Gorgeous mushroomlike structures in front of JR Osaka Station

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Gorgeous mushroomlike structures in front of JR Osaka Station

OSAKA giant mushroomlike structures loom in the city lights in front of JR Osaka Station as the sun goes down. At first glance it may be hard to tell what they are: air intake towers for the sprawling Whity Umeda underground mall, visited by around 400,000 people every day.

The structures were installed to ventilate the underground shopping streets in the Umeda entertainment district when the commercial facility opened in 1963, at the north end of Midosuji Avenue in Osaka's Kita Ward.

The towers were designed by the representative Japanese architect Togo Murano in 1891 -- 1984, who designed significant buildings including the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in the city of Hiroshima, which is designated as an important cultural property and Nippon Life Insurance Co.'s Hibiya building in Tokyo.

Osaka's Umeda air intake facility consists of five towers with heights between 13.5 meters and 18 meters, and some of them are connected near the top. The hexagons, pentagons and squares of the towers' steel frames are covered with stainless steel plates, like patchwork. The organic design, consisting of bold curves, has both function and formative beauty.

There are 180 tenants at the Whity Umeda underground mall. Even though the times have changed, the air intake towers give life to the shopping arcade beneath, and stand as landmarks of the Umeda district.

This series explores Japan's architectural wonders and secrets of the past.