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. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  2. photo: an open-plan office
    Life

    Even the Pandemic Can’t Kill the Open-Plan Office

    Even before coronavirus, many workers hated the open-plan office. Now that shared work spaces are a public health risk, employers are rethinking office design.

  3. A Seoul Metro employee, second left, monitors passengers, to ensure face masks are worn, on a platform inside a subway station in Seoul, South Korea.
    Transportation

    How to Safely Travel on Mass Transit During Coronavirus

    To stay protected from Covid-19 on buses, trains and planes, experts say to focus more on distance from fellow passengers than air ventilation or surfaces.

  4. Equity

    The Problem With Research on Racial Bias and Police Shootings

    Despite new research on police brutality, we still have no idea whether violence toward African Americans is fueled by racial prejudice. That has consequences.

  5. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

×