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First look

Conran and Partners completes ‘Hokusai-inspired’ Tokyo apartment block

  • 1 Comment

This ziggurat form of the seven-storey scheme, which contains 15 apartments, is intended to emulate that of a hillside seen in one of the artist’s woodblock prints 

The fair-faced concrete and stone-faced building’s stepped form allows sunlight to penetrate to street level, with its recessive massing meaning that for pedestrians, only its first three storeys are visible.

Overall the building’s ziggurat form is intended to echo that of hillsides where the cushion pine grows, taking its inspiration specifically from a woodblock print – ‘Cushion Pine at Aoyama’ – by the Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai, one of his ‘Thirty views of Mount Fuji’ which date from the early 19th century. 

Conran and partners kita aoyama  forward stroke inc (9)

Conran and partners kita aoyama forward stroke inc (9)

Source: Forward Stroke Inc.

The uppermost floors step back, allowing terraces for residents, with the form of the fair-faced expressed concrete grid of the lower floors – which alternates with both glazed- and flamed-finished granite panels between – changing to a black steel-clad post-and-beam structure above.

Throughout, living spaces and bedrooms open out through timber-framed windows to the planted terraces, with winter gardens providing a transitional space between internal and exterior areas.

At ground level, walled gardens provide further private spaces for residents, with mature trees offering shade, colour and seasonality alongside the street.

Conran and partners kita aoyama  forward stroke inc (22)

Conran and partners kita aoyama forward stroke inc (22)

Source: Forward Stroke Inc.

Architects view

This project encapsulates a holistic approach through its architecture and interior design, linked by the spaces running between the various elements of the development, internally and externally. The result is an overall spatial experience, creating a continuous journey from the street to the home through a hierarchy of spaces and layers.

The apartments are unusually large for Tokyo. Our design approach recognises the cultural need for privacy in a densely built and populated city. This is clearly important in creating a journey from the public street, through the semi-public reception and circulating spaces to the private front doors of the apartments. The materiality of this journey is expressed by moving from stone and concrete to timber-lined lift-cars and corridor spaces, where softly pooled lighting provides subtle orientation leading to the apartment front doors. Once in the apartments, the hierarchy of public to private continues, with circulation routes and distinct zoning ensuring the formal separation of guest reception spaces from private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms. Entrance halls (‘genkan’), generous enough to enable hosts to comfortably greet their guests and remove shoes before they are led to the main living spaces, reflect the welcome ritual of Japanese homes. Each step of this process is identified by passing through timber portals and transitioning from one material to another. Kita Aoyama represents a focused design response to the physical, historical and cultural context of the location, creating a definitive sense of place for the residents.

Due to the risk of earthquakes in the region and the pre-condition that buildings are made from concrete. Conran and Partners has sought to balance this requirement by adopting a ‘landscaped’ approach. The design has created a green ‘stepping stone’ for this part of Tokyo and seeks to make the building a piece of landscape, using indigenous flora to bring nature into a very urban context. The practice sourced materials – including timber and granite – locally from sustainable and responsible suppliers. The rooms are designed to face north/north west to minimise demands on air conditioning systems in the summer months.

Tim Bowder-Ridger, principal, Conran and Partners

Conran and partners kita aoyama luke hayes (15)edit

Conran and partners kita aoyama luke hayes (15)edit

Source: Luke Hayes

Client’s view

Our ambition was to create a unique project in Aoyama, the world-famous area overlooking the Olympic main stadium. The 15 high-end residences consider the history and personality of Aoyama, whilst each adopting a unique concept. Conran and Partners’ design philosophy considers the potential occupants’ lifestyles, blending high-end hospitality and residential design to create a truly unique special experience. We are very grateful to the team for bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to the project, while respecting the differences in our social customs and values throughout.

Masaya Kitano, NTT Urban Development

160726 kita aoyama floor plan level 4

160726 kita aoyama floor plan level 4

Source: Conran and Partners

Floor plan level 4

Project data

Start on site Summer 2017
Completion date Early 2020
Gross internal floor area 6,100  m2
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Conran and Partners
Executive architect RIA
Client NTT Urban Development
Contractor Shimizu Corporation
Landscape designer Landscape Plus Inc
Lighting designer Phenomenon Lighting Design Office
Japanese agent Design Index 

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • I praised Conran's Centre Point makeover in print some time ago, and I'm sure that the practice have delivered an equally bijou, well-crafted building in Tokyo that more than meets their client's requirements. But I flinched and shouted "Por el amor de Dios!" at the linking of the architecture to a hillside in a Hokusai print. This would only be possible if you had first fallen, choking and flailing, into a vat of mescalin.

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