The building of 15 high-end apartments, is located in the upmarket Kita Aoyama district of the Japanese capital. The design takes its inspiration from a woodblock print – ‘Cushion pine at Aoyama’ – by the great Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai, created by Hokusai when the area was a green landscape. The fair-faced concrete and stone building takes the form of a ziggurat that emulates the form of the hillside where the cushion pine, represented by dense indigenous planting, grows.
Located at the junction of narrow, domestic-scale streets, a key challenge was to respect the form and height of the neighbouring buildings. The seven-storey building’s stepped form allows sunlight to penetrate to street level. The structure’s recessive massing means that pedestrians are aware only of the first three storeys, while the cascading greenery of trees and shrubs hint at the upper levels beyond the parapet. The form of the honest structure also subtly changes from a fair-faced concrete grid to a black steel-clad structure above.
Kita Aoyama 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 uppermost floors, visible only from the upper floors of adjacent buildings, step back dramatically, creating generous terraces where the extensive planting ensures that terraces below are protected from views from those above, ensuring privacy for all residents.
The form of the structure also subtly changes at these higher levels from a fair-faced concrete grid – expressed massively with glazed- or flamed-finished granite panels between – to a black steel-clad post and- beam structure above. The structure on all levels is expressed honestly, offering a robust, visual assurance that the building is earthquake-proof.
At ground level, walled gardens provide private spaces of calm for residents occupying the lower levels of the building. Mature trees have been planted here, offering shade, colour and seasonality to the street.
Recognising the cultural need for privacy in a densely built and populated city, the apartments are unusually large for Tokyo. This is key to 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.
The apartments, which are unusually large for Tokyo, present a hierarchy of spaces from public to private through circulation routes and distinct zoning ensuring the formal separation of guest reception spaces from private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms. Each step of this journey through the building can be identified by passing through timber portals and transitioning from one material to another. Both the living spaces and bedrooms offer timber-framed views of the external, planted terraces, the generosity of which is a rare amenity in this most dense of cities.
The project recognises the customs and values of Japanese culture. Entrance halls (‘genkan’) have been designed generously to enable hosts to comfortably greet their guests and remove shoes before they are led to the main living spaces, reflecting 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.
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.
Offering a unique addition to the location, the design was born out of a continuing and creative collaboration with landscape architect Tatsuya Hiraga. We have created a vivid example of an incremental approach to making cities more habitable by bringing nature back through the use of landscape and native planting.
The result is a vivid example of an incremental approach to make cities more habitable by bringing nature back through the use of landscape and native planting.
Conran and Partners is an architecture and interior design practice, founded by Sir Terence Conran, renowned for designing contemporary ways of living. With studios in the UK and Hong Kong, we have a portfolio that extends around the world and embraces a rich and varied range of typologies and scales.
Our work spans many different sectors and we offer added-value through a versatile and coherent design approach.
Our aim is to create buildings and spaces with their own sense of location, identity and character which through their form, detail and materiality manifest distinctive personalities with charm and relevance.
The practice’s residential projects include the redevelopment of London’s iconic Centre Point Tower, Futako Tamagawa (Tokyo’s largest regeneration project in the past decade), as well as numerous high end interior design projects across the London for well-respected developers such as Argent and British Land.