Dramatic Japanese design in Aluminium Cladding

A building block of Tokyo's busy Ginza crossroads is now wrapped in a new aluminium façade.
15 March, 2017
Ginza Place Tokyo is home to Sony's new global flagship center and Nissan's main showroom, and has neighbors that include the historic Wako department store.
It's one of the busiest intersections in all of Japan, so when Klein Dytham Architecture took on the project to update it, they wanted it to be distinctive. What they completed is a basket-weave façade made from 5,315 individual aluminium panels. Each panel is made from a single piece of plate aluminium that was folded, welded and powder coated white, before being fixed to a bespoke metal substructure that supports them across the 11-story building.

The framing system allows the panels to shift in the event of an earthquake. There are eight-millimeter gaps between the aluminium panels to provide the necessary design accuracy and safety compliance.
"The building takes many of its cues from the Wako building diagonally opposite which is the home the Seiko Watch family since 1924," explain the architects. They worked with the Taisei Corporation, a construction company that helped to execute a grand-scale modern vision based on Japanese tradition.
Sukashibori is a woven, latticework pattern that is typically used for small items including baskets and tableware. Traditional artisans worked in metal to create the pierced, cutout patterns used in ritual objects like swords, or in Buddhist scrollwork art.

The architects wanted a façade solution for Ginza Place Tokyo that connected past and present, so they chose the modern aluminium "sukashibori."

"The facade interprets and reflects the lineage of craft that is the mainstay of Ginza," said the studio. "The panel system acknowledges traditional Japanese forms but repurposes them to create a permeable skin that welcomes the community in and contributes to the social atmosphere of the neighbourhood."

The pattern of the aluminium ribbons changes into the horizontal bands so that it reduces its overall visual mass, and mirrors the elevations of the historic Wako building as it creates a visual connection with the Wako clock tower.

The latticing also is smallest at the base to create a more human scale at street level. An opening on the second floor exposes the Nissan showroom.

"Exposing public functions at the corner connects the activity in the building to the vibrant streets below," said the architects. "It also creates an opportunity for patrons to see and be seen in a way that is rare in Ginza, a district where most facades are formal and closed."

The Ginza Place features open balconies on the third and seventh floors, and the façade wrap leaves horizontal bands to protect those views and the brand visibility of its high-profile occupants. In addition to Sony and Nissan, the building also is home to five restaurants and cafés.
The location at the Ginza 4-Chome crossing, in the center of one of Tokyo's most important and upscale shopping districts also is "a new landmark and gateway" ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which will be hosted in Japan and are sparking renewal projects.

It took three years to go from concept to installation of the perforated aluminium panels and finally the project's completion, the architects said. The building replaces a nondescript tower on a site that has been owned by Sapporo Corporation for more than 100 years.