Japan's capital is where innovation meets tradition, and The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it as the safest city in the world in its 2019 Safe Cities Index survey. The safety of Japan's largest city is one of the main reasons French architect Albert Abut moved to Tokyo in 1983 to establish his career and start a family.
87% of homes in Tokyo are reportedly earthquake-proof. Skyscrapers are built using some of the strictest building codes in the world and newer buildings are showcasing many innovative anti-seismic features, such as large dampers that absorb the shock of the shaking by moving in the opposite direction of the swaying of a quake.
The city has constantly developed new technology and improved disaster measures and especially having experienced the earthquake in March 11, 2011, Tokyo has strengthened its preparedness even more.
“You can find anything, there's always something open, I really admire that. Urbanization-wise, and transportation-wise, it's very well-organized,”
Abut said, adding how impressed he is by the excellent train system and the fact that safety always comes first.
“It's such a nice and safe city to live in and having a safe environment for children is a key factor.”
The French architect moved to Tokyo for work in 1983. Born in Istanbul, he had lived and worked in Sweden and the Netherlands before deciding to stay in Tokyo after opening his office in the city, Albert Abut Architecture.
As an architect, Abut also appreciates Tokyo's attention to detail in homes and even infrastructure. For example, when he was caught on the highway as the 2011 earthquake made Tokyo rumble, he was amazed the asphalt stayed solid and did not burst.
Abut has also long been intrigued by Japan's general history and traditions, such as the Zen Buddhism-inspired minimalism. Such simplicity involves attention to detail.
His successes are standing proudly in Tokyo; they include the Saint-Gobain building in Hanzomon, the Yves Saint-Laurent fashion office in Kojimachi and the Hakuju Concert Hall in Shibuya.
Reflecting on his last three decades as an architect in Tokyo, Abut says the city has pushed his career in a direction he never would have experienced anywhere else. It can be hard to make your mark in a city like Tokyo but Abut has put in the work to make it possible.
“It's one of the reasons I want to stay here, because I made it. I don't want to give that up.”
The Saint Gobain Headquarters, is the first building in Japan to consume 30% less energy as compared to conventional office buildings of similar scale due to its specially constructed wall.
All the colors and textures of the building derive from the historical palette of the French glass producer Saint-Gobain.
The Hakuju Concert Hall building has a double-glazed steel/aluminium curtain wall system that protects it from the effects of thermal exchange between the exterior and interior environments.
The concert hall is shaped as a variable-sized insulated box, and drives musical waves from musician to listener.
Each design form that adorns the walls and ceiling are laid in three different directions for acoustic reason to obtain the perfect shape “for the best wave length”.
The walls and ceiling of the Hakuju Concert Hall are lined with glass-fiber reinforced cement panels to recreate the quality of the raw and roughly polished stones of the French and Italian churches that Albert Abut used to attend classical music concerts in.
With foreign visitor numbers into Tokyo growing year on year, the metropolitan government has been doubling down on efforts to put emergency preparedness at the core of public safety.