2004 – Food and Agriculture Museum – Kengo Kuma

This university museum is designed for a new age and is open to local residents. The display space, experimental space and café are organically integrated, fostering natural interaction between people that live in the area and the researchers. The row of Zelkova trees in Baji Equestrian Park in front of the site and museum are joined together by means of vertical louvers made from Ashino stone. Selection of the material was based on the theme of aging. A natural material that beautifully changes color over time (Ashino stone has high absorptivity and a soft texture) was used with the objective of creating “biological architecture” befitting the Tokyo University of Agriculture.

Name: Food and Agriculture Museum│Type: Museum│Architect: Kengo Kuma│Completed: 2004


2003 – Prada Aoyama – Herzog & de Meuron

The Swiss architects decided on to focus on vertical volume containing the maximum permitted gross floor area so that part of the lot acreage can remain undeveloped. This area will form a kind of plaza, comparable to the public spaces of a European city.

The shape of the building is substantially influenced by the angle of incidence of the local profile. Depending on where the viewer is standing, the body of the building will look more like a crystal or like an archaic type of building with a saddle roof. The ambivalent, always changing and oscillating character of the building’s identity is heightened by the sculptural effect of its glazed surface structure. The rhomboid-shaped grid on the façade is clad on all sides with a combination of convex, concave or flat panels of glass. These differing geometries generate facetted reflections, which enable viewers, both inside and outside the building, to see constantly changing pictures and almost cinematographic perspectives of Prada products, the city and themselves.

But the grid on the façade is not simply an optical illusion; it is actively incorporated in the structural engineering and, in conjunction with the vertical cores of the building, it supports the ceilings. The horizontal tubing stiffens the structure and also provides more private areas for the changing rooms and the checkout on the otherwise open, light-flooded floors of the building.

The fittings with lamps and furniture for the presentation of Prada products and for visitors are newly designed especially for this location. The materials are either hyper-artificial, like resin, silicon and fiberglass, or hyper-natural, like leather, moss or porous planks of wood. Such contrasting materials prevent fixed stylistic classifications of the site, allowing both traditional and radically contemporary aspects to appear as self-evident and equal components of today’s global culture.

Name: Prada Aoyama│Type: Commercial│Architect: Herzog & de Meuron│Completed: 2003


2003 – Dior Omotesando – SANAA

The Dior building is a trapezoid box in Tokyo’s fashion center, Omotesando Avenue, designed by the Japanese practice SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa). To respond to Tokyo’s rigid building codes – the building could be no higher than 30 meters – and to maximize space, the architects designed the building with floors of variable heights. Retail floors were alternated with utilitarian spaces. Exterior walls were constructed of glass. This skin is the building’s showpiece. The clean, square, outer skin of clear glass covers a second skin inside, of translucent acrylic. This gives the external facade the gentlest of hints at what is inside (while revealing nothing), and provides a glowing blank canvas for seasonal additions.

Name: Dior Omotesando│Type: Commercial│Architect: SANAA│Completed: 2003


2003 – House in a Plum Grove – Kazuyo Sejima

A young couple with two children and a grandmother chose Kazyuo Sejima to be their architect. They valued her for being the author of works of architecture that was “light, clean and white, no bravado at all,” qualities that they thought would help to find the right tension between the privacy found in a dwelling and the public character of a house in a garden. “A shelter for the mind” and “a place to enjoy the blossoming plum trees in the garden”; these were the family’s wishes when they commissioned the house.

The site was only 92.30 m2 where beautiful plum trees and wild flowers grew, which made it look like a real garden inside this residential area. For a long time the couple had wanted to build their own house, a neutral house like a blank canvas with nothing to distract their way of living or raising their children. They rejected the idea that a house should represent economic power and attract attention. When Sejima first asked Miyako what kind of a house they wanted, she told her: ‘Something like a temporary perch’. The architect’s interest arose immediately. In the case of Sejima, observing people’s lifestyles, she questioned the validity of a conventional dwelling that consisted of a set number of bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen. Fixed concepts were no longer valid in a rapidly changing society.

The house appears as a white closed cube as it is located in one of the corners of the site. The door is fused with the wall, the doormat and a small cantilever being the only signs of its presence. Furthermore, instead of conventional windows, a few flat, square cuts are made on the exterior walls, without any seeming order. The logic comes from the inside. Refusing to create stereotyped rooms with a collection of arranged furniture, Kazuyo Sejima proposed to reduce each room to particular furniture or an action. For instance, the bedroom of the children is composed of one room-bed and a room-table. In that way, 17 different rooms were created, which together were arranged on a 77.68 m2 floor area and distributed on two floors with the tearoom on the roof. Having such a small surface, it was used to its maximum.

The structure of the house is built with steel sheets, which reduces the thickness of the external walls to 50 mm and the interior walls to 16 mm. In that way, the structure, walls and the floors merge together and each part appears to have the same weight. Interpreting the idea of ‘a one room studio’, the architect connected the individual rooms. She made cuts in the internal walls of the adjoining rooms, and left them without any glass. This offered new possibilities. Some rooms look outside through another room’s window. The air flows freely through these openings from room to room, and the boy or his cat can enter or exit through these openings at will. No space is shut off completely. Consequently, offering such a choice of different actions, the idea of privacy turns elastic. The members of the family can choose their place according to their moods, wanting to be alone or with others.

Name: House in a Plum Grove│Type: Residential│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2003


2002 – Natural Ellipse House – Masaki Endoh

The architectural form of Natural Ellipse is very much a product of its unique environment. Wedged into the most vibrant shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo, the building acknowledges the conflict between the desire for privacy and the need to connect with the lively surrounding neighborhood. The result is a mostly introverted structure with a few carefully placed openings to the outside, allowing the privacy necessary for domestic life.

The work of Masaki Endoh and Masahiro Ikeda–as with many other contemporary Japanese architects–derives significance from exploring the physical and metaphysical nature of walls. At the critical point where matter really matters, controlling the material boundary between internal and external spaces is one of architecture s most compelling pursuits. Interest lies not so much in the technology deployed, the nuts or the bolts (which will always remain key considerations),but more in how materials moderate light, regulate the environment, and how solid, void and niche can bring order to the ritual of everyday life. Endoh and Ikeda have a very provocative style, one that is very striking visually. The downfall of their design is its lack of any human element. They seem to have prioritized the form of the building and its meticulously clean aesthetic over the use of simple comforts such as bathroom walls. The resulting space is an extremely sterile, bare building that seems as if it was made as a sculpture rather than a habitable building.

The structure is composed of flat iron ribs cut by laser. This method, which is now quite common, offers better performance than folding for this type of profile, but is not commonly used in structural work. The envelope was built on site and is made of fiber-reinforced polymer sheet, there are thus no seams to speak of, which enhances the plastic quality of the skin. A composite material developed by space and military research, fiber-reinforced polymer offers many advantages in comparison to traditional materials such as metal or concrete. Apart from an excellent weight/solidity ratio and good resistance to corrosion and wear and tear, it is fire-safe. The use of this material in architectural projects remains limited for lack of knowledge concerning its long-term performances. What is more, differences in the mechanical properties of fiber-reinforced polymer and conventional construction materials also constitute a barrier restricting its exploitation in building and public works, even if industrial and university researchers are studying the question. To date, fiber-reinforced polymer sheets have mainly been used in construction to dress the under-sides of roofs; their use for a vertical surface is thus totally new for construction firms. One benefit of this material is its insulating quality, which eliminates the need for supplimental insulation in the wall cavities.

The structure of the building is an integral part of its architectural expression. Inside and out, the structure is clearly visible, its presence undeniable. The tight skin-like exterior is tight enough to expose the shape of the 24 elliptical steel rings that frame the exterior walls. On the interior, these elliptical rings are resolved as interior columns that run down the hollow donut-like circulation atrium. The steel joist that hold up the concrete floors are also expressed on every level. While the steel frame itself is not visible on the interior walls, the construction definitely eludes to the nature of the steel skeleton. Rather than employing a smooth, rounded plaster wall, the architects chose to utilize flat sheets of gypsum wall board, allowing the joints in the structure to be subtly referenced. Architecturally, the exposed structure combines with the austere lack of ornament to create a bare, modern aesthetic that is very popular in Japan.

The elliptical shapes act as the vertical members in this structural system, though their bent shape causes them to be less efficient than a straight column. The floor plates are especially important in this structure because they are designed to resist the outward thrust of the elliptical columns. The floor itself is made of concrete, which, being poor in tension, is not made to resist the lateral thrust. Therefore, a tension ring lining each floor plate, and the steel joists that radiate from the center provide the necessary lateral support for the columns. Though the exterior material, fiber-reinforced polymer, is fairly strong, it serves no structural function in regards to shear resistance in the columns. Instead, a lattice of steel bars are crossed, and attached to the elliptical rings by clevises, thus counteracting any shear forces and further reinforcing the columns laterally.

Name: Natural Ellipse House│Type: Residential│Architect: Masaki Endoh│Completed: 2002


2002 – Masunaga Optical – Makoto Saito

This small optical shop was designed by Makoto Saito. The building has two floors, the ground floor is a shop, and upstairs office. A glass cube shielded with vertical corten-steel bars. The appearence of the building an be understand as a reinterpretation of Mies van der Rohe’s hieratic office building architecture of the 50s and 60s in Chicago (Federal Center) and New York (Seagram Buildung). Of course in a completely different scale. The choice of rough corten-steel instead of perfectly black painted helps to integrate the building in the chaotic unconstant context of Tokyo.

Name: Masunaga Optical│Type: Commercial│Architect: Makoto Saito│Completed: 2002


2002 – Louis Vuitton Omotesando – Jun Aoki

Jun Aoki designed the Louis Vuitton building in the image of a pile of trunks stacked at random. The trunks, each representing a unique space, are connected with a labyrinth of corridors – offering a small journey between trunks. The building relates in scale to the mixed residential and commercial area of Omotesando, with the soft texture of the metal fabric on the facade conveying the texture of fallen leaves from the big zelkova trees in front of the building.

The store is an assemblage of various spaces; the basic units are not floors but levels. The shape of all spaces are right-angled boxes in various scales, proportions and natural light conditions. The total shape of the building is the result of piling up the box-like shapes. The dimensions are 25.5 meters in width, 20.8 meters in depth and 31.9 meters in height, made up of rectangular parallelepiped units stacked in an irregular pile. The structure, located in interstitial spaces 30 centimeters deep and 37 centimeters high between the rectangular parallelepiped units, is a non-uniform cage with few vertically aligned columns. The columns and beams are all made from wide-flange steel members 20 centimeters by 20 centimeters in cross-section. The exterior finish consists of two types of metal mesh, polished stainless panels or two layers of glass ornamented with patterns. LV Hall on the seventh floor has a triple-height ceiling and is wrapped in a three-layered screen of metal mesh, glass and white lace embroidered with white ribbons.

Name: Louis Vuitton Omotesando│Type: Commercial│Architect: Jun Aoki│Completed: 2002


2001 – Maison Hermès – Renzo Piano

Celebrated French fashion house Hermès commissioned Renzo Piano to design a building for their Japanese headquarters in 1998. Its location at the heart of Tokyo’s densely built, neon-lit Ginza shopping district, and the stringent building regulations regarding earthquakes and fire, have influenced a compact and unique building with a distinctive glass façade. The building contains a shop, offices, an exhibition space and access to the underground station below Harumi Avenue. The slim building, only 10m wide on its Harumi Avenue frontage, runs back 56m along a quiet side street, and rises 10 storeys high.

It has a unique glass façade made of 13,000 bespoke, 450mm-square glass blocks (with special smaller, curved glass bricks at the building’s corners). Much larger than standard glass blocks, these were especially made by Vetroarredo in Florence, Italy and had to meet stringent fire and earthquake regulations. Their stamped textured glass finish means they are translucent rather than transparent, the overall effect of the facade being somewhat like a contemporary version of the traditional Japanese screen. Hung from the structure on steel arms, the glass block facade is designed to act like a curtain in the event of an earthquake, allowing it to move via the flexible seals between the blocks by as much as 4mm, absorbing rather than resisting seismic shock. This translucent membrane is unchanging as it screens the office floors and upper levels of the shop, wrapping the building all the way down to the ground. Only at ground floor level, along the longer side-street elevation do you find the occasional clear glass brick framing a precious display of Hermès products.

The tiny Harumi Avenue frontage is the sole place on the building for more conventional, full-height shop display windows. Inside, the shop extends over four floors from ground floor to 3rd floor, with ateliers and offices above, and a double-height exhibition space on the 7th floor. A planted courtyard garden open to the sky tops the building but remains screened from the street by the glass block facade. Services and circulation are housed at the back edge of the building in an opaque strip along the party wall. The glass facade stops short of this with a curved edge, revealing the escape stair and helping to define the edge of the building. By day, the facade is silvered and sparkling; by night it glows warm like a lantern, a distinctive presence in the crowded shopping district.

Name: Maison Hermès│Type: Commercial│Architect: Renzo Piano│Completed: 2001


2000 – Tokyo Dome Hotel – Kenzo Tange

Designed by Kenzo Tange associates as architects, the strong lines of the Hotel’s tower, softened by gently curving surfaces, give the Tokyo Dome Hotel a sleek modern feeling. Its exterior, made of light and dark gray ceramic plates and permeable and reflective glasses, is a palette that reflects the sky and city, changing with the time and seasons. With 43 floors above ground and 3 below ground, the Tokyo Dome Hotel towers at a height of 155 meters a bove the city and has a total floor area of 105,856.6 ㎡, which includes 1,006 guest rooms, 8 restaurants & lounges, 18 small to large banquet rooms, chapel and other wedding facilities, a business center, a child care room, and an outdoor pool.

The Tokyo Dome Hotel was designed to harmonize with Tokyo Dome City, where the hotel is located, and become the City’s second symbol, following the Tokyo Dome. Hotel design incorporates the following three factors: gate, flow and contact. The construction period lasted from 1997 to 2000.

Name: Tokyo Dome Hotel│Type: Hotel│Architect: Kenzo Tange│Completed: 2000


2000 – Small House – Kazuyo Sejima

Small House is a tiny private residence designed by  Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA), in the affluent Aoyama district of Tokyo. Situated on a small infill lot measuring 60 m2, Small House is a bold example of architectural ingenuity amongst the dense similitude of the surrounding urban landscape. Completed in 2000, Small House is representative of simplistic design, encompassing a complex logic predicated on the principles of function, place, culture, and the intimacy of home. Small House delicately balances itself within the urban fabric of Tokyo; a representation of clean, modern architectural form imbued with layers of history, culture, and the embodiment of life.

The House is a small rectangular tower, its edges and surfaces skewed on the diagonal to create a dynamic geometrical shape. Its form provides unique contrast to the neighbouring residences; their planar surfaces demarcating the vertical and horizontal planes in the masses. It provides the outward semblance of bold form but maintains the identity and character of a private home; unique, individual, proportionately-scaled and intimate. The striking appearance of Small House is a testament to Kazuyo Sejima’s propensity towards form-finding as the fundamental means by which to achieve the embodiment of meaning, identity and presence in architecture. In her words, Sejima states that “architectural design can only proceed through forms. Making architecture, if we can say this without fear of being misunderstood, is surely a question of creating new forms … Designs are recognized by their forms, and moreover, the public or social aspect of architecture resides precisely in an understanding of the architecture and its relations to the structures surrounding it”.

Name: Small House│Type: Residential│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2000