Urban Edge pix
Benjamin Budde -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
A steel I beam juts from the entrance to Stussy's basement boutique in Tokyo; cypress clads the sides of the stairwell.
Welded together, I beams snake past the dressing rooms.
The I beams encircle the 1,250-square-foot shop before returning to the entry.
Walls and floor are sealed concrete.
The vented enclosure outside the dressing rooms contains heating and cooling equipment.
Hang bars throughout are stainless steel.
In Tokyo's Omotesando and Harajuku districts, shoppers throng through a vast retail swath with stores by Tadao Ando Architects & Associates, Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects, and Herzog & de Meuron. In part of Shibuya, directly to the south, it's another story. This less trafficked area, literally on the wrong side of the tracks, is populated by the occasional convenience store, hair salon, and lumberyard. Still, that's not to say charm is entirely lacking. Some fashion retailers purposely locate here in order to attract only the truly devoted shopper. Among them is the street-wear cult brand Stussy, which has opened an Archtype-designed boutique in the Shibuya hinterlands.
Stussy hired the firm after seeing architect Nobuo Araki's work for Japanese street-wear leaders such as Soph and Hiroshi Fujiwara. (He has also designed a studio for fashion-friendly artist Takashi Murakami.) "We really admire Mr. Araki's minimalist style," Stussy Japan special-project manager Brian Boennighausen says.
"Do you think this shop looks minimalist?" Araki asks—then answers his own question. "I suppose it is minimalist. But that's a result of starting from zero and adding only necessary elements. It's not a process of removing." Compared to other projects, including his brilliantly spare A.P.C. shop in another part of the city, Stussy seems almost decorative.
"It was important to express the essence of Stussy's style, so I worked with what I know about the brand's roots in surf and skate culture," he explains. "I thought of wavelike movements and how skateboarding has a fluid motion. This reminded me of the style of Japanese calligraphy that's done with a single, unbroken stroke."
With that in mind, he came up with the idea of a continuous sculptural element that would define the 1,250-square-foot basement space and snake past the standard retail counters, shelves, and hang bars: A ribbon composed of steel I beams starts at the angular street-level entry, then runs down the concrete stairs, around the perimeter of the store, and back up and out the front door. Though simple in concept, the idea proved extremely difficult to execute, because the shop isn't a rectangle. "Many of the joints have very complicated angles," Araki explains. "Each section had to be cut with amazing precision, or else the joints wouldn't be flush, and the whole thing would be misshapen."
The I beams were rubbed with beeswax as an anticorrosive, while the shelving and the walls of the dressing rooms are cypress—all evidence of Araki's interest in natural materials that, as he puts it, "return more readily to the earth." This kind of pragmatic thinking may classify him among the functionalists in addition to the minimalists. It's also an attitude becoming more and more fashionable.