Josiah Conder (architect)

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Josiah Conder
Josiah Conder
Born (1852-09-28)28 September 1852
London, England
Died 21 June 1920(1920-06-21) (aged 67)
Tokyo, Japan
Nationality English
Alma mater University of London
Awards Order of the Sacred Treasures
Statue of Josiah Conder on the campus of University of Tokyo

Josiah Conder (28 September 1852 – 21 June 1920) was a British architect who worked as a foreign advisor to the government of Meiji period Japan. He designed numerous public buildings in Tokyo, including the Rokumeikan, and educated many Japanese architects who later won distinction (notably Tatsuno Kingo and Katayama Tōkuma), and hence Japanese called him the "father of Japanese modern architecture."[1]

Early career[edit]

Conder was born in Kensington, London as the son of a banker and educated at Bedford Modern School.[2] After graduating from the University of London, Conder worked for the Gothic architect William Burges for two years. In 1876 he was awarded the Soane Medal, before being chosen by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the post of professor of architecture at the Imperial College of Engineering, in Tokyo.[3]

Career in Japan[edit]

Invited by the Japanese government, Conder taught at the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo from 1877. He was the school's first professor of architecture.[4] He was charged with transforming the Marunouchi area into a London-style business district. He was a teacher of five famous Japanese architects: Tatsuno Kingo, Katayama Tōkuma, Sone Tatsuzō, Satachi Shichijirō and Shimoda Kikutarō who were among the first Japanese architects to build western-style buildings in Japan in the Meiji era.[5][6]

Despite being resident in Japan he kept up a professional affiliation with the Royal Institute of British Architects, becoming an Associate in 1874 and a Fellow in 1884. He became a part-time lecturer until, in 1888, he set up his own practice. Some of his former students set up the Architectural Institute of Japan and Conder was made its first honorary president.[7] He was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasures (3rd class) in 1894.

Conder developed a keen interest in Japanese arts, and after a long period of petitioning, was finally accepted to study painting with the artist Kawanabe Kyōsai. He was given the name Akihide (暁英?) by his teacher (incorporating the character 'ei/hide' from the Japanese name for Britain).

His studies led to a number of publications, among them 'The Flowers of Japan and The Art of Floral Arrangement' (1891), 'Landscape Gardening in Japan' (1893) and 'Paintings and Studies by Kawanabe Kyosai' (1911).

In 1915 Tokyo Imperial University awarded him an honorary doctorate.[8] He remained in Japan for the rest of his life. His grave is at the temple of Gokoku-ji in Bunkyo, Tokyo.

Notable buildings[edit]

Former Iwasaki Family House and Garden (1896)

Conder's architectural designs incorporated a wide variety of styles, including both European and colonial elements. Although he designed over fifty buildings during his career in Japan, many are no longer extant.

Notable buildings surviving today are the residence of Iwasaki Yanosuke, founder of the Mitsubishi group in Yushima (1896, now the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei) and the Mitsui Club in Mita (1913).

First book in English on ikebana[edit]

After a lecture at the Asiatic Society of Japan Conder wrote a book on ikebana in English called "The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement". He studied Enshu school ikebana.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Watanabe, Toshio (2006). "Japanese Imperial Architecture". In Ellen P, Conant. Challenging Past And Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art. University of Hawaii Press. 
  2. ^ "Bedford Modern School of the Black And Red", by Andrew Underwood (1981)
  3. ^ Stewart (2002), p33
  4. ^ Stewart (2002), p33
  5. ^ National Diet Library: "Imperial Household Museum of Kyoto – Western-style Building from the Meiji Era."
  6. ^ Checkland, Olive (2003) Japan and Britain after 1859: Creating cultural bridges RoutledgeCurzon, London, page 78, ISBN 0-7007-1747-1
  7. ^ Stewart (2002), p36
  8. ^ Stewart (2002), p37


External links[edit]