How this Tokyo office by Wonderwall tries to reinterpret Japanese aesthetics for today
Wonderwall translates aspects associated with traditional Japanese teahouses into a university campus-like interior for incubation centre Arch.
When designing Arch, a 3,800-sq-m incubator within Tokyo’s Toranomon Hills Business Tower, Wonderwall imagined the open, bustling culture of a university campus. The goal – like that of many current (co)working spaces – was to provide a physical platform for connection and inspiration. As an incubator focused on innovation, Arch sought a stimulating space that could spark new ideas, whether through a casual conversation in the cafeteria or a serendipitous encounter in a break-out zone. Wonderwall continued the concept employed in the tower’s retail area – wakon yōsai, the idea of incorporating and developing Western knowledge while respecting Japanese tradition – while adding two more themes to the Arch project. The first, New Sukiya, is inspired by the Sukiya architectural style common to Japanese teahouses, which favours the beauty of nature over formality and ornament. The designers say that just as Sen no Rikyū – a historical figure who established the Japanese tea ceremony and had a profound influence on Japanese aesthetics – could appreciate the beauty of a bamboo stem, turning it into a vase, they turned Arch’s columns and ceilings into attractive objects in their own right. They call this an expression of a new, evolved Japanese aesthetic sensibility. The second theme is the incorporation of the Japanese spatial concept of kara ma, or ‘emptiness, space’. For Wonderwall, this concept manifests in multiple ways, from flexible, ambiguous spaces that leave room for imagination to the way various areas connect with – and influence – one another. Wonderwall also tasked NF with creating an audioscape for Arch, the result of which reflects environmental fluctuations such as the weather and outdoor temperature. The system, say the designers, allows the visitor to feel some presence of the outdoors from within the building’s walls.