- Design : Tomoki Yamasaki, Javier Villar Ruiz
- Landscape : Saikai Engei, Yousuke Yamaguchi
- Contractor : Crea Planning
- Renders : DOX, Ivan Pazos
- Furniture : Kusakanmuri - Ikuya Sagara (straw), Tatsuya Tokura (plaster)
- City : Tokyo
- Country : Japan
Text description provided by the architects. This ‘outdoor goods’ shop, in the heart of Omotesando, the most exciting retail area in Tokyo, was an opportunity to think about two phenomena that developed during the covid pandemic and recent lockdowns. One is people’s sudden desire to reconnect with nature; and second, the thriving of online shopping that is questioning the future of physical retail spaces.
In the last 2 decades, especially in Tokyo foreseeing the rise of the internet, retail was repurposed as an “experience” by designers competing to author the ultimate entertainment and fascination about the experience of visiting the interiors themselves. But the internet’s user experience, now inside our cellphones, has succeeded to be constantly present, aiming to be as exciting as real experiences, if not more. Brands cannot just try to attract customers to sell them products; retail spaces must be a source of meaningful excitement, tuition, and shared experiences.
This shop tries to focus on creating an appropriate context where the outdoor goods on sale can be understood, tested, and explained by staff demonstrations and workshops. This shop becomes a kind of diorama-like in those exciting nature and anthropology museums we loved to visit during our childhood.
The space is divided into a “landscape area” that is conceived as real nature, provoking a feeling of being outdoor; and the “display area” expressed as architecture bringing a feeling of being indoors and from where we can enjoy observing the landscape. Visitors are invited to walk around both areas.
This dichotomy is formalized through a strong diagonal line that, deliberately ignoring the geometry of the existing structure, clearly defines the border between these two areas. This division is so strong that it overwrites the limit between the inside and outside of the existing architecture itself.
The Landscape area, developed by Yousuke Yamaguchi (Saikai Engei), was conceived to be experienced as real as possible, with its ever-changing vegetation, canopy shadows, and the murmur of the stream going through it.
The lighting, developed by Shinji Yamaguchi (On&Off), not only evolves in intensity and tone temperature recreating the different times of the day but also provides to the vegetation during the night hours the necessary light frequencies for the photosynthesis. Simple domestic air fans, installed in the ceiling, make sure vegetation is hit by the breeze from different directions. Such challenges for the landscape’s design, construction, and its long-span maintenance implies effort and commitment; but this brings at the same time a sense of responsible understanding from humans towards nature’s needs.
The contrast between this real nature and the naked concrete makes the existing structure become part of the landscape. It is especially moving to see this indoor landscape at night when visitors gather sipping beer around a campfire reflected in the stream’s water, and their shadows being cast into the concrete walls, still marked by previous interior constructions.
The Display area, same as in other shops HaCo designed for UPI, is simply solved by wooden tool-boards that become the only visible artificial material in place. Wood panels also finish the ceilings and floors of this whole area. To avoid creating back-of-house and storage rooms, this is solved by conceiving the main tool-board wall as an openable closet. Instead of door handles, the panels are openable by pulling climbing-ropes fixed to the tool board perforations.
The tool-board display walls are filled both with selling goods and personal artifacts UPI’s team have been collecting throughout their life experiences in nature, many of them with the people responsible for the brands they import, emphasizing the human side of the company.
As a contrast to the organicity of the “landscape area”, the “display area” is designed seeking order and repetition. All surfaces are defined according to standard tool-board dimensions, diminishing material loss, and their geometries are precisely controlled so that every single joint is in its proper place. Construction is kept simple and honest, not hiding the humble thinness of the tool-boards and exposing its substructure when necessary. This essentiality of the construction recalls the functional ephemerality of camping structures.
A round table and few stools are the only loose furniture in the whole shop. To make them part of both the architecture and the landscape in this space, they were designed with very simple shapes, almost primitive, and crafted using unprocessed natural materials such as thatch-straw ‘kaya’ and lime plaster ‘shikkui’. Involving craftsmen to produce onsite such items, and not simply off-the-shelf furniture, insists once again on UPI’s human-driven approach to nature.