Monday, April 06, 2009

Tokyo Swatch by Shigeru Ban

Tokyo Swatch by Shigeru Ban
by Terri Peters

The new Swatch flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza district immediately stands out from the surrounding high-end fashion boutiques on this densely packed street. There is no doorway, no visible sign, and no glass storefront. Instead, a towering four-story void in the streetscape seems to signify a civic-scale entry.

The building's enormous retractable glass "shutters" create this dramatic effect when open. Then when the shutters are down — on rainy days and when the shop is closed — the building is disguised as a normal, curtain-wall office building.

This unusual store, named the Nicolas G. Hayek Center, is the work of U.S.-trained Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Even at first glance, the building reveals itself as more than just a fancy facade: it is real architecture, a project about volume, spatial complexity, and experimentation.

Garden of Luxury

As visitors step off the busy sidewalk into the lobby of the 14-story Swatch building, no merchandise presents, and no salespeople patrol the door. A subtle change in floor material marks the low-key threshold between the sidewalk and the interior showroom. The massive lobby is dotted with glazed hydraulic elevators, planted trees, and a 13-story-tall hanging garden wall.

It's hard to believe that among the high-rent offices, posh boutiques, and exclusive restaurants of Ginza, in a forest of buildings mostly ten stories high and taller, Ban was able to design a little bit of semi-public space. The airy interior spaces, unconventional interior-exterior treatment, simple materials, and fragrant green lobby create an oasis of unusual calm.

source: Architecture Week


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