Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Mark J. Nelson

Iconic titanium sphere still shining

Anyone who has spent time in Tokyo will probably have seen the iconic sphere on top of the Fuji Television Network building. Constructed of titanium, it has been an icon of the city since its construction.
^ Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Mark J. Nelson

Text & images courtesy of Kikukawa

The Fuji Television Network building is one of the most distinctive buildings in Japan. Located in the waterfront area of Tokyo’s Minato district, the ultra-futuristic building was designed by the architect Kenzo Tange and completed in 1996. It serves as the corporate headquarters of the Fuji Television Network and houses several studios.

The 25-storey building consist of two towers connected by three enclosed pedestrian bridges, called ‘sky corridors’ which are supported by four steel columns. The corridors help to strengthen the overall structure, making it highly earthquake resistant.

Titanium ball

The centrepiece of the building is the titanium sphere measuring 32 m in diameter, and weighing 1,350 tons. Inside the ball is an observation platform which is open to the public, offering unobstructed views of Tokyo and Mount Fuji.

Raising the ball into place was a major engineering challenge which took a total of 9-and-a-half hours. It was balanced horizontally on, and supported by, three beams, before being raised to its finished height of 123 m by hydraulic jacks. 

The titanium sphere was constructed by the metal architect Kikukawa. The massive globe consists of a number of small panels constructed of titanium to avoid corrosion which could otherwise occur due to the building’s seaside location. In order to fabricate the globe with a high degree of precision, the company pioneered the use of 3D-CAD in its product engineering.

Although titanium is a high-strength metal, which can be difficult to process, the Kikukawa team were able to use their accumulated expertise to produce this iconic design.

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