By Pari Syal
Photography: Daici Ano; courtesy the architect
A new dessert store in Japan is an eclectic exercise in traditional Jiigoku-Gumi or Japanese wood architecture...
It catches the eye instantly; and you wonder... ‘What’s this? What’s in there?’ wanting to give in to the urge to explore, touch, or simply stand back and assimilate.
Playing instantaneously on the senses, Ar. Kengo Kuma & Associates have taken 24 long months to conceptualize and actualize this structure built completely on a joint system called “Jiigoku-Gumi,” traditional method used in Japanese wooden architecture (often observed in Shoji: vertical and cross pieces of the same width are entwined in each other to form a mounting grid).
A specialist in selling the popular Taiwanese pineapple cake, the store at a vantage corner in upmarket Miniami-Aoyama, Tokyo, amidst designer boutiques, and is shaped like a huge bamboo basket.
It is built on a traditional joint system, where normally two wooden pieces intersect in two dimensions; but here, they are combined at 30 degrees in cubic measures, which has resulted in a much larger structure akin to a wayward cloud, with the size of each wooden piece reduced to as thin as 60 x 60mm.
Sitting on a solid concrete foundation, the primary structure is made from reinforced concrete and partially from timber. The basement plus 3 structure uses a combination of steel, Aluminium and wood in its material palette and is finished with sprayed lathing and galvanized steel plate fluororesin paint on the outside. Interior spaces are finished with cork tile and natural stone flooring and stone and handmade washi paper wall finishes; while the ceiling is made of structural plywood.
Although the wooden lattice vocabulary appears a trifle busy on the outside, it results in a charming interior fit-out that has natural light filtering in through the grid, creating intriguing chiaroscuro elements. The interior is spacious and non-conformist: with large and small treads making a statement of the entrance stairway; odd-shaped tables and a distinctively unique ambience within.
Commanding in its strong aesthetic, the Sunny Hills’ dessert shop is the cynosure of all eyes, vying for attention with the Prada store and Nezu museum nearby.