The Beast and the Beauty!

Japanese modern urban architecture is not always a success. Buildings of the 1980’s are not «just getting old». They are old, and crumpy and you can see that they are aching. And, yes, they are quite ugly. You can pick them out quite easily: very squared, monotone, and covered either with colored tiles or with rococo stucco.

There is one in Roppongi that, for a long time, was a squat. Well, we are in Japan, so it is not exactly a squat as you imagine it, because tenants were paying their rent but, it was a real eye-sore, a sad a lonely looking building in a vibrant ecstatic part of the Tokyo metropolis. Stuck in the past with no-one to help, the building was falling into ruin, tagged, and dirty.

Then, just 3 years ago, a visionary architect, specialised in renovation, happened upon its potential and inner beauty.

This architect, called Hiroyuki Ito, saw the beauty within this ugly house and transformed it like Cinderella. (you can have a glimpse of Hiroyuki Ito on the website of his office: http://www.ofda.jp/ito/)

Ito Sensei cleaned out the boarded up windows and front entrance, took away part of the tile panels to open up the building front for a cleaner look and smoother transition as the guest strolls down the street from Roppongi, and hand-brushed sleek concrete (you can see it was not made by a coffer as there are no holes and no boarder lines) to add a cool, modern look. Sensei used special materials like stamped steel and Japanese wood to mix modern/ancient Japanese artisan style into a 21st Century Boutique Hotel. Lights were added lights, but in a sensitive, minimalist way. Precisely enough light to warm and welcome the tenants and hotel guests. Through his discrete touches, he let the building unveil, allowing its beauty to grace the busy, gray street.

I pondered for a while looking at this building why it was different from other similar buildings and this is my analysis for you to check on your own: I think this building has a collective soul: the soul of the original builder and the tenants who loved living there as a first as well as the soul of the architect who discovered its beauty and made it visible to our eyes. This collective soul infuses the building and makes it different from any other.

Oh, and by the way, you can live there too. It is a hotel and a 24/7 fully serviced apartment-hotel. Why not have a residence with real soul ?

by Claire

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