One hundred Famous views of Tokyo - 東京百景

Tokyo Hyaku(東京百) is a fascinating photographic project realised by the Italian architect and photographer Giuseppe De Francesco. It has been recently exhibited at the Tokaido Hiroshige Museum in Shizuoka and The Adachi Hanga Foundation in Tokyo.

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Born in Milan, Italy and graduated at the Politecnico di Milano faculty of design, Giuseppe De Francesco has been living in different cities and currently working worldwide for his personal researches and commercial assignments. His work aims to investigate the memory of places and their connection with the cultural identity they contribute to creating.

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Precisely 160 years are passed since Utagawa Hiroshige – the famous Japanese ukiyo-e artist – created his most celebrated work called “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”. As a university researcher, I have studied the work of Hiroshige and his deep contribution to architecture in my book “Patterns and Layering. Japanese Spatial Culture, Nature and Architecture”, published in 2012 by Gestalten with the preface of Kengo Kuma.

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The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had been deeply inspired by Hiroshige, especially by the layered structure of his woodblocks and his ability to recreate depth without using perspective. From Hiroshige, Wright also learned the concept of "Notan(濃淡)", the superposition of layers with different colour intensities used to recreate the effect of depth.

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I was immediately fascinated by Tokyo Hyaku as soon as I learned that Giuseppe De Francesco had investigated deep in the meanings of the Views of Edo, rather than merely imitating its formal outcome. The 119 tables composing the work, incorporated many aspects of Edo (ancient name of Tokyo) in the sixties of the 19th century, such as daily life, work activities and festivals. Furthermore, several hidden meanings and symbols were embedded within each of the views designed by Hiroshige.

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This work is a time journey that starts from the ancient Edo – seen through the ukiyo-e technique of Hiroshige – to the modern Tokyo, seen through the photography of Giuseppe De Francesco. Starting with an accurate study and a deep understanding of the original artworks, De Francesco travelled for almost two years around the locations depicted by the Japanese artist.

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For each of the views, he has extrapolated the key elements, using them as a starting point to take his impressive photos of contemporary Tokyo: a remarkable work of decoding and re-encoding that define a new state of the art of the city.

Reconstruction, openings, landmarks and symbols are the four specific topics, embedded in Hiroshige’s work, and reinterpreted in Tokyo Hyaku. For example, images of the reconstruction from earthquake disaster depicted by the Japanese artist are compared with photos of the post-war reconstruction. Likewise, several key places of Edo city are compared with pictures of the famous landmarks of Tokyo, as well as new areas accomplished in the old Edo are matched with the new symbols of economical growth and globalization.

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Tokyo Hyaku (www.tokyohyaku.com) will soon become a book - with rich descriptions and comments – and its author wishes that

Tokyo Hyaku collection would be able to return the feelings and the beauty experienced and would help the visitors to recognise it in every simple moment of their daily life in this beautiful country.


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