Noguchi’s first commission, Osaka Library (the present-day Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library), made him well known throughout Japan. This well-proportioned building executed in a classical style reminiscent of a Greek temple is notable for its meticulous design, which is evident in the tiniest details. This building exhibits Noguchi’s deep sympathy with western architecture and the expertise he had nurtured by immersing himself in its traditions and techniques for some 20 years.
Yutaka Hidaka, who had followed in Noguchi’s footsteps as a student at the Imperial University, joined Sumitomo upon establishment of the Temporary Architecture Department, becoming Noguchi’s right-hand man. He was in charge of the project to extend Osaka Library in 1922 (11th year of the Taisho era). Identical right and left wings were connected to the main building of the library. These wings enhanced the overall integrity and dignity of the library. The splendid harmony with the main building designed by Noguchi shows what a good combination Noguchi and Hidaka were.
Led by Noguchi and Hidaka, the Sumitomo Head Office Temporary Architecture Department (renamed the General Head Office Building and Repairs Section in 1911) constructed a series of Sumitomo buildings over a period of 14 years. This was the period during which concept of the Sumitomo Building took shape.
In 1909 (42nd year of the Meiji era), Eikichi Hasebe joined Sumitomo. Hasebe was a true artist of the architectural profession. Indeed, the buildings he designed are noted for their nobility and aesthetic flair, qualities that may well reflect his personality. His design of the exterior of the Sumitomo Building is powerfully influenced by the classical orders, as was common for bank buildings of that era. The classical tradition is particularly evident in the façade whose thick walls are accentuated by a series of deep-set windows.
In 1915 (4th year of the Taisho era), Noguchi died of tuberculosis at the age of 46. Hidaka succeeded Noguchi and the head office building construction project, which had been put to one side in view of the construction of a temporary head office, went ahead under Hidaka’s leadership. In 1917 (6th year of the Taisho era), Kenzo Takekoshi joined Sumitomo. He had studied architecture in England and was also a talented etcher.
There is an anecdote attesting to the talent of Hasebe and Takekoshi. In 1918 (7th year of the Taisho era), Hasebe and Takekoshi of their own volition participated in a design competition for the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery in Meiji Jingu Gaien in Tokyo. Although they were not selected for the project, they were both prizewinners and this publicity resulted in wider recognition of the excellence of the architects working for Sumitomo Building and Repairs.