Shonan T-Site: Tsutaya’s new chic retail complex in surfer town

Written by: William on January 8, 2015 at 9:03 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

After wowing hipsters the world over with the first T-Site in Tokyo’s upmarket Daikanyama district three years ago, Tsutaya continues its quest to stop being the Blockbuster of Japan and be taken seriously as a sophisticated retailer: Shonan T-Site opened in mid-December, a complex of over 30 stores.

Like its Tokyo predecessor, the new T-Site in the beach resort area of Shonan, some 50km from the capital, is sleek and curated, with an uber-hip bookstore, restaurants, cafes, an Apple reseller, and even a posh FamilyMart convenience store. The same design team, led by architecture studio Klein Dytham, is behind the latest addition to Culture Convenience Club’s money-spinners.

Mark Dytham told The Japan Times: “The goal of the space is, as Tsutaya puts it, ‘cultural navigation.’ In an era when you can get everything online, what’s the point of shopping? I have 13 million Spotify tracks on my phone but don’t know what to play. Virtually everything is available on Amazon. The T-Site projects give you something you cannot get online: curation and concierges who know intimately about which section they oversee, whether it’s cars, food, travel, design, photography, fashion.”

shonan t-site tsutaya

So the white cubes from the Daikanyama complex are still here, along with the range of curated retail options. What is different is the location, of course, since Shonan is a beach area full of surfing and sun. That said, the money is still there, since Shonan is a plush area home to the well-to-do who can afford the long commute to Tokyo (think the elite families who gave us the taiyo-zoku in the 1950′s), and Tokyoites with second homes in the peninsula.

Shonan T-Site is actually part of something bigger and quite exciting — Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST), a model town for the future being developed by Panasonic.

As Panasonic puts it: “[Shonan T-Site is] not a site just for selling products. It’s a base for inspiring residents and visitors to the Shonan area, nurturing new lifestyles, and making this lifestyle known to people outside the town. Lifestyles born in the town called Fujisawa SST have great potential to affect lifestyles in Japan, and furthermore, in the world.”

You can grab a coffee at the customized designer Starbucks or indulge in some designing of yourself since, following in the craze arguably started by the likes of Fab Cafe in Shibuya, you can use 3D printers and laser cutters in the upstairs lounge area, or even try out Panasonic home appliances in a special tryvertising space called Square Lab Ferment.

The Daikanyama complex was touted as an attempt to meet the retail needs for middle-aged or older moneyed urbanites in search of experiences worthy of Daikanyama — quiet, curated, expensive. That said, its demographic is always mixed, full of younger couples on dates in Daikanyama, though they may not necessarily make a purchase.

Shonan has some of this too, since the population is older and life is slower, but there are also plenty of young visitors in the summer, who may want to combine a trip to Enoshima beach with some browsing at T-Site. Look for it to get busier as the weather get warmer.


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How to Use Shibaura House: A video guide to the designer Tokyo community space

Written by: William on September 30, 2014 at 8:21 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Shibaura House is a community space in the Tokyo district of Shibaura, a neighborhood in the south of the city near the port. The stylish glass building is designed by Kazuyo Sejima and hosts private functions, as well as regular workshops and art events.

shibaura house kazuyo sejima community space tokyo workshops

Sometimes these can be creative events for kids, dance workshops, yoga lessons, cooking and food events, and more. Check the Shibaura House Facebook page for photos from past events.

shibaura house kazuyo sejima community space tokyo workshops

When the center first opened in 2011 its translucent architecture attracted quite a bit of gushing from the likes of Design Boom et al. Arc Space compared the building to a Japanese paper lantern: “Public and private programs interweave in this cunning, white-clad amalgamation of boxy geometric volumes and playful curves… The most luxurious thing about Shibaura House is the spaciousness of its rooms in a city notorious for its exorbitant land prices. This is architecture far more down to earth, stripped down and pragmatic, yet with a playfulness instigated by the rounded shapes and shifting heights of its interior and semi-interior spaces.”

shibaura house kazuyo sejima community space tokyo workshops

Earlier this year Shibaura House published a series of illustrated bilingual “Kanto Tour Guides” with the help of 10 foreigners (why only foreigners, we’re not sure). Contributors included Lucas Badtke-Berkow, Jean Snow, Vivian Morelli, and Jared Braiterman.

shibaura house kanto tour guides

It also recently produced this funny English-language video introducing its facility and services.

how to use shibaura house

The presenter is “Charlie”, who for reasons unknown does the whole video in a top hat.

While casual visitors are perhaps unlikely to be passing through the business district of Shibaura (though a walk by the canals is nice), do pop in if you are nearby. Shibaura House has a free ground-floor space open to the public and which also has wi-fi. There is also a library with many books about architecture (of course!) and the staff can speak English. Oh, and a cup of coffee only costs ¥100.


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Tate no Ie: Muji’s new “Vertical House”

Written by: William on June 3, 2014 at 11:34 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Muji have created their first new model home in five years with the Tate no Ie, the “vertical house”.

It joins the Mado no Ie (Window House) and the Ki no Ie (Tree House). Not strictly prefab, Muji homes are pre-designed but assembled on site.

muji house tate no ie vertical home

The new three-story, wooden Tate no Ie stands on a 66.93 square meter lot. The model version is 4.5m (14.8 ft) wide and 8.19m deep (26.9 ft).

muji house tate no ie vertical home

This is downstairs.

muji house tate no ie vertical home

muji house tate no ie vertical home

This is the living room.

muji house tate no ie vertical home

And where the family cooks and eats…

muji house tate no ie vertical home

And this is the bedroom.

muji house tate no ie vertical home

This is the kids’ room.

muji house tate no ie vertical home

This is the central staircase.

muji house tate no ie vertical home

muji house tate no ie vertical home

muji house tate no ie vertical home


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Other categories: CULTURE, LIFESTYLE

Shigeru Ban wins Pritzker Prize, architecture’s Nobel Prize

Written by: William on March 25, 2014 at 10:55 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has been awarded the top award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize. Ban (56) has been given the accolade primarily for his humanitarian work, such as in the 1995 Kobe earthquake, the Rwanda civil war in 1994, and 2011 Tohoku disaster. After the latter, Ban and his team went into the evacuation centers and built partitions so that refugees would have some privacy while they were waiting for temporary housing. he then also made a large housing complex in Miyagi. In Kobe he constructed a paper dome to house the Takatori Catholic Church, which had been destroyed in the quake.

Shigeru Ban  Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Shigeru Ban
Photo by Shigeru Ban Architects

Ban founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) called VAN (Voluntary Architects’ Network) in 1995. VAN has gone to the sites of earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, and conflicts to assist in architectural relief work. Ban has worked with VAN in Japan, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, China, Haiti, Italy, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Six other Japanese architects have been given the annual honor: Kenzō Tange (1987), Fumihiko Maki (1993), Tadao Ando (1995), Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) (2010), and Toyo Ito (2013). Ban’s prize makes it two Japanese designers in a row for the prestigious gong, which “honor[s] a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”

Ban will get the prize officially in Amsterdam in June, including $100,000 in prize money. Based in three cities, he made a name for himself by constructing temporary relief shelters out of cardboard paper tubes and other such low-cost materials.

The Pritzker announcement commented:

An underpinning uniting much of his built work is his experimental approach. He has expanded the architectural field regarding not only the problems and challenges he tackles, but also regarding the tools and techniques to deal with them. He is able to see in standard components and common materials, such as paper tubes, packing materials or shipping containers, opportunities to use them in new ways. He is especially known for his structural innovations and the creative use of unconventional materials like bamboo, fabric, paper, and composites of recycled paper fiber and plastics.

Paper Partition System 4, 2011, Japan  Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network

Paper Partition System 4, 2011, Japan
Photo by Voluntary Architects’ Network

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, said, “Shigeru Ban is a force of nature, which is entirely appropriate in the light of his voluntary work for the homeless and dispossessed in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters. But he also ticks the several boxes for qualification to the Architectural Pantheon — a profound knowledge of his subject with a particular emphasis on cutting- edge materials and technology; total curiosity and commitment; endless innovation; an infallible eye; an acute sensibility — to name but a few.”

Ban commented: “Receiving this prize is a great honor, and with it, I must be careful. I must continue to listen to the people I work for, in my private residential commissions and in my disaster relief work. I see this prize as encouragement for me to keep doing what I am doing – not to change what I am doing, but to grow.”

Metal Shutter House, 2010, New York, USA  Photo by Michael Moran

Metal Shutter House, 2010, New York, USA
Photo by Michael Moran

Ban, who is often touted as an advocate of sustainable and environmentally-friendly architeecture, also does a lot of commercial work for private cleints. His other famous designs include the Metal Shutter House in Chelsea, New York, the Nicolas G. Hayek Center in Tokyo, and Centre Pompidou-Metz in France.


Category: CULTURE

Architecture for Dogs offers customizable designer pet homes

Written by: William on December 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Designer dog houses adapted to match the breed of the pooch? Well, it already no secret that the Japanese do love two things — pets and good design — so perhaps this marriage was inevitable. After all, we’ve previously seen this two come spectacularly together to create duck-bill design Oppo Quack dog muzzles.

A group of architects, led by designer maestro Kenya Hara, has proposed a series of special dog homes, each one customized for a particular kind of canine.

Participants in the Architecture for Dogs project include Atelier Bow-Wow, Kazuyo Sejima, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto and Toyo Ito, and more.

architecture for dogs japan hara kenya

Here’s how Hara himself puts it: “Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment.”

architecture for dogs japan hara kenya

Word got out online about the project in November but the website has only just gone live, and it also recently exhibited at the Miami Design District.

From the website dog-owners can download blueprints for the designs, plus instructions and videos for how to construct and customize them for your own pet.

architecture for dogs japan hara kenya

There will be another exhibition, this time in Tokyo, in October 2013, along with a book.

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Zaha Hadid to design the new National Stadium Japan in Tokyo

Written by: William on November 16, 2012 at 12:38 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

The Japan Sport Council has selcted the winning architect for building the new National Stadium Japan.

There were 46 entries from architects around the world in the first stage, of which 11 were then put forward for the final slection. The jury chair was Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect famed for his use of concrete.

The winner has been announced as Iraq-born and British-based studio, Zaha Hadid Architects. Zaha Hadid beat out other short-listed candidates such as locals Toyo Ito and Pritzker-winners Kazuyo Sejima, and other entries from Germany, Britain, Australia and elswhere.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo

Hadid has previously won the Pritzker and Stirling prizes, and her sporting facilities include the London Aquatics Centre that was a large part of the recent Summer Olympics in the UK.

As Ando put it, the new stadium has “to establish a dialogue with its physical context, which includes sites such as the Meiji Shrine”.

Will the Hadid stadium be up to the challenge? The concept images as any rate look awesome.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo

The original stadium of course featured in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, although it is not nearly as well known as the nearby Yoyogi National Gymnasium, designed by Kenzo Tange, and which still graces north Harajuku with its curving roof and featured in background shots of the James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

It is to be built by 2018, in time for hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup (and perhaps another Tokyo Olympics in 2020 if Shintaro Ishihara et al has his way).

There has been a lot of this flag-waving based on Sixties nostalgia recently, from Ishihara’s new party name and logo to now the distinct tone of the stadium competition outline, which claims without a hint of irony that “the construction of the stadium is being undertaken as a national project on a scale unprecedented in this century”.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo

You could argue that a “national” stadium cannot avoid sounding, well, nationalist, though somehow these words chill: “We want to change Japan. We want to make it new again — a nation that lives each day with its head held hight. But we need a symbol — a symbol the entire nation can take pride in, and enthusiastically support.”

Funny, I thought that was the job of the Emperor, a veritable good ol’ egg if ever there was one and certainly a symbol of sorts for the people.

zaha hadid national stadium tokyo

To our cynical eyes, this project smacks less of sport and design, but, like most similarly large-scale projects at times of national crisis, it feels more like bread and circuses: Distracting the population from all the bad things, namely Fukushima, TEPCO and the ineptitude of the government.

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Category: CULTURE

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