Twelve days after Tokyo's worst recorded earthquake (Sept. 1, 1923), famed Architect Frank Lloyd Wright received a cablegram from the Japanese baron who ran the Imperial Hotel: "Hotel stands undamaged as monument to your genius. Hundreds of homeless provided [for] by perfectly maintained service. Congratulations. Signed, Okura Impeho."
Wright had built daringly and well against earthquakes: he designed the Imperial to float like a flexible collection of barges on Tokyo's soft mud. The floors were cantilevered on supports which carried them the way waiters carry trays on one hand. To keep the center of gravity low, the outer walls (double shells of brick poured solid with concrete) tapered toward the top. All piping and wiring was laid free of the construction in concretecovered trenches. An immense pool guarded the building from the fires which usually follow Japanese quakes.
Said Wright proudly in 1932: "There may be more awful threat to human happiness than earthquakeI do not know what it can be." He had not counted on aerial bombardment.
Yet U.S. reporters who visited the hotel last week found that it had stood up remarkably well. Some 400 incendiaries had gutted the south wing, burning out 150 bedrooms. Also destroyed was the Imperial's fancy Peacock Hall. The rest of the building was rubble-littered and damaged but usable, and already put to housing U.S. brass hats. Outside, red and white lilies bloomed in the pool.
Last week the hotel's management begged Wright (via Domei) to come back and rebuild the gutted wing. Said Wright: let the Japs do it themselves.