Why this Japanese workplace is designed like an entire city
Allied Works unravels the analogy of the workplace as a ‘city’ through a linear streetscape for Fast Retailing, one of the world’s leading apparel companies. The headquarters and flagship creative studio takes over the impressive four-acre space above a warehouse in Ariake District for Uniqlo City.
Aimed at becoming a creative catalyst for the brand, the continuous interior abides by the rectangular grid of a traditional distribution space, but the interlaced neighbourhoods of libraries, plazas, lounges, and digital information hubs within this framework transforms the 18,500-sq-m area into a dynamic micro-city. Located on the shores of Tokyo Bay, employees can experience a new standard for an international headquarters, the first of its kind in Japan.
Built on the top floor of an existing six-storey building, Uniqlo City displays qualities of a truly democratic office space that breaks away from the traditional hierarchal Japanese structure. Cubicles are dismantled, ceilings are made higher, and the best views are available to all – gone are the days of segregation between underlings and upper management. The corporate ladder is brought down to bridge Eastern cultural values and Western working practices instead.
The main circulation zone running through the centre is punctuated by social spaces and interior courts. This meandering ‘main street’ connects the Great Hall on one side – capable of hosting the entire 1000-person staff for events and presentations – and the Daily Special on the other, which provides tranquil views of the surrounding cityscape for lunchtime. The open desks running along the two longitudinal sides of the ‘street’ encourage transparency and communication between the different departments.
Maintaining the ‘city’ analogy, the workspaces have different work lofts providing privacy in a space otherwise focused on openness. The lofts have ‘porches’ for informal meetings, which then connect back to the central corridor, and are adjacent to lounges dedicated to employee well-being and relaxation.