The Challenge

Evolve Tokyo College of Music into a platform for collaboration among different cultures, centered around music, and communicate their transformation internationally.


A new campus concept, as well as the learning experiences that embody the concept.

Since its founding over a century ago, Tokyo College of Music (TCM) has trained countless world-class musicians. Despite its well-established reputation, however, the school was feeling a pressing need to reconsider its role in order to remain relevant in a changing world.

The college had plans to build a second campus in Daikanyama, a prominent area of Tokyo known for being a hotbed for new global trends. Taking advantage of this opportunity, TCM leaders asked IDEO to help them develop a new concept for the school, and to redesign the learning experience while preserving a focus on classical music.

To kick off the research phases of the project, IDEO designers interviewed TCM students, and traveled to London, New York, and Boston visiting educational institutions, music schools, and arts facilities.

The team observed that students at music colleges outside of Japan were giving serious consideration to their career plans at an early stage in their studies, acquiring a variety of skills and mindsets through a well-rounded education. By contrast, TCM students were focused on learning and performing classical music, but tended not to have a clear image of future career opportunities.

IDEO proposed four specific directions for TCM’s new campus, based on an overarching theme of “culture, fields, and people collaborating across boundaries.” The first aim was to foster a business mindset and entrepreneurial spirit among the students that surpassed their classical music training. Next was to increase opportunities for actual performances, collaborations with professionals outside the school, and joint projects. The third aim was to position the college as a platform that would encourage the spontaneous creation of communities within and outside the school. The final aim was to develop students who were digitally savvy and fluent in new technologies, enabling them to continue evolving in response to developments in the real world. These goals are reflected in the various spaces of the school, as well as in the design of the experiences that occur in those spaces.

Between two campus buildings is Music Lane, a path playfully designed to look like piano keys. It connects Daikanyama and Nakameguro, two neighborhoods known as sources of culture and fashion.

The most symbolic of these spaces is the Creative Lab. Originally intended as a library, the space now functions as a platform where people from within and outside the school community can collaborate and generate innovative ideas. The open layout, which encloses a cafeteria for students and faculty, can be altered depending on programming needs. The Creative Lab provides a venue not only for live performances in which the students can polish their improvisational skills, but for holding workshops and other events on topics such as cultural exchange, business, and new technologies.

New furniture and objects were carefully selected to inspire spontaneous encounters and conversation between students from different departments and staff, creating a flow of activity.

The common spaces, used by students and faculty members, help develop cross-disciplinary communities.

Even the landings on the staircases, which tend to be dead space, were designed with this concept in mind. One student commented that the space facilitates meeting new people and creates “opportunities for deeper interaction with students from other departments.” This intentional, open design has transformed the space into a hub within the school and the local community.

Through the new environment and educational opportunities at TCM's Daikanyama campus, students now have stronger opportunities to apply their creative talents in numerous fields worldwide, creating impact informed by the various perspectives, skills, and relationships they have developed at TCM.

I feel that IDEO is a company that can make something from nothing. Rather than analyzing our current issues and proposing solutions, IDEO started by asking us to consider what type of school we would like to be if we were able to create TCM from scratch.

Katsutoshi Suzuki, Chairman of the Board, Tokyo College of Music

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