Prada Store (Epicenter)

Construction year: 2003
Address: 5-2-6 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku | TOKYO | Japan
Latitude/Longitude: 35.6638, 139.715

Herzog and de Meuron 2003
2003 Prada’s Tokyo “epicenter”, in the fashionable Aoyama district, is the company’s second radical approach to fashion-store architecture, following Rem Koolhaas’ flagship store in New York. The intent is “to reshape both the concept and function of shopping, pleasure and communication, to encourage the meshing of consumption and culture.”

The Tokyo store is a strikingly unconventional 6-story glass crystal that is soft despite its sharp angles – as a result of its five-sided shape, the smooth curves throughout its interior, and its signature diamond-shaped glass panes, which vary between flat, concave and convex “bubbles”.Jacques Herzog describes these glass panes as “an interactive optical device. Because some of the glass is curved, it seems to move as you walk around it. That creates awareness of both the merchandise and the city—there’s an intense dialogue between actors.

Also, the grid brings a human scale to the architecture, like display windows. It’s almost old-fashioned.”At Prada Aoyama the glass walls are not the usual transparent curtain-walling (as at Renzo Piano’s Maison Hermes, across town in the Ginza district), but a transparent, structural shell. Within, the structural cores and tubes morph seamlessly into elevators, stairs, fitting rooms and display shelves, giving a sense of continuous shopping space, very much integrated into the architecture.The Prada building sits in a corner of its site, creating a small entrance plaza – an effective gesture of restraint from an otherwise rather unrestrained building.

Herzog comments on the rarity of this locally: “Tokyo is a city where not a single building relates to its neighborhood, and every building fills its whole site. We took a chance in creating a little space outdoors, like in European cities. We also reversed the typical Japanese emphasis on looking inward by giving importance to the view.”

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