2015 – Miu Miu Aoyama – Herzog & De Meuron

Contrary to expectations for a site that is home to so many luxury brands, Miyuki Street in Aoyama Tokyo is not particularly beautiful or elegant. The architecture is heterogeneous – a hodgepodge of freestanding buildings of different heights and shapes, with neither historical tradition nor common standards. Never meant to be a space of its own, the street is a purely technical and functional link between Omotesando and the Aoyama Reien cemetery farther down the road. Despite single trees here and there, the atmosphere is not inviting, like a boulevard or a plaza. Tokyo is pure, quintessential city, its territory exploited to the full with absolutely no leeway for the individuality that we take for granted in European cities.

The typological model that best suited these considerations and specifications was a box placed directly at the level of the street, its cover slightly open to mark the entrance and allow pedestrians to look inside. Only then do they realize that the building is a shop. Here, under the oversized canopy, the two-storey interior is visible at a single glance, as if the volume had been sliced open with a big knife, turning the inside out. The rounded, soft edges of the copper surfaces inside meet with the razor-sharp steel corners on the outside of the metal box, while the cave-like niches clad in brocade face the central space of the shop like loges in a theatre. The shop on two tall storeys not only presents enticing goods on tables and in display cases; it is also like a spacious and comfortable home with inviting sofas and armchairs.

The façade has neither logo nor pomp; it is a polished, mirror-smooth surface, as if one single giant brushstroke had swept smooth the ordinarily matte surface of the steel panelled façade. This surface attracts the gaze and curiosity of passing pedestrians. But instead of affording a view inside, as in a shop window, the gaze is inverted; instead of the anticipated see-through window, viewers encounter self-reflection.

While the street is not a place that encourages lingering and looking around, the building itself is a gesture that extends an invitation to come inside and stay a while.

Name: Miu Miu Aoyama│Type: Commercial│Architect: Herzog & De Meuron│Completed: 2015


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