by STIRworldApr 27, 2022
The practice of holistic design in architecture would entail tackling different scales in the construing of that architecture in sync with a larger design scheme, a concept, or an understanding of an architectural response to a particular context. And while these different ‘scales’ - varying between the formal mass of the building, to its structural and mechanical workings, to its interior spaces and the products adorning it - might be added to or removed, their upper and lower limits remain mostly defined. As a result of this process, this stack of scales, the designers’ scope of work, and in a way involved with the design process would thus depend upon how many of these scales they are able to devise and work with between these limits.
In what further seems like an interesting observation, the upper half of these limits of scale-definition are more oriented toward an aesthetic outlining of the architecture, while the lower half would concede to working, functioning, and operation. The closest architecture comes to utilising the lower limit of that spectrum to impart a decidedly aesthetic direction is through the early tenets of modernism, wherein material purity, and certain material exhibitionism even, gained precedence over ‘neat’ finishes. “God is in the details”, stated Mies van der Rohe, and it has since manifested closely in several projects that boast these tenets and a definitive style-siding. Of and within those, the Japanese interpretation of these tenets, particularly in furniture design, was something that successfully fused age-old traditions with modern construction methods, with the minimal sense of ‘arrangement’ adding to it.
It is also interesting to see how akin to the postmodern style whose temporal flux continues to thrive on its amorphous definition and different, evolving interpretations of stylistic precedents, minimalism too remains open to simultaneous interpretation and evolution. In that wind, while the recent Culvert House by Nendo boasts stripping away the tiniest semblance of ostentation in form, and while several others simply move to structures of a more materially reductive nature, Hender Scheme’s new showroom, designed by Tokyo based architectural and design studio DDAA and housed in a concrete building near Kuramae Station, is principled upon near zero material finishes, wherein the details that make these objects of architecture literally click serve to be the definition of the space.
With a certain temptation to term this project an adaptive reuse one, the nature of the stripping down, almost reforming of the structure into a bare concrete shell to house the new showroom and office for IaicoS, the parent company of Hender Scheme and Polyploid, forbids me from it. It’s a radical redefinition of the space, in which the exposed concrete edifices is only added upon without alterations. To achieve this, akin to the tenets above, the team at DDAA devised a set of ‘rules’ they would abide by for their desired spatial treatment. The first was to use raw-edged materials as they were without any significant edge treatment except for deburring. The second was to retain the colours of materials and fixtures as they came, lending the space not just a veritable contrast, but also a distinct character of assemblage. The two rules also came to be DDAA’s interpretation of the characteristics of Hender Scheme’s vegetable-tanned leather.
The third, aligning much more with their way of making, was about ushering in a sense of democratic directness in the design by treating opposites as equally as possible. Industrial vs. craft objects, front and back, artificial and natural, and thrifty and luxurious became terms that complemented each other rather than negated, entering an uneasy alliance that imbues the concrete-massed space with virtuous energy. The ethos of Hender Scheme’s everyday objects that would be retailed out of the space, including boxes, envelopes, and simple leather packaging is bravely yet carefully echoed.
The greys of the concrete walls, a bare shell upon which the layer of spatial transformation was to be applied, were retained in character, and shelves and partitions made of raw-edged grey poly lumber were structured around these walls, lending not only an aesthetic but a framework for spatial planning. The shelves placed along the exterior wall side can be used as open shelves for documents and may be partly concealed or screened during events and exhibits. The flexibly installed screens for achieving that are made of raw-edged polycarbonate panels that can be attached and removed with magnets, without intricate fittings. Lightweight and translucent, the screens filter light from the relatively smaller windows in the envelope.
The meeting room comes across as a central space to the office, and is highlighted by a glass table standing on legs made of steel pipes for scaffolding, with the joinery detail for the table now essentially transformed into a construction detail, the industrial outlook softened by leather upholstered chairs by Hender Scheme. One of the glass partitions separating the office and meeting room is a mirror, and a vertical grey surface visible from the office is the back of that mirror, doubling up as a rather unusual surface finish. The mirror and the glass, accruing the same thickness, are fixed directly with screws using leather as washers. The electrical wiring and conduits, completely exposed in its route, are carefully laid out in concrete walls and are held in place using raw-edged leather.
The other definitive piece of furniture lending the space its distinct structural-industrial outlook is the large meeting table in the centre, composed of large-sized structural plywood, over 3m in length. Here too, joinery details were transformed into construction details using hardware for conventional construction methods for wooden houses to fasten joints. Owing to the fixed size of the structural plywood, the desks were devised to be of a depth of 700mm, and space for power supply wiring was provided through a slit in the middle propped by raw-edged steel square pipes doubling up as longitudinal beams, also providing space for electrical outlets.
While the devising of these details exudes certain confidence begotten from their display, a deeper philosophy pertaining to this execution from DDAA is well summed up in their statement, “We will continue to think about new perspectives and values in myriad gradations of grey in which good qualities of both opposites, such as high and low, craft and industrial, front and back, and artificial and natural, etc. coexist, without being biased towards one another”, highlighting their pursuit of finding consonance in contrast, and a myriad beauty in exposition.
Name: Hender Scheme Showroom, Kuramae
Location: Taito-ku, Tokyo
Typology: Office, Showroom
Project Team: Daisuke Motogi, Kazuya Sumida
Total floor area: 498.45 m²