexes, yet its character is mostly defined by dense, low-scale neighborhoods where the majority of buildings are no more than five stories high. Here, in this paradox of big and little, Go Hasegawa, 37, is finding his design foothold. For Hasegawa, this process is taking place in his modest office atop a five-story walk-up in Harajuku, Tokyo’s pop-culture epicenter. Gazing out from his studio, he can survey the complex cityscape that inspires his architecture but contrasts with the suburban scenery in neighboring Saitama Prefecture, where he grew up.
A typical two-story wooden house, his family home had the usual blend of Japanese and Western elements. “My room was covered with tatami, but I dreamed of flooring,” says the architect with a grin. No doubt having a naval engineer for a father and a painter for a grandfather had an influence on Hasegawa’s decision to study architecture. So, following high school, he entered Tokyo Institute of Technology (TITECH), where he got his undergraduate and master’s degrees.