Tokyo Church of Christ
Maki and Associates
Tomigaya, Tokyo, 1995

Chapel of St. Ignatius


Church of the Light

All Saints Margaret Street

Tokyo Church of Christ

Program and Restrictions

Fumihiko Maki’s Tokyo Church of Christ is located in Tomigaya, in west-central Tokyo.  The church has a capacity of 700 people, to accommodate a growing congregation.  The building also had to deal with two major restrictions: 

1. The church could not cast a shadow on the small houses in the neighbourhood 
2. The building had to take into account the future widening of the main street to make room for an entrance tunnel to an underground highway.

As a result, the church is a short three storeys, stacking a double- height assembly space above a storey of community spaces (like meeting rooms, offices, etc.).  The nave is much broader and squatter than traditional churches, to accommodate the required seating capacity, while respecting the site and height restrictions.  To allow for the underground highway entrance, the building is set 15m back from the major street it fronts upon.  The ‘front lawn’ is a pebble garden, reminiscent of Zen meditation gardens and instantly recognizable by the Japanese as sacred ground. 

Sacred Procession
As with other precedents, the Tokyo Church of Christ incorporates a procession from the profane world outside to the sacred space of worship within the building.  It begins with the path through the pebble garden, where the visitor crosses onto sacred ground before entering the church itself.  Inside, the most ‘profane’ parts of the church are located just inside the door – activity rooms for the community, administrative offices and the like.  The real ‘church’ is located up a grand flight of stairs.  The ascent psychologically separates the visitor from the everyday activities below and those outside, to a higher plane of thinking. 

Side panel: Edwin Heathcote, Church Builders, (Chichester: Academy Editions, 1997), p. 198.
Figure 1: Takao Fujiki, Religious Facilities, (Tokyo: Meisei Publications, 1997), p. 41.
Figure 2: Ibid, p. 40. Figure 3: Ibid, p. 42.

Page by: Michelle Chan, M.Arch.I (M1), McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Last modified: March 5, 2000