In Tokyo’s ever-changing retail landscape, Japan’s top design firm Torafu Architects, are taking store design to another level. WGSN’s Darren Gore reports.
In the ever-changing retail landscape of Tokyo’s Shinjuku, the iconic neon-flooded district that is equal parts upscale shopping, high-pressure business and after-hours ‘adult entertainment’, the two most significant recent openings both showcase the talents of one of Japan’s foremost young design firm, Torafu Architects.
Founded by partners Shinya Kamuro and Koichi Suzuno, both are now in their forties but considered fresh-faced in an industry and culture where seniority holds sway.
Since the company’s 2004 inception Torafu has built an enviable reputation for its application of architectural principles to everything from jewellery to furniture for dogs, via commissions for such names as Hermes, Nike, and Herman Miller.
Japanese fashion institution Beams, the store that originated the ‘select shop’ model adopted by domestic chain boutiques, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a radical remodelling-reopening of its Shinjuku flagship.
Standing six floors high, the new Beams Japan premises presents a thoroughly contemporary take on Japanese arts and crafts tradition throughout (with a basement restaurant modelled upon that of Japan’s oldest resort hotel, the Nikko Kanaya).
For the second and third floors, however, Beams tapped Torafu to create a more overtly modern retail space that, with a versatility akin to that of an art gallery, can be adapted to best highlight whatever is being merchandised.
Display boxes reminiscent of packing crates, in two sizes, allow easy movement plus swift construction and de-assembly. The uniform muted grey hue of these boxes is complemented by artificial polished-stone flooring randomly inset with glass fragments, while colour-tinted mirrors lining both sides of the space offer alternative perspectives.
A five-minute stroll away, meanwhile, NEWoMan is a vast seven-floor complex (operated by the Japan Rail-owned Lumine shopping centre group) dedicated entirely to high-end fashion, lifestyle, health, food and culture-oriented stores for the modern woman. Here Australian skincare brand Aesop, in line with its strategy of hiring local architects to conceive its global locations, had Torafu create a standout 495 sq. ft. shop-in-shop that is forged entirely from limestone: walls, ceiling, floor, display cabinets and sales counter.
The concept being to visualise the space as a single piece of limestone, precisely 108 blocks of the material have been utilised.
Not content to rest there, 2016 has so far also seen the prolific pair direct the spring/summer ’16 window displays of Hermes’ 22 stores across Japan, and design a innovative series of shape-shifting paper bowls that envelope air in order to achieve the rigidity required to hold foods.
A tome entitled ‘Torafu Architects 2004-2011: Idea + Process’ (published by Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha) gives an overview of the duo’s work over those years, but given their productivity City By City eagerly awaits an update!
See more of Torafu Architects’ work at torafu.com
3-32-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku / 81 (0)3 5368 7300
Shinjuku NEWoMan 1F, 4-1-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku / 81 (0)3 5357 7135
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