• Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower


    Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower


Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower project was an open competition. Over 100 proposals from within and outside of Japan were submitted and more than 150 design presentations were made. The design proposal submitted by Tange Associates was selected. Led by Chairman Paul Tange, Principal Architect Masaki Nakayama and his team worked on the proposal. Nakayama says, “The head of Mode Gakuen spoke passionately about how a school is a place that cultivates dreams, so he wanted a building where new dreams can emerge and develop.”

Redefining school architecture: the idea of stacking the school vertically.

“We believe that the time between classes and after school is also an important part of student life, such as having discussions or chatting with friends, consulting teachers, or even falling in love... In a school setting, it is important to be able to move freely between classrooms and to be aware of one’s surroundings. So, we designed this high-rise building as if it were stacked three-story school” explained Nakayama.

Multiple discussions with Tokyo Metropolitan Government regarding contribution to the urban environment.

“Our proposal explained the ways that the building took social contribution and the environment into consideration. For example, it offers connectivity to Shinjuku’s underground passage, makes an egg-shaped low-rise hall next to the school available for rental by the public, and employs a co-generational heat and cooling system. Further, the proposal noted the revitalization that the young energy of students would bring to the city area. After discussions with Tokyo Metropolitan Government a number of times, Tange Associates was successful in receiving special authorization for 1,370% capacity to secure floor area ratio and height.”

From the outside, it looks like an oval cocoon, but inside, three towers are connected.

Nakayama tells us the inspiration behind the name and design of the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower: “The cocoon represents a period of protection before venturing out into the real world. It’s a place for young people to learn -- a school’s role is like that of a cocoon.”

The exterior design resembles a cocoon, while the interior is composed of three towers, representing the identity of the three schools: Fashion & Design, Medical Care & Welfare, and Technology & Design. The towers are linked by corridors and creates open spaces that provide visual connectivity and offer places for interaction between students.”

Even within Tokyo, architecture designed for the districts of Aoyama, Ginza, and Asakusa should be different. My father called people who designed with this in mind “urbanists.”

- Paul Tange -

Novelty and functionality into form.
“We aimed for novelty and beauty but structurally, it is a form that makes a building stable. Considering its limited small ground base, we focused on maximizing the amount of greenery. Meanwhile, to fulfill the classroom requirements, we enlarged the middle section. Finally, to enhance the silhouette, we narrowed the building again toward the top. Balancing aesthetics and structure was the most challenging task. The Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, but Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower shook very little. We had conducted simulations for long-period ground motion earthquakes,” explains Nakayama.

Overcoming budget limitations by changing the way of thinking.

Nakayama adds, “This design presented additional challenges during construction; including special classroom requests of different designs, and accommodating this with the building’s unique oval shape. In order to remain within budget, we transitioned to the idea of standardizing the size of the exterior wall panels and instead adjusting the interior height of each floor.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower stands for the passion and enthusiasm of everyone involved -- that led to the creation of a city landmark. Today, it’s become an iconic building that represents the urban landscape of Nishi-Shinjuku.”

Excerpts taken from with the permission from Tange Associates, 2019.