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The Building


7-7 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan
Owned property: 2,208 square meters
Leased property: 7,080 square meters
Total: 9,288 square meters
Overall site area: 3,636 square meters
Floor area: 17,369 square meters
Exhibition galleries: 4,420 square meters
Storage: 1,097 square meters
Facilities: Main Building, New Wing, connecting corridor, Special Exhibition Wing

Photo by Ryota Atarashi


Main Building

A historically important building designed by the internationally renowned 20th century French architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965). The building was completed in March 1959 as a symbol of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Japan and France after World War II.

In 1998, the building was listed as a "Kokyo Kenchiku 100 Sen" (100 selected public buildings) sponsored by the former Ministry of Construction, which determined that it was an outstanding public building well established in the local community.

The Main Building is designated as an Important Cultural Property / Buildings, in 2007.

Photo by Ryota Atarashi

Number of stories:
3 floors above ground, 1 floor below ground, 1 penthouse space
Building structure:
Reinforced concrete (RC)
Le Corbusier
Junzo Sakakura, Kunio Maekawa, Takamasa Yoshizaka
Former Ministry of Education (Construction Division, Educational Facility Department, Administrative Bureau)
Shimizu Corporation
Ground breaking:
March 1958
February 28, 1959
Site area:
1,587 square meters
Gross floor space:
4,399 square meters
Exhibition galleries:
1,533 square meters
Kokyo Kenchiku 100 Sen in 1998 (by the former Ministry of Construction)
Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier (1887 -1965) was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. After studying at an art school in his hometown, Le Corbusier traveled to Vienna and Berlin where he encountered the new movements in architecture and decorative arts. He was further influenced by Cubism upon his journey to Paris. In 1918, he debuted as a painter espousing "purism," an aesthetic based on the creation of arts on logical premises. He went on to develop the purist movement through the magazine L'Esprit Nouveau. Le Corbusier briefly studied architecture under Auguste Perret and Peter Behrens, and then went on to pursue his one self-study. In 1927 he won the competition for the creation of the League of Nations building in Geneva, and this established his name as an architect. His representative works include the Villa Savoye in Poissy (1929-31), the Unite d'habitation in Marseilles (1947-52), and the chapel in Ronchamp (1950-54).

Le Corbusier's buildings are characterized by pilotis (pillars), separation of structural frame and walls, free flat surfaces, free standing surfaces, and roof-top gardens. In addition to those elements, the NMWA's Main Building features a winding path staircase that slopes through the center of the galleries.

New Wing

The building was completed in 1979, the year marking the 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Western Art. It was an addition designed to integrate visually and structurally with the main building designed by Le Corbusier. The exterior walls employ open-joint PC plates that create a double structure to provide thermal insulation on the exterior of the building frame. Along with the Main Building, it surrounds three large trees, one each of the zelkova, gingko, and camphor species, that creating a verdant courtyard.

Number of floors:
2 floors above ground, 2 floors below ground
Reinforced concrete (RC)
Design supervisor:
Maekawa Kunio Associates, Architects & Engineers
Shimizu Corporation
Ground breaking:
August 1977
May 31, 1979
Site area:
1,480 square meters
Floor space:
4,902 square meters
Exhibition galleries:
1,525 square meters
676 square meters

Special Exhibition Wing

The building was constructed for the purpose of enhancing museum activities for the 21st century, focusing on special exhibitions, restoration, conservation, art education, and information and documentation.

The design aimed to provide accommodate visitors while also fitting into Ueno Park and its surrounding environment.

The building consists of three major sections:

Exhibition division: Galleries used exclusively for special exhibitions are located on a single floor in the second basement facing the front courtyard. Storage and an auditorium are located close to the exhibition galleries. One-way routing leads visitors from the entrance lobby on the first floor of the Main Building to the exhibition gallery lobby and special galleries (on the basement floor) via stairs or elevators, then back to the entrance lobby via escalators.

Research Division: The offices of the Research Division, responsible for conservation and restoration, educational programming, and information services, are located on the west side of the Main Building where it connects to the New Wing.

Administration Division: Like the Research Division, the various offices of the Administration Division are located on the west side of the building facing the street.

Number of floors:
2 floors above ground, 4 floors below ground
Steel framed reinforced concrete
Design supervision:
Kanto Region Development Bureau, Ministry of Construction
Maekawa Kunio Associates, Architects & Engineers
Shimizu Corporation
Kyudenko Corporation
Tonets Corporation
Shiroguchi Corporation
Construction began:
March 1994
Construction completed:
December 25, 1997
Structural area:
524 square meters
Floor space:
7,979 square meters
Exhibition galleries:
1,362 square meters
421 square meters


"NMWA Architecture Brochure" (PDF Format)

■Japanese (PDF Format ca. 5.25 MB)
■English (PDF Format ca. 4.64 MB)
■Chinese (PDF Format ca.7.30 MB)
■Korean (PDF Format ca. 6.67 MB)


  • Outline
  • Chronology
  • Matsukata Collection
  • The Building