Architecture

Tour the Fantastic Landscape of Retail Architecture In Tokyo

Architect Lee Mindel takes Cultured on a photographic tour of the standout retail architecture in Tokyo, Japan.

Lee Mindel

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Prada's boutique in the Aoyama district.

As we work on flattening the curve, many daily life experiences have been put on hold: traveling, seeing friends and family and the pleasure of shopping in person.

As an architect, I look to culture for inspiration, and there is a certain musicality when fashion, technology and design are seamlessly integrated, helping to define a cityscape. Nowhere in the world do architecture and retail collide with such interesting results as in Tokyo, a sprawling metropolitan area of over 35 million people in Japan. With space priced at a premium, shopping and corporate branding have gone vertical, creating a landscape of unique shapes and visual textures. And with the likes of SANAA, Renzo Piano and Herzog & de Meuron paired with brands such as Christian Dior, Hermès and Prada, respectively, the design of the buildings is every bit as interesting as the latest clothing and accessory lines housed within.

While revisiting these photographs I took on a trip five years ago, I am reminded not to take for granted the incredible things we have to learn from different cultures, geographies and aesthetic traditions. Please join me on a virtual tour of the best that retail and architecture have to offer in Tokyo.

From left: Stella McCartney, Miu Miu, and Prada flagships show how architecture and fashion have created a unique visual texture in the Aoyama district.

The Jun Aoki-designed Louis Vuitton building on Omotesando Avenue in the Harajuku district is wrapped in layers of metal fabric. Interwoven strips of glass call to mind traditional tatami construction.

Two more buildings on Omotesando Avenue: at left, the Norihiko Dan-designed home of Hugo Boss, and on the right, Toyo Ito’s Tod’s building. Ito’s thick concrete exterior walls with flush, frameless windows allow for high-ceilinged column-free interior spaces that appear to be held up by a Pick-Up sticks-like frame.

The translucent exterior of the SANAA-devised Christian Dior building on Omotesando Avenue looks like a veiled screen.

Tadao Ando created this origami-like structure clad in black steel plates to serve as an annex for HH Style.

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Audi’s Omotesando Avenue building by Creative Designers International appears to float on a collage of unusual angles and perspectives.

Renzo Piano’s Hermès building is clad in glass brick, recalling Pierre Chareau’s 1932 Maison de Verre, or House of Glass, in Paris. Here, the glass bricks are set in silver-colored mortar, referencing the Ginza neighborhood.

From left, Kume Sekkei’s Gap headquarters and Renzo Piano’s Hermès building.

Architect Kumiko Inui created a dynamic transparent stacked grid for Tasaki’s Ginza district building.

The dynamic De Beers tower by Jun Mitsui brings light and a sense of movement to the Ginza streetscape.