Dismantling of Shinjuku Station. Tomoyuki Tanaka

Tomoyuki Tanaka renders the intricacies of some of the world’s busiest train stations by hand.

From the outside, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station is sleek: geometric, and rendered in cool grays.

Inside, it’s a labyrinth. One of the world’s busiest and biggest transit hubs, over 3.64 million people pass through the station’s 36 platforms, 200 exits, and maze of tunnels each day.  

It would be easy to get lost in Shinjuku’s intricacies, but in his precise drawings of the structures, the architect Tomoyuki Tanaka dives right in and renders each detail.

Tanaka was first commissioned to draw Shinjuku Station in 2005 by the Japanese architecture magazine Shotenkenchiku. “Dismantling of Shinjuku Station,” along with several other of Tanaka’s studies, is on display at the Tokyo gallery 21_21 Design Sight through the end of September as part of Doboku: Civil Engineering, an exhibit devoted to the city’s complex infrastructure.

Shibuya Station. (Tomoyuki Tanaka)

Apart from Shinjuku, Tanaka has detailed the inner workings of Shibuya Station and other structures throughout Tokyo, including the Kameki Tsuchiura House, which dates from 1935 and is known as the defining example of modern residential architecture in Japan. Tanaka tells CityLab that he’s drawn to complexity, particularly the patterns created by stairs.

Kameki Tsuchiura House. (Tomoyuki Tanaka)

For the level of specificity expressed in his X-Ray-like studies, Tanaka completes them swiftly, taking no more than a couple of weeks. He’ll spend around a week researching and organizing information about the structure. Once he has a plan, Tanaka drafts the basic layout and architecture in pencil. For the finer details and people, he’ll move to ballpoint pen.

Proposal for the Chino Cultural Complex in Tokyo. (Tomoyuki Tanaka)

Though computer software like AutoCAD has made precision much more attainable for architects, Tanaka’s expertise in hand-drawing has earned him a reputation as a master draftsman throughout Japan, Fast Company reports. While Tanaka uses computer rendering programs for his architectural design work, he’ll still present his hand drawings to clients.  

Tanaka understands that the structures he so gracefully dismantles in his work have the capacity to overwhelm, but he sees past that. “Large-scale construction, like the city and the train station, are complicated,” Tanaka says. “But it is not just chaos. They have a rationality, and their own aesthetic.”

Tokyo Station. (Tomoyuki Tanaka)

The illustrations are on view at 21_21 Design Sight through September 25, 2016.

H/t Fast Company

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    How City Failures Affect Trust in Climate Planning

    Cities may struggle to gain support for climate action plans because they haven’t dealt with infrastructure issues that regularly afflict residents.

  2. Groups of people look at their phones while sitting in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
    Life

    How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter.

    Using geotagged tweets, researchers found four types of social connectedness in big U.S. cities, exemplified by New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami.

  3. New Yorkers riding the subway.
    Transportation

    The Great Divide in How Americans Commute to Work

    We are cleaving into two nations—one where daily life revolves around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of walking, biking, and transit.

  4. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of transit-friendly Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s about to change.  

  5. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

×