Kengo Kuma's SunnyHills cake shop illustrates how the architect interprets the Japanese vernacular, according to YouTuber Martin van der Linden in the first of a series of videos from Tokyo shared with Virtual Design Festival.
"You might confuse the building behind me as the head office of the local Boy Scouts," says Van der Linden in the video. "But you're wrong. This pile of wood is actually the design of the future Pritzker Prize-winner Kengo Kuma."
Completed in 2014 for the baker of Taiwanese pineapple cakes, the three-storey building is clad in a grid of over 5,000 metres of wooden strips.
"A forest in the city"
"Our aim was to create a forest in the busy city centre," said Kengo Kuma at the time of the building's opening. "We studied how lighting states would change in a day in the woods, and came up with a shape like a basket."
"Kuma has done something few of his colleagues have done before," says Van der Linden, founder of Tokyo-based Van Der Architects.
"Whereas other well-known Japanese architects have all gone for the highly minimalistic, aristocratic form of architecture, Kuma's aesthetic is towards the common vernacular Japanese architecture."
"Kuma is Japan's Walt Disney," he adds.
Kuma takes "the image of old Japan"
"Kuma is taking the image of the old Japan, of the Edo-period Tokyo or Kyoto, as he puts a heavy emphasis on wood and traditional craftsmanship," he continues. "But then he stylises his forms in a completely new way, focussing on one or two elements that everyone associates with Japan."
"In this case, it is taking the shape of a traditional bamboo basket and using it to wrap the building. The facade of the building is made using the traditional system of creating a wood lattice in which very few nails are used. He employed traditional Japanese craftsmen to build the hundreds of pieces of wood under a 30- or 60-degree angle."
"A brilliant feat of imagineering"
"Did you notice how many times I said traditional?" Van der Linden concludes. "Don't get me wrong. I think in this particular project, called SunnyHills, Kuma succeeds brilliantly. This brilliant feat of imagineering has made this small shop for the manufacturer of Taiwanese cakes a major attraction for both sweet and architecture lovers."
Virtual Design Festival has teamed up with Van der Linden to present a selection of his best short architecture movies.
"Even after 28 years, I found Tokyo endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy making videos of its architecture, and its rather mysterious urbanity," he said in a specially created video introducing the collaboration.
About Virtual Design Festival
Virtual Design Festival, the world's first digital design festival, runs from 15 April to 30 June 2020. It is a platform that will bring the architecture and design world together to celebrate the culture and commerce of our industry, and explore how it can adapt and respond to extraordinary circumstances.
VDF will host a rolling programme of online talks, lectures, movies, product launches and more, complementing and supporting fairs and festivals around the world that have had to be postponed or cancelled and it will provide a platform for design businesses, so they can, in turn, support their supply chains.