10 Year Award Finalist: Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Tokyo

Masaki Nakayama
Japan Educational Foundation, Tokyo

Paul Noritaka Tange
Chairman and Senior Principal Architect
Tange Associates, Tokyo

Schoolyards in the Sky: The Rise of the Vertical Campus

A response to the extreme space constraints of Tokyo, the design of Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower offered a new typology for educational architecture that has since taken hold in many other places. The vertical campus within the tower accommodates approximately 10,000 students across the three vocational schools sharing the building.

The high-rise tower floor plan is simple; three rectangular classroom areas rotate 120 degrees around the inner core. From the 1st to the 50th floor, these rectangular classroom areas are arranged in a curvilinear form. The inner core consists of elevators, staircases and shafts. To ease the potential congestion that might be caused by vertical movement, the three schools are laid out in three parts of the building; the lower, middle and upper tier.

Unlike a typical horizontally laid out school campus, the limited size of the site challenged the architects to develop a new typology for educational architecture. Student lounges are located between the classrooms, facing three directions; east, southwest and northwest. Each atrium lounge is three stories high and offers sweeping views of the surrounding cityscape. As new types of “schoolyards”, these innovative lounges offer students a comfortable place to relax and communicate.

The elliptic shape of the tower permits more ground space to be dedicated to landscaping at the building’s narrow base, while the narrow top portion of the tower allows unobstructed views of the sky. The nurturing forces of nature are close at hand to the students at Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. It forms an inspiring environment in which to study, learn and grow, and it has inspired many other cities and institutions to experiment with the vertical campus model.

View Building on The Skyscraper Center