Quatre Kakinokizaka in Tokyo is a mixed-use building containing shops, restaurants, homes and a garage. The site borders the urban artery that connects the centre of Tokyo and its satellite cities. Behind it lies a very high-density, urban, residential area so typical of Tokyo: a small, green and informal neighbourhood. The building reflects a typology common to locations where there is heavy traffic: commercial space on the ground floor with housing above. The difference here is that the footprint and programme for this building are approximately five times larger
than those of the adjacent buildings. The challenge that faced us was to find a creative way to reconcile the expansion of the retail area with the client’s desire to retain a small sense of scale. The appearance and experience of Tokyo streets create a rhythm of buildings, and in-between and green spaces. This rhythm occurs because the texture and volume of buildings in such a neighbourhood are always similar. We see this as a positive quality and it was our initial inspiration for this project: how can we create a balance between the scale of the footprint and the programme, on one hand, and the rhythm of the neighbourhood on the other, while at the same time contributing
to the way the street is experienced?
The entire ground floor area is reserved for catering, so as to meet the requirements of the programme. The ground floor forms an artificial ground level for the first-floor apartments, on top of which are five small, two-storey houses with the alleys, which reflect the scale of the houses and streets elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Viewed from the street, the building’s upper floors are articulated in volumes that join in with the rhythm of the neighbourhood. To enhance and improve the experience of the street, the façade has been divided at ground level by large windows with wooden frames and distinctive stone piers. This repetition of openings accentuates the interaction between inside and outside. A skyline of a building here emerges that reflects the small scale of the neighbourhood in entirely its own way; there is a visual and spatial connection as well as an interaction between the building and surrounding houses. This project illustrates our vision regarding the relationship between architecture and the city. The context of Tokyo is very different from the Netherlands. However, a theme that is vital to our work in all countries is: to make the vulnerable urban context the focus of the design process and to strengthen it through architecture.