OSAKA -- Giant mushroomlike structures loom in the city lights in front of JR Osaka Station as the sun goes down. At first glance it may be difficult to tell what they are: air intake towers for the sprawling Whity Umeda underground mall, visited by around 400,000 people every day.
Located at the north end of Midosuji Avenue in Osaka's Kita Ward, the structures were installed to ventilate the underground shopping streets in the Umeda entertainment district when the commercial facility opened in 1963.
The towers were designed by representative Japanese architect Togo Murano (1891-1984), who designed significant buildings including the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in the city of Hiroshima, which is designated as an important cultural property, and Nippon Life Insurance Co.'s Hibiya building in Tokyo.
Osaka's Umeda air intake facility consists of five towers with heights between 13.5 meters and 18 meters, and some of them are connected near the top. The squares, pentagons and hexagons of the towers' steel frames are covered with stainless steel plates, like patchwork. The organic design, consisting of bold curves, has both functionality and formative beauty.
The Whity Umeda underground mall has some 180 tenants. Even though the times have changed, the air intake towers give life to the shopping arcade beneath, and stand as landmarks of the Umeda district.
(Japanese original by Takao Kitamura, Osaka Photo Department)
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The Japanese version of this article was originally published on July 12, 2020.
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