Dezeen Magazine

Nihombashi Mitsukoshi by Lighting Planners Associates

Leaf-shaped aluminium panels cover ceiling of Tokyo department store

Japanese studio Lighting Planners Associates lit a white tree-like canopy for the interior refurbishment of the historic Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store in Tokyo.

The retail brand traces its history back to 1673 and a kimono fabric seller named Echigoya, while the department store was established in 1904.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was brought on board to redesign the first floor in 2018, alongside Lighting Planners Associates.

Interior renovation of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi by Lighting Planners Associates
The first floor of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store has been refurbished

The concept for the renovation was building "a shining, white forest" that arches over shoppers as they browse the counters and channels them through the store.

Columns covered in bright white, stylised leaf-shaped panels have a distinctive art deco influence, in a nod to the building's original architecture.

"At each entrance, a specially designed ceiling greets customers," said Lighting Planners Associates.

"The tree canopy expands across the entire sales floor creating a beautiful gradation of light and filling the space with a sense of brightness."

Nihombashi Mitsukoshi by Lighting Planners Associates
Columns have been covered in backlit white aluminium panels

Each aluminium leaf is lit from behind by an individual light.

"In conjunction with the architect and manufactures we made adjustments and verifications through carefully conducted mock-ups to achieve a soft glow of light from in-between canopy leaves," explained the lighting studio.

Leaf-shaped panels decorate Nihombashi Mitsukoshi by Lighting Planners Associates
The creative vision was to create a "shining forest" branching over shoppers

Every mount and leaf was carefully mounted and adjusted to ensure a perfectly graduated effect across the whole installation.

One challenge was settling on the right finish for the panels. Too matte and the panels would dirty easily and require constant cleaning; too shiny and the light would be reflected too much.

"In the end, the maintenance clash was solved using a 20 per cent semi-gloss finish to keep reflection to a minimum," explained Lighting Planners Associates.

Shop floor of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi by Lighting Planners Associates
The art deco elements are a nod to the department store's history

Getting every detail of the trees right was important, argued the studio, in order to create a physical experience that would attract shoppers who might otherwise be tempted to go online.

"We have entered the age of online shopping and department stores have an uphill battle," said Lighting Planners Associates.

"The real environment of a department store is being lost to the virtual shopping realm," the studio added.

"Customers come here to experience something they can only experience in this shopping environment."

Ceiling of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi by Lighting Planners Associates
Lighting Planners Associates carefully calibrated the level of gloss on the panels

Lighting Planners Associates was founded in 1990 by Kaoru Mende and has offices in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Nihombashi Mitsukoshi project is shortlisted for Dezeen Awards 2020 in the architectural lighting design category, alongside the lighting for Snøhetta's underwater restaurant in Norway.