Architectes: NAP architects + Hiroshi Nakamura
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Year built: 2010-2012
Omotesando an avenue lined with the flagship stores of international fashion brands is one of Japan’s foremost fashion streets. As the frontal (“Omote”) approach to the wooded compound of Meiji Shrine the avenue is lined on both sides with zelkova trees. The branches of the trees form a canopy over the avenue and provide an experience of shopping under sunlight filtering through trees. An environment that blends architectural spaces with spaces under trees—such is the special character of Omotesando we felt and we therefore proposed a style of environment giving emphasis to this special character.
We first laid out terraces and located trees on the roof and in peripheral spaces—areas of the building receiving maximum sunlight and moreover enjoying unlimited views of the intersection. We then created a volume three or more stories in height. As a result the spreading branches of trees displaced portions of the building’s interior and the terrace had to be elevated to the height of the trees’ root clumps. We nevertheless chose to embrace these restrictive conditions and use them positively to set up a feeling of intimacy between the trees and visitors. By establishing polygonal steps on the terrace similar in appearance to the polyporaceae (bracket fungi) that grow at the base of trees we could fill in the height difference created by the root clumps and produce a terrace of mortar shape. The polygonal steps have a multiplicity of meanings for they serve not only as steps but also as chairs and tables. Through them users enter a physical dialogue with the building. What particularly charmed us about the mortar-shape terrace is how visitors naturally gravitate to the lower levels of the terrace seeking a center. There the visitors seat themselves in the countless nooks around the terrace and share the scenery before them. In these times when Internet shopping is on the rise it is important for commercial spaces to maximize the value they possess that cannot be replicated online. We felt that the relaxed sense of unity one feels in this comfortable environment abounding with distinctive places and pleasant physical experiences is precisely the quality demanded of commercial facilities in the future.