Design Firm of the Year
Founded in 2000 by designer Masamichi Katayama, Wonderwall has built a wide range of retail and other commercial spaces in cities throughout Japan. While respect- ing the traditional aspects of architecture, Katayama believes in breaking boundaries. He was arguably the first designer to install a conveyor belt – think baggage claim – in a boutique. He embellished one shop with a merry-go-round and set a marching troupe of apes loose on customers in another
retail interior. He’s put canned T-shirts in a refrigerator and mounted 34 plasma screens on a showroom ceiling. Although his themes are always decisively bold, they rely on excellent craftsmanship and elabo- rate finishes found almost exclusively in Japanese retail projects. Katayama’s work avoids both the theatrical pomposity and the careful framing that dictate the appear- ance of much of today’s retail architecture. His success lies in the creation of strong commercial environments that embrace rapidly changing contexts while providing each client with an abstract brand exten- sion devoid of unwanted distractions.
Wonderwall exhibits a high degree of professionalism without dishing up slick solutions. The jury is impressed by a firm that goes to such great extremes without losing sight of the need for nuance. The work appears to emerge from a free flow of thought and is perfectly executed. Not without humour, it is based on far more than humour. Exactingly detailed, it is not a collection of details. The firm possesses a signature style, yet every project is new and surprising. The jury recognizes that most of Wonderwall’s work benefits from relatively large budgets. On a more critical note, the jury wonders how much attention the team pays to the design of ceilings, which seem rather corporate in many of the firm’s interiors. That said, the work of Wonder- wall displays a feel for materials, is never cursory, and verges on the decadent.
Relax & Consume
This pavilion for a wine producer is one of a series of recently built centres in Spain that welcome visitors to wineries and uncork bottles for tasting. The programme called for a prefabricated structure that would serve as a promotional display at the Alimentaria trade fair in Barcelona before being disassembled and installed at the winery. It was to shelter an old wooden kiosk – discovered in pieces, but now lovingly restored – that local joiners and cabinetmakers had made for the Brussels International Fair of 1910. As expressive of the Belle Époque as Hadid’s design is of the 21st century, the 4-m2 golden-brown kiosk with its rounded corners is an enchanting cubicle of carved and polished wood, plate glass and curvilinear typography. It may not be immediately clear to the observer, but the architects used the shape of the kiosk to discover the form of the new pavilion, which fulfils the same dual role as its predecessor: it’s both retail establishment and advertising aid. The designers morphed the rounded kiosk into an extrusion with sloping sides that support shelves and benches and added a tapered, glass-roofed lantern. In profile it resembles a traditional flask, which the architects insist was entirely fortuitous. The pavilion comprises 14 ribbed steel sections, each measuring 2 x 6 m and varied in profile, which were fabricated in Barcelona and assembled on site. Within the pavilion, which took four years to reconstruct and finish, the sloping walls and wedge-shaped shelves accommodate bottles and seating. A ‘signature Hadid building’ is the verdict of the jury, which calls the project ‘iconic’ while clearly stating that this is not just another decorated shed. The exterior dictates the form of the interior, which incorporates furniture and displays in a completely self-evident manner. Old and new fuse in an unexpected way inside the wine-tasting room, where the nearly 100-year-old kiosk dominates a space imbued with a contemporary computer-generated aesthetic.
A stratified sculpture anchored to its seaside site in Littlehampton, England, Heatherwick Studio’s East Beach Café is exposed to wind, weather and the wiles of vandals. A project wedged between the water and a parade of houses presented its designers with a challenge: how to produce a slender, elongated building that would not be diminished by flat, two-dimensional façades. A gigantic club sandwich of irregular slices, hollowed out and vertically positioned, the café is enclosed in a protective shell that opens to the sea. The opening is filled with glass doors and windows that are protected at night by roller shutters concealed within the framework of the building. The pavilion, which was prefabricated off site, has a steel monocoque shell whose components, welded together, interact in much the same way as the parts that form the hull of a ship. Skin and skeleton are one and the same. Using a type of steel that rusts as it weathers, Heatherwick Studio created an integral structure that incorporates everything from bearing columns and eaves to ducts and airconditioning vents, all assembled on site. Thanks to the installation of low-emissive glazing and underfloor heating, the establishment, which seats 60, can remain open year-round. After taking one look at what one member calls ‘no ordinary seaside kiosk’, the jury is full of admiration for the strong image of a structure that resembles a shell washed ashore or a boat run aground and tipped on its side. Unlike Zaha Hadid’s pavilion, this is more of a container to which furnishings have been added than a sculpture whose form evolved along with its contents. The interior does reveal a sense of the building’s architecture, however. White spray-painted walls that follow the form of the rusting structure visible to those outside provide occupants with an understanding of how this Gesamtkunstwerk was built. Looking around, they experience ‘the inside of the outside’.
Show & Sell
The retail interior that item idem fashioned for the fashions of Bernhard Willhelm is rooted in the flamboyant German couturier’s postmodern potpourri of pop, colour and sex. Tucked into a department store in Shibuya, the 50-m2 boutique emerged from a brief that asked the designers to be ‘resourceful with rubbish’ and to make a flexible interior easy to reconfigure – a place that would strip visitors of their inhibitions. Makeshift dwellings housing the homeless of Japan – recyclable structures of cardboard and plastic – gave the designers their concept. Crammed with an array of items discarded by a booming consumer society, the boutique offers shoppers a trendy tour of a dense and decaying urban jungle designed to be transformed, six months later, into a wilderness with an entirely different look. A shop that doubles as an art installation – and that was knocked up for little more than €5000 – makes the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture a matter of debate. It illustrates the pleasure offered by insignificant objects and the aesthetic inherent in recycled materials. This interior radiates the optimism found in the tarpaulin towns of those on the fringes of an upwardly mobile society and asks that we contemplate the presence of quirky teenage apparel displayed within a seriously seasoned shell. Do pricey clothes up the status of modest materials? Or do modest materials up the status of pricey clothes? Here in Shibuya an appreciative jury hears a jagged counterpoint to more melodic examples of retail design: virtually no other competition entry features the antiaesthetic that runs rampant at this flagship store. Bernhard Willhelm’s freaky fashions have been stunningly translated into a retail environment that feels like a collage, a junk puzzle that simply happened – without the benefit of design. Nothing could be further from the truth: to make this shop work – and it does work – item idem needed a crisp, precisely implemented design. The jury is aware that crudely assembled interiors thrown together overnight have enjoyed popularity in the form of so-called ‘guerrilla stores’ for some time now. It’s a thought that triggers two questions. Is this shop (and this award) simply a matter of the right
Most retail units lining the corridors of a shopping mall reveal all at a single glance. That’s the first rule broken by Ryuji Nakamura Architects, the creator of Jin’s Global Standard, an eyewear outlet that occupies the 104-m2 corner unit of a mall in Nagareyama. Filling the interior are diagonally positioned rows of floor-to-ceiling walls that satisfy Ryuji Nakamura’s wish to furnish the client with an uncluttered interior and products displayed on 5-cm-deep shelves along a series of aisles. The only hint of colour in the otherwise white interior comes from wood-veneered shelving exhibiting a tawny hue that enhances reflections and shadows. Shoppers can see the sales counter through openings in the walls. Moulded panels along the bases of the walls conceal storage space. Cleverly positioned mirrors make the store feel more spacious and enable staff to keep an eye on customers. High walls on a shop floor are normally taboo for reasons of crime prevention and smooth store management, but Nakamura boldly ignores convention. Shoppers can easily step inside and try on a pair of glasses without having the prying eyes of staff distract them. The layout results in much more display space than would have been the case had Nakamura opted for a conventional floor plan. This simple yet strong retail concept makes an impact on the jury, as does the precise, sophisticated manner in which it has been executed. Large display windows beckon shoppers to enter nearly every retail unit in a mall, but architect Nakamura found another way to attract customers. Diagonally positioned elements star in his virtuoso performance: walls in a physical sense and mirrors in an optical sense. The performance is highly functional, however: it provides the shopper with privacy, while allowing the staff to monitor customers and merchandise. A shopping-mall unit boasting both a striking display system and an innovative spatial composition that influences shopping behaviour is a rarity, and Jin’s fits the description.
The Great Indoors