With the forms of water that immediately suggest a natural dimension. With its infinite overtones of sound and reflection on surfaces, which above all at dusk become poetic. Forceful, mutable flashes and glows, generating deep connections of different horizons, cultures, gazes. This is how the Japanese architect Jun Aoki has imagined and reinvented the Louis Vuitton building at Namiki-Dori, opened in March: a 'column of water' seven floors in height, monolithic and fluid at the same time, that materializes and dematerializes the metaphor of the urban grid and landscape of Ginza, the exclusive shopping district of Tokyo, where the streets are set in a grid of narrow, tall buildings.
Here the maison Louis Vuitton has been a presence since 1981, in the same location on a corner. Today the company offers the immersive experience of a complete lifestyle, aimed at enhancing a single sensorial aspect: to grasp the secret of materials and of a luxury that is passed down across time, as a synonym of extreme quality and attention to detail, resulting from refined craftsmanship of surfaces, be they in leather, wood, glass, paper or chocolate, micro or macro, associated with architecture, product design or food. ”As I thought about this volume, I was fascinated and inspired by a Japanese-style painting by Heihachiro Fukuda, Sazanami (Ripples), a work that conveys the shimmering of the water’s surface in ultramarine blue on a sheet of platinum,” Jun Aoki explains.
“I had designed the previous Louis Vuitton store of Ginza Namiki with the image of a magic lantern, driven by the idea of creating a fantastic projection of light in its perimeter. But this time I went further: I wanted to insert the sparkle of water in architecture,” he continues. “So I mixed two layers of glass, smooth, undulated and corrugated panes, rhythmically paced in the water effect, also thanks to the introduction of a dichroic film that reproduces its infinite tones. A difficult challenge. It took many attempts to develop a device capable of making the chromatic distortion of the surface perceptible, depending on the orientation and the angle of the light.” This has become the expressive plus of an organic, limpid beauty, of luminosity and transparency very close to true enchantment, which Aoki has shared in total tune with Peter Marino, the American architect who, like him, had already created projects in the past for the French company.
The seagoing voyage on dry land continues, in fact, in a seamless way, in the path offered by the interior spaces designed by Peter Marino, who says: “Tokyo is a port city, and all Japanese people have a profound connection with water. Both the exterior and the internal architecture apply curved lines, with no sharp corners, suggesting the waves and the liquidity of the ocean. I thought about fluidity as I designed the central staircase in oak bordered by glass, already visible from the street, which unfurls upward like a ribbon; but I also thought about the circulation inside the store itself, to encourage continuous movement, without stopping places. We were working during one of the darkest periods of the virus; and it was productive to light up the spaces with orange, yellow and gold, joyful, cheerful, luminous colors.
Most of the furnishings are custom made. They have sinuous, clear lines in wood and glass, and coexist with pieces by Pierre Paulin, Stefan Leo, Morten Stenbaek and Isamu Noguchi, as well as remarkable works of art. For example, we have selected abstract paintings by Kimiko Fujimura, Ed Moses, Ida Tursic & Wilfried Mille, Peter Dayton and Vik Muniz, which bring ulterior chromatic stimuli.”
The energy of color variably pervades all seven levels of the store, of which four are set aside for retail sale of the sophisticated products of the maison, including a pop-up space for the display of special and seasonal collections; two other levels are reserved for large private rooms to welcome top clients and celebrities, while the last is for the Café V. The layout utilizes an impressionist pattern, balancing tones of pink and orange in the zones for women, saturated red, turquoise and lime hues in those for men, and a desaturated mix in all the private spaces. Large jellyfish float on the ground floor, extending the metaphor of water in a very explicit way.
The volume of the internal elevator also suggests a sense of fluidity. Finished with a vibrantly rippled metal surface, it is multiplied in a game of mirrors and reinforces the sensory experience of the place, fully manifested on the seventh and uppermost level, that of Le Café V, the realm of sweet and savory creations of the chef Yosuke Suga, who has also developed ideas for Le Chocolat V, the company’s first adventure in this field. Inside an ample space flooded by natural light that enters from the skylight, a landscape of leaves of white paper made with the origami technique reaches the ceiling with a delicate pattern, balanced by the striated brass that crosses the floor, while large enveloping turquoise seats and Objets Nomades of Louis Vuitton by the Campana Brothers, Marcel Wanders and Barber & Osgerby blend the natural, traditional and contemporary inspirations of the various islands. Like the little ganaches, the bars of chocolate shaped with the floral motif of the famous monogram, created for the occasion by chef Suga and displayed against a trompe l’oeil backdrop of trunks, concealing the space set aside for their conservation.
Project Jun Aoki, Peter Marino - Photos courtesy Daici Ano