Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier Honored for Raising Awareness of Japan’s Modern Landmarks
Maier first visited the iconic Hotel Okura in the mid 1980s.
Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier first visited Hotel Okura, Yoshiro Taniguchi’s iconic 1962 building, in the mid 1980s and, for three decades afterward, always stayed there on his regular trips to Tokyo.
Maier, who described the hotel as “mesmerizing,” was dismayed when he learned of plans to demolish and rebuild the structure in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics. With Bottega Veneta, he spearheaded a campaign to preserve the building, while also promoting awareness of a larger problem—the absence of any landmarking program in Japan for modernist architecture.
Unfortunately, despite Maier’s coordinated efforts, the hotel was torn down in late 2015 to make way for a high-rise tower. Undaunted, he has remained committed to preserving numerous other important modernist sites in Japan. For his longstanding efforts, he was honored at a gala on October 24 at the Plaza Hotel hosted by the World Monuments Fund—a nonprofit dedicated to conserving architectural and cultural sites around the globe.
“It’s tricky,” Maier told artnet News during the pre-dinner cocktail hour, “because the building I was trying to save got torn down.” On a better note, he pointed to some of the campaign’s successes: “It raised a lot of red flags and created a lot of awareness.” Maier said it’s essential to fight for what you care about, because you might be one of a very few who care about it.
WMF Board chairman Christopher Ohrstrom lauded Maier for his “vigilance as a citizen” and for taking the initiative.”It’s important to do it now, so we don’t have to be upset later.”
“I’m pleased to join you in giving a voice to the voiceless,” said Maier in a brief speech after accepting his award. “The voiceless need our voice.”
Opera star Jessye Norman performed two songs at the black-tie dinner, accompanied by a classical acoustic guitarist.
Also honored at the dinner was the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in Athens, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and which was cited for restoration and conservation of many of Greece’s ancient and iconic structures and the protection of newer landmark buildings and the maintenance of religious sanctuaries around the world.
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