Call it urban revitalization with a human face.
In Mori's view, Japan's prolonged economic slump is partly a result of the burdens created by its big cities - the smothering congestion, the withering commutes - burdens that are nowhere greater than in Tokyo. Mori sees a link between financial wealth and emotional well-being. When people lack the time and energy for personal enrichment, how can they be expected to enrich their country, or the other way around? Mori's goal is to elevate the quality of life in Tokyo by using "vertical space more effectively," by bringing living and work spaces closer to cultural outlets, by creating room for plazas and greenery, by cutting down on time spent in traffic. Roppongi Hills is a shining outgrowth of a plan, inspired by former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies, which Mori calls his Urban New Deal.
"As I studied Roosevelt's policy, I came to realize that an important place was given to cultural renewal, as well as economic revitalization," says Mori. "I believe that my concepts are more than just business, they are about our culture. I want Roppongi Hills to become the true cultural heart of Tokyo."
If Roppongi Hills is the heart of a new Tokyo, it is a fast-beating one. The site of round-the-clock activity, stores and restaurants are required to stay open late, many until past 11 p.m. The nine-screen Virgin Cinemas shows movies until 5 a.m.
The nerve center of Roppongi Hills is Mori Tower, an elegant glass-and-steel structure with a state-of-the-art earthquake-safe design. The Tower is home to corporate tenants such as Yahoo Japan and Goldman Sachs, but its main attractions are open to the public and an integral part of the Roppongi Hills plan for cultural enrichment. The 49th floor, for example, is given over to Roppongi Academy Hills, which houses meeting space for 500 and a library. But not just any library. Amid the stacks of multilingual books and computer stations is a cafe (the better to encourage face-to-face meetings and casual conversations), as well as private reading rooms equipped with vibrating, back-massaging recliners.