No. 416 . 18 February 2009 
ArchitectureWeek
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Tokyo Swatch by Shigeru Ban

by Terri Peters

The new Swatch flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza district immediately stands out from the surrounding high-end fashion boutiques on this densely packed street. There is no doorway, no visible sign, and no glass storefront. Instead, a towering four-story void in the streetscape seems to signify a civic-scale entry.

The building's enormous retractable glass "shutters" create this dramatic effect when open. Then when the shutters are down — on rainy days and when the shop is closed — the building is disguised as a normal, curtain-wall office building.

This unusual store, named the Nicolas G. Hayek Center, is the work of U.S.-trained Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Even at first glance, the building reveals itself as more than just a fancy facade: it is real architecture, a project about volume, spatial complexity, and experimentation.

Garden of Luxury

As visitors step off the busy sidewalk into the lobby of the 14-story Swatch building, no merchandise presents, and no salespeople patrol the door. A subtle change in floor material marks the low-key threshold between the sidewalk and the interior showroom. The massive lobby is dotted with glazed hydraulic elevators, planted trees, and a 13-story-tall hanging garden wall.   >>>

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