The Big O
Masaaki Takahashi -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
A leading maker of contract furniture, the Okamura Corporation knew that its brand recognition was strong at home in Tokyo but needed a boost in Japan's Kansai region. So when Gensler redesigned Okamura's twin showrooms in Osaka—on opposite corners of the boutique-lined thoroughfare Midosujidori—the company was looking to end a quarter of a century of inconspicuousness.
Design director Ted Jacobs's first breakthrough was to open up the storefronts to signal the revival of the brand. His plan also gave the two locations different functions. The 13,400-square-foot one would remain a showroom, while the 4,500-square-foot one, next door to Cassina's furniture showroom, would mainly serve as a brand center. To tie the two spaces together as an integrated complex, Jacobs chose details and finishes that were congruous yet distinct. The pearl-white painted stainless steel used for both facades, for instance, extends to form a canopy over the brand center's entry.
For the brand center's interior—which guides visitors through the history of Okamura, including its years as a manufacturer of automobiles and airplanes—the company's expertise in bending steel became a touchstone. Simple, elegant features in painted and stainless steel appear throughout. A corridor called the Heritage Passage is more direct, featuring displays fashioned from Okamura products, such as its modular glass office partitions. Most prominent, Okamura's Mikasa car from the late 1950's sits on a circular stage ringed by sheer curtains, its O shape intentionally evoking the name Okamura.