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Nicolas G. Hayek Center

Shigeru Ban Architects

Nicolas G. Hayek Center
By Editorial Staff -

The Ginza district dates back to the dawn of the Edo period (1603-1867). In 1869, when the city known as Edo became Tokyo, the area was still a conglomeration of two-storey wooden houses, occupied by merchants and craftsmen. Located east of the Musashino highlands, with its fortress castle later to become the imperial palace, the area contrasted with the hills of Yamanote to the west, home to the daimyo, or feudal lords, the hatamoto, or standard bearers, and the samurai, warrior class.
Ginza developed as a series of small narrow strips mirroring the allotments of the original traders and craftsmen. Subsequent property accumulation allowed the building of the first high-rises and department stores, making Ginza one of the first Tokyo neighbourhoods to embrace the wave of modernisation that swept the country with the opening to the west around 1870 at the time of the Meiji restoration. The new development used brick, a completely unknown construction material in the Japan of the day. Today, although the city now has many other, even more dynamic neighbourhoods, Ginza remains Tokyo’s most elegant shopping district, home to fashion houses like Hèrmes and Dior, exclusive restaurants and the famous Sony Building.
The latest addition to modern chic is the new Swatch store at the Nicolas G. Hayek Center. Architect Shigeru Ban adjudicated the competition with his re-interpretation of urban space that interrelates the public and private spheres. His programme is essentially based on four key features: a ground floor arcade that is at the same time public square, pedestrian through-road, advertisement hoarding and main entrance; vertical communication links in the form of large passenger lifts that double as watch showcases, and goods lifts taking cars to and from the below-level garages; a highly innovative technological facade that can be completely rolled back or closed like a shutter; and last a plant-covered wall forming a vertical garden.
The huge...

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