by Anmol AhujaApr 13, 2021
Klein Dytham architecture (Kda) has developed a new facade for the Cartier store in the Shinsaibashi area of Osaka in Japan. From a distance, innumerable miniature solid gold blocks appear studded together but closer inspection reveals the light wood tones and glossy texture that contribute to the overall illusion. In the buzzing shopping district that has an extended history as a centre of commerce, the three-dimensional edifice radiates a gentle golden aura that imbues this prominent street corner with an air of inviting intimacy. Simultaneously, it also contrasts the glass storefronts of the Apple, Nike, and Burberry stores in its vicinity.
Within the high-end retail haven Shinsaibashi - a district of Osaka's Chūō-ku ward - this outlet of the France-based luxury goods conglomerate occupies the base of an existing building with double-height entrances and large openings facilitating visual links to the store's interior. Klein Dytham architecture had the space of a slim corridor for their intervention which spanned only 200 millimetres from the surface of the existing building. This constraint also made it difficult to fasten the new facade assembly to the old structure.
While seeking solutions to these challenges, the architects had to plan out every detail of the new facade design meticulously. They resolved to adopt a concept that honoured Japan's renowned traditional crafts while acknowledging Cartier's own revered designers and artisans. Moreover, to match the luxury retailer's dedication to responsibly sourced jewellery, KDa explored avenues to combine recyclable and replenishable material supplies with the exceptionally high standards of Japanese design and craftsmanship.
The Tokyo-based architecture firm created a scheme that resembled patterns of interlocking diamonds, in a play of diagonally protruding solids and voids influenced by both Cartier's classic jewellery and the design of Japanese sake boxes - known as hinoki-masu. Hinoki or Japanese cypress – a material which is used to make these sake boxes - was chosen as the facade's primary material due to its inherent stability, weather resistance, and frequent usage in building local temples, castles, and shrines in traditional Japanese architecture. It is also widely cultivated as a bonsai tree. The seasoned wood was sourced from 60 to 70-year-old trees in the Kyoto and Gifu Prefectures of Japan and further protected by a UV-resistant clear lacquer to preserve its grain and tone from diminishing due to rain or moisture.
Deployed in an arrangement comprising 12 different modules for the main facade, corners, skirting, and arched window details, the hinoki units were stacked on aluminium frames - procured from recycled sources - which enabled the structure to be lowered and fitted easily into place. Numbering approximately 2,500 in total, the hinoki modules were all individually handcrafted by master craftsmen from Kyoto using customary joinery techniques. While sunlight washes the facade in golden hues during the day, LED lights fitted into the units illuminate the assembly at night, injecting a warm, alluring glow into its surroundings.
The final result warps and distorts all notions of depth and perspective, oscillating between mesmerising two-dimensional patterns and three-dimensional relief. Painting a precise portrait of luxury and typifying the spirit of the retail design it envelops, the new facade is truly at home in its urban, cultural, and historical contexts, subtly paying homage to all of them at once.
Name: Cartier facade
Location: Shinsaibashi, Osaka, Japan
Architect: Klein Dytham architecture
Lighting Designer: ICE
Facade Engineering: AGB (Asahi Building Wall)
Structural Engineer: TECTONICA
Project Management: Sato Facilities Consultants
Construction: Takenaka Corporation