British architect, urban planner, and teacher
Conder (1852-1920) was the leading foreign designer of public and private buildings in Meiji Japan. The progressive and eclectic appearance of Meiji Period Tōkyō is to a large extent attributed to his buildings, typically designed in red brick with white stone trim.
As a government-employed professor of architecture, from 1877 to 1888, and later through his own company, Conder gave the Japanese their first and most extensive training in Western architecture. His Japanese students included Tatsuno Kingo (辰野金吾, 1854-1919), Sone Tatsuzō (曽禰達蔵, 1853-1937), Satachi Shichijirō (佐立七次郎, 1856-1922), Katayama Tōkuma (片山東熊, 1854-1917), and Shimoda Kikutarō (下田菊太郎, 1866-1931) who formed the first generation of Western-style architects, laying the foundation for Japan’s 20th-century architectural achievements.
Born in London and graduating from the Royal British Institute of Architects where he was a pupil of William Burges, Conder came to Japan in 1877 at the age of twenty-five. He served concurrently as professor of architecture at the Imperial College of Engineering (工部大学校 Kobu Daigakko, later incorporated into Tokyo University) and as a consultant for the Ministry of Engineering. Even after leaving service in 1888, he continued to advise the government and was awarded several imperial decorations.
Between 1878 and 1907 Conder designed over fifty significant Western buildings in Tokyo that served both as practical models and symbols of the Westernizing Meiji state. They include the
He also designed and executed residences for prominent officials and luxurious mansions for the Mitsubishi Company’s Iwasaki family.
- Ueno Imperial Museum, 1881
- Rokumeikan (鹿鳴館) Palace, 1883
- Navy Ministry Building (海軍省 Kaigunshō) in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, 1895.
Conder’s buildings were often part of his urban development plans, either ordered by the Meiji government, as in the case of the Hibiya government offices, or ordered by large companies, as in Mitsubishi’s buildup of the Marunouchi area of Tokyo (1892-1905), Japan’s first large-scale private development.
An early contributor to the Western understanding of Japan, Conder published some books, including Landscape Gardening in Japan (1893). Among his surviving Tokyo buildings are the
The Mitsubishi office buildings in Marunouchi were completely demolished in the 1960s.
- Nikolai Cathedral in Ochanomizu, 1891
- Prince Shimazu House, 1915
- two Iwasaki mansions, 1896 and 1908
- Furukawa Toranosuke Villa in Tokyo’s Kita Ward, 1917.
Conder spent the rest of his life in Japan and died in Tokyo in 1920 shortly after his Japanese wife had passed away. He is buried at the Gokokuji (護国寺) temple in Bunkyō Ward.