Our Founder

A Quest for Eternal Beauty

Our FounderTakeo Yasu
Our founder:Takeo Yasui
1884-1955

Takeo Yasui decided to open his own design firm directly after completion of the Osaka Club in 1924. Aged 40, his experience helped Yasui Architects and Engineers, Inc. get off to a strong start. Shortly after launch, three prominent Osaka businessmen, Tokushichi Nomura, Naomasa Kataoka and Kichirobe Yamaguchi entrusted Yasui with their business dreams. As well as liking his creative vision, they had a lot of faith in his practical design ability.
Takeo Yasui described his style as “free form”. He never tried to force a previous solution onto a new design, whether it was a home or an office building. As well as having innate creativity, he maintained a resolute spirit throughout his life, and took pride in demonstrating professionalism.
Here we look at how he made his way.

Younger Days

Takeo Yasui at the left end of the back row with alumni of the University of Tokyo (1909)

A soldier’s son with architectural ambitions

Takeo Yasui was born in Sakura-shi, Chiba Prefecture, in 1884. He was the second son of his father Nobutane, a major in the army, and his mother Yuu. He was the middle child of five siblings: first son Yoshinosuke, who later became a soldier; first daughter Sada; third son Shinsuke; and fourth son Katsumi. He attended elementary school and junior high school in Toyohashi-shi, Aichi Prefecture. His maternal grandfather Sakuzo Sayama was also a soldier. After entering First Higher School in 1903, he studied oil painting and was influenced by Takeji Fujishima of the Hakubakai*, a radical group of Western-style artists. However, his personal goal was to design buildings.
* Hakubakai: A group of Western-style painters with new ideas, founded in 1896 by Seiki Kuroda.
Top: Top: Takeo Yasui (far-left back row) with student friends at Tokyo Imperial University in 1909
Bottom: Drawing of the house that was his diploma design (owned by the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo)

University of Tokyo graduation design house drawing Tokyo Imperial University era Takeo Yasui

Diploma design at Tokyo Imperial University

Yasui joined the Department of Architecture, Technical College, Tokyo Imperial University in 1907 and lodged for three years in Nishikata-machi, Hongo with Masao Takamatsu, a classmate and lifelong friend. At Imperial University, the norm was to study Western architecture for three years, then design a building with a steel or reinforced concrete structure for the diploma. Yasui broke the pattern and submitted a wood-framed Japanese-style home, infuriating his benefactor, assistant professor Toshikata Sano. However, this concept for an original Japanese-style home that deviated from what was called the ‘samurai house’ tradition came to be highly regarded by Kensuke Morii, Togo Murano, Kingo Tatsuno, and others.

Overseas Experience

South Manchuria Railway Central Laboratory

Railway building and the emergence of individuality

Yasui joined the Dalian-based South Manchuria Railway Co., Ltd. in 1910. During his time with the company, which lasted about 10 years, he married Kiyo Inoue, and they gave birth to their first son, Tadashi.  The South Manchuria Railway was diversifying its business and Yasui worked on many different kinds of buildings. It is said that everyone praised Yasui’s unique and outstanding design talent, which was seen as Orientalist.
Top: South Manchuria Railway Co., Ltd central laboratory, 1915
Bottom: Sketch of the residence of the chief customs commissioner, Dalian / Sketch of a proposal for a stained-glass window at the entrance to the residence of the chief customs commissioner, Dalian

Sketch of Dalian Customs HouseDalian Customs House, entrance window, stained glass design sketch

Career progression in Japan and the USA

After returning to Japan in 1919, Yasui joined Yasushi Kataoka’s firm, Kataoka Architecture Office. At that time, Kataoka was not just involved in Osaka’s major building projects; he was a central figure in Osaka business circles, and took the lead developing the architectural field, including the founding of the Architectural Association of Kansai (later the Architectural Association of Japan).
In 1920, Yasui was assigned to New York to collaborate with a local firm on a hospital plan. During this period of about six months, he toured architectural sites in other cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. It was a precious opportunity for him to absorb new thinking in architecture.
Bottom: Yasushi Kataoka (left front row), Tatsuzo Sone (right front row), Takeo Yasui (center) / Perspective drawing of the general hospital design for Kawasaki shipyard in Kobe (circa 1920)

Yasushi Kataoka on the left, Tatsuzo Sone on the right, and Takeo Yasui in the centerKobe Kawasaki Shipyard General Hospital Design @ Perth (around 1920)

The Road to Brilliance

Encounter with Tokushichi Nomura

One noteworthy event during Yasui’s time at Kataoka Architecture Office was his encounter with Tokushichi Nomura, a prominent businessman and founder of Nomura Securities. Yasui was put in charge of the design for the Dojima branch of Osaka Nomura Bank. The project was a success and, having built trust, Yasui was later chosen to lead the building of the Osaka head office.
Top: Proposal for the pattern of the carpet in the directors’ meeting room in the Osaka Nomura Bank Head Office
Bottom: Tokushichi Nomura and the Osaka Nomura Bank Head Office, 1924

Tokushichi NomuraOsaka Nomura Bank Head Office (1924)

The founding of Takeo Yasui Architectural Office

One of Yasui’s projects while working for Kataoka Architecture Office was the reconstruction of the Osaka Club, which had burnt down in 1922. The unveiling of the new club also marked the beginning of Takeo Yasui Architects. The company initially consisted of seven staff in one room of the Nissay Building in Nishi-ku, Osaka. Before long, Tokushichi Nomura appointed Yasui to design the Nomura Securities Head Office in Osaka, which was completed in 1926. The design was meticulous, with no corner or detail left unconsidered. The result was a powerful building with a gravitas befitting such an important financial institution.
Bottom: Photo commemorating the completion of the Koraibashi Nomura Building, taken on the roof, 1927
From left in the back row: Onishi, Shindo, Nishikatsu, Kawamura, Mikuni. Front row: Hamamura, Yasui, Ishihara / The Osaka Club, which prompted Yasui’s independence

Onishi, Shindo, Nishikatsu, Kawamura, Mikuni, front row, Hamamura, Yasui, IshiharaKoraibashi Nomura Building

An age of fulfillment

From that point on, Takeo Yasui went on creating masterpieces which still exist today, including offices, homes, and factories. The Osaka Gas Building, one of Osaka’s defining works of modern architecture, was expanded with its North Building in 1966. Similarly, the Nihonbashi Nomura Building was expanded after the War and is still standing.
Other than being involved in the work of the Architectural Association of Japan, which was founded by Yasushi Kataoka, Takeo Yasui took a leading role in the field of architecture by guiding budding architects in Kyoto Imperial University and Waseda University.
Bottom: Osaka Gas Building, 1933) / Nihonbashi Nomura Building, 1930

Osaka Gas BuildingOsaka Gas Building

Ushering a new era with Yasui Architects and Engineers, Inc.

The firm that bore Takeo Yasui’s name was renamed Yasui Architects and Engineers, Inc. in 1951. In 1955, he suddenly fell ill while returning from an inspection trip and died at the age of 71. After Yasui’s death, the firm was taken over by his son-in-law, Shoichi Sano (1921-2014).
Upon graduating from the Department of Architecture, Tokyo Imperial University, Shoichi Sano gained valuable experience as a building engineer for Japan National Railways. He brought the firm’s works together with a rational approach and a sensibility rooted in communities and the development of cities. This approach and thinking opened up many new opportunities for the company and lead to dramatic growth. Sano led the designs that extended the Osaka Gas Building and the Nihonbashi Nomura Building, both by Takeo Yasui. The resulting work imbued a sense of new resolution, combined with profound respect for the organization’s forerunners.
Bottom: Osaka Gas Building (extended in 1966) and Nihonbashi Nomura Building (extended in 1959), after their extensions

Osaka Gas Building after extension (1966 extension)Nihombashi Nomura Building (extended 1959)  

Other Major Works

Surviving major works

The Kichirobe Yamaguchi residence, 1933
Kichirobe Yamaguchi, the second generation of an Osaka cloth trader who founded Yamaguchi Bank (the forerunner of Mitsubishi UFJ Bank), commissioned this design from Yasui when he moved his residence to Ashiya.
With fusuma and shoji screens removed, this becomes an enormous Japanese-style room of 80 tatami mats (130 m2), which the Yamaguchi family used for official ceremonies. It currently houses the Tekisui Museum of Art.
Yamaguchi Yoshirobei House
Koraibashi Nomura Building, 1927
The first and top floors were designed to be light in comparison to the middle floors, which had a sense of weight heightened by intersecting lines and planes, both horizontal and vertical. The architecture was primarily designed to express a well-balanced, dynamic form. Facing Sakaisuji, one of Osaka’s main avenues, it still exists and is in use as an office building.
Koraibashi Nomura Building

Major works that no longer exist

Tokyo Branch Office of South Manchuria Railway Co., Ltd., 1936
Of the architects employed by South Manchuria Railway, Yasui was the only one who designed a structure built in Japan.
This example stood in a superb location in the Toranomon district of Tokyo, with roads on three sides and an adjoining park on the fourth. The building was said to have commanded an outstanding presence in its spacious surroundings.
The floor plan was intricately designed, and the grand exterior was finished in the modern style, with pale cream cladding accented with black granite and white Inada granite. After Japan’s defeat and the breakup of the South Manchuria Railway, it was commandeered by occupying forces and later demolished.
South Manchuria Railway Tokyo Branch
Kyoto Racecourse and Stadium, 1938
The main roof of this facility, which had a characteristic horseshoe-shaped stand, cantilevered out 27 meters without supports to preserve the field of view. The course remained in use after its main roof was taken down and given to the war effort, and was later expanded and refurbished in a long-term project by Yasui Architects and Engineers, Inc.
Japan Horse Racing Association Kyoto Racecourse
Takeo Yasui’s own residence, 1931
Yasui worked on many residential designs. His own residence, which was located in Shukugawa, Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo Prefecture, on the outskirts of Osaka, was a powerful statement in modern architecture. It was used as a home until the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Homes by Vories, Wright, Togo Murano, and others still remain in the area between Shukugawa and Ashiya.
Bottom: From left, Takeo, Tadashi (first son), Fumi (second daughter), Moto (third daughter), Kiyo (wife), and Michi (first daughter)
Takeo Yasui's HouseTakeo Yasui's House

Chronology

1884
Born in Sakura-shi, Chiba Prefecture
1903
Entered First Higher School after graduating Toyohashi Junior High School
Learned oil painting at Hakubakai Western Painting Research Center, under the tutelage of Takeji Fujishima
1910
Graduated from the Department of Architecture, Technical College, Tokyo Imperial University
Joined South Manchuria Railway Co., Ltd.
1911
Traveled around China, learning the basics of what was called ‘Oriental-style’ design
* The residence of the Dalian customs director (Dalian, China)
1919
Joined Kataoka Architecture Office
1920
Dispatched to the USA by Kataoka Architecture Office
Observed buildings in major US cities during his stay
1921
Returned from the USA to Japan
Osaka Mainichi Shimbun, Agency Department, Osaka
1922
Headed the organization of the temporary architecture office for the Osaka Club
Nomura Bank, Dojima branch(Osaka)
1924
Opened Takeo Yasui Architectural Office
Nomura Bank, Head Office(Osaka)
*The Osaka Club(Osaka)
1925
Joined Waseda University as a lecturer(until 1935)
1926
Opened the Tokyo Office
Osaka City Han-ai Jinjo Higher Elementary School(Osaka)
Nomura Bank, Kyoto branch(Kyoto)
Nomura Securities, Head Office(Osaka)
1927
*Koraibashi Nomura Building(Osaka)
1930
*Nihonbashi Nomura Building(Tokyo)
1932
Appointed chair of the Architectural Association of Japan Steering Committee
The Ajinomoto building(Tokyo)
1933
Joined Kyoto Imperial University as a lecturer(until 1946)
*Osaka Gas Building(Osaka)
*The Kichirobe Yamaguchi residence, now the Tekisui Museum of Art(Hyogo)
1935
The Gengoro Nomura residence(Hyogo)
1936
Took the position of vice-chair of the Architectural Association of Japan
South Manchuria Railway, Tokyo Branch (Tokyo)
1937
*Kyoto Nomura Seimei Building(Kyoto)
1938
Japan Racing Association Kyoto racecourse(Kyoto)
1940
Published the Works of Takeo Yasui(Jonan Shoin)
1951
Reorganized as Yasui Architects and Engineers, Inc.
1952
Daiwabo Head Office(Osaka)
1953
Nichimen Headquarters Building(Osaka)
*The Kobe Branch of Nippon Yusen, Renovation(Hyogo)
1955
Recommended as an honorary member of the Architectural Association of Japan
Died on May 23
*Extant works

Exhibitions related to Takeo Yasui

1984
The Architect Takeo Yasui - The Road to Free Style by architectural historian Hiroshi Yamaguchi, published by Nanyodo
2002
The Great Osaka Era of Architecture (October 23 to December 16): Osaka Museum of History
2017
Creativity of Architect Takeo Yasui - Modern Osaka's Seika (December 1 to December 26): Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library
2018
The Great Osaka Modernism - The Work of Yasushi Kataoka and Urban Culture (July 21 to September 2): The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
2018
The Successor of Unknown German Architecture - Matakichi Yabe and the Modern Architecture of Sakura (November 3 to December 24): Sakura City Museum of Art
2019
An Exhibition of Architecture and Space for Children (January 12 to March 24): Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art
2019
An Exhibition of Architecture and Space for Children (July 27 to September 8): Aomori Museum of Art
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