ClientHair Salon Kasai
Text description provided by the architects. Ichikawamisato (Yamanashi Prefecture) suffers many of the typical problems of contemporary regional Japan. With a declining population and an increasing suburbanization and sprawl, the urban core has lost its vitality. Originally the municipality followed a compact built-up configuration, with a shopping street extending from the station. Nowadays train users have decreased dramatically, and the small shops have almost disappeared as big box stores in the outskirts absorbed all commercial activities. People have come to depend completely on the car for their everyday life and parking space has taken up exterior space around shops and houses. With few people walking on the streets, this car-based lifestyle discourages spontaneous encounters and weakens the sense of community.
We were approached by a local barber shop to renew and improve his business. With a limited budget we proposed an intervention that could potentially increase customers and improve the image of the business, but also actively contribute to the community. We reorganized the exterior space into a more compact parking configuration to offer a public terrace to the community.
Designed as a reflection of the wooden pattern of the existing white façade, the terrace feels as a continuity of the existing building. A collective bench and a garden, it integrates pits of several sizes to accommodate vegetation and people, who can sit in different orientations and in close proximity to plants. People can sit in small groups facing each other in the pits, or they can sit alone, keeping their privacy by looking out in different directions. The terrace surface can also be used as a table or to lay down. With different species, sizes and positions and acquiring different colors throughout the year, plants express and encourage this diversity of use and create soft boundaries between zones in the terrace. In a festive opening workshop we invited neighbors to plant the vegetation with us. We hope that locals will feel attached to the plants they helped to plant and will be taking care of them in their everyday life.
This is a tiny intervention, but our intention is to create a precedent of reconquering parking space and induce an increased awareness of the importance of exterior spaces for socialization. Since its construction the terrace has prompted DJ events and barbeques, and has become an integral part of the local life. In car-dominated regional Japan, we hope to disseminate through this project a different approach to exterior space and encourage neighbors to install semi-public areas within their sites to increase communication and mitigate the lack of spontaneous encounters.