The buildings of a city really say a lot about its character. They also work in narrating heritage, as well as painting a picture of the culture – which then gives depth to a prevailing identity.
While Ginza is just one of the many districts in Tokyo, it stands out for its distinct architecture. The buildings here have a dual quality. They may look contemporary and sleek, but have a deeper meaning to them.
Here’s a look at five of the most beautiful, and their fascinating concepts.
A tall, white building that stands out at one of the district’s busiest intersections, Ginza Place is quite a sight to behold. The 11-storey structure is the work of Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architects.
It was constructed to replace the previous Nissan Gallery building. Apart from housing Nissan and Sony’s global flagship showrooms, it is also home to a number of restaurants and cafes.
The stunning facade is constructed from 5,315 individual aluminum panels. The architect, Mark Dytham, himself described the building as “reflecting the craftsmanship and quality which is synonymous with Ginza and Japan”.
Ginza Place’s form is said to be inspired by the curvature of the Wako building directly opposite the street. Balconies on the 3rd and 7th floor offer views of Ginza’s Chuo and Harumi-dori streets.
As modern as it looks, it does however pay tribute to the past. The 7th floor balcony was designed to sit at previously-regulated building heights and symbolically represents a skyline from another time.
At another major intersection in Ginza, there is the Tokyu Plaza. The site where it is located, sits at the connection point to the neighbouring Yurakucho and Hibiya districts – also known as the “Gate of Ginza”.
What makes Tokyu Plaza so unique is the use of glass panels. Based on the concept “vessel of light”, the building is designed as a structure inspired by the Japanese traditional craft of edo kiriko (cut glass).
But there is more to its significance other than aesthetic. The three-dimensional silhouette shows various expressions, changing by time and weather. Reflections of the surrounding cityscape help it blend in with the cityscape as well.
The Kiriko Lounge is a public space situated at the middle level of the building, providing a broad view of the city. With a 27 meter high atrium, it offers a breath-taking view of the area’s everyday commercial activities.
An interesting (or rather, unique) fact about Tokyu Plaza is that it uses a full block. This simply means the building has streets on all four sides, which happens to be a very unusual occurrence in the district.
The nine-story Mikimoto Ginza showroom is certainly hard to miss. It sports a Swiss cheese-like look, designed by architect Toyo Ito. It also acts as the Japanese pearl company’s head office.
The building’s structure is made of steel and reinforced concrete. What makes it truly stand out is the cut-out detailing, formed by irregular shaped windows sporadically placed on the facade.
These “holes” appear to be arranged at random. However, since some of these are placed in the corners (where typically would be a column), it requires a sophisticated construction system to achieve.
Ito was apparently inspired by the mysteriousness of a jewellery box and imagining bubbles around pearls. It is said that his concept is based on a building that is suspended by its external beauty, leaving the internal spaces unstructured and column-free.
Another whimsical element of the building is its colour. It has a pale pink sheen to it, almost like a pearl. This lends a feel of happiness and harmony to the streets where Mikimoto Ginza is located.
Tokyo International Forum
The Tokyo International Forum happens to be Japan’s largest congress centre. It is situated on the boundary between Tokyo’s central business area, Marunouchi, and Ginza’s shopping and entertainment district.
It includes two theatres, one among the largest in the world with over 6,000 square meters of exhibition space. This is in addition to several conference rooms, restaurants, shops and other amenities.
The aim of the design was to create a space fully accessible to the public yet protected from the impacts of the busy everyday surroundings – or in other words, an urban oasis of serenity and calm.
Along the eastern edge of the Tokyo International Forum, a spacious plaza visually filters into the building’s glass hall. This takes the form of a large enclosure with a dramatic 228m-long truss that hovers above.
At night, light reflecting off the surface of the roof helps transform the structure into a monolithic floating light source. The illumination then magically profiles the glass hall onto the Tokyo skyline.
Fendi’s flagship boutique in Ginza is nothing short of a spectacle. It offers a projection of Rome’s beauty through the eyes of the Italian luxury house, merging it with Tokyo’s light-scape.
The lighting for its facade graphically contours the iconic arches of Palazzo Della Civilta Italiana, a 1930s architectural masterpiece in Rome – which now hosts the Fendi global headquarters.
The bright outdoor architectural effect is made even more magical when balanced against the warm and cosier interior lights. At night, the building really comes alive, glowing like a lantern.
Traditional stone used to build ancient monuments and structures, is a key attraction of the boutique. It also makes use of gold foils, another traditional element used in Roman architecture.
The opening in 2015 celebrates Fendi’s 50 years in Japan. At that time, it was the label’s first boutique in the country to showcase both men’s and women’s collections, in addition to shoes, handbags and leather accessories.
IMAGES: C.L / KEFWhat