My family friend took me here on my first visit to Tokyo describing it as the most stylish Tsutaya in town. Sure enough it was. The big DVD, CD and book shop all combined in one is one of the many (1400 of them!) Tsutayas in Japan. It is a place where you can rent or buy the many products on sale or simply just pick up a book and sit down to read it over a cup of coffee, fully equipped with electrical outlets to charge your phone, tablet and laptop (there is also free wifi). And this is all open until the early hours of the morning.
T-site is the new flag-ship store, designed with the future of books and tablets (or anything electronic) in mind. Therefore a key theme is the co-existence of the digital and the analog age. It’s a cool looking space where people can visit and browse the latest books and magazines. The catalogue is available online and you can can buy products through their website but you also have the option of physically visiting the Tsutaya stores which offers a richer experience than what a computer screen does. In Japan especially where the apartments are so small, Mark says the notion of ‘social retail’ is important. That is rather than downloading something off iTunes to watch on your own why not visit this ‘third space’ (a space such as Tsutaya) where you are able to meet other people, hang out, and browse in a public space. A place to see and be seen. In this respect Tsutaya is similar to Starbucks where the so-called ‘social retail’ is essentially an extension of cafe culture. There are many options in the Tsutaya which is not limited to a cafe: there is a lounge, exhibition space, performance space, places to listen to CDs and areas where you can just sit and read. In many ways Tsutaya is like the next hybrid typology between a cafe and library. You can find peace and quiet but you can also talk and chat with friends and just relax.
The branding of the building is achieved in a subtle yet effective way on two scales. The cladding is a key feature which is essentially a lattice of white T shaped concrete that create a woven pattern. On the larger scale the overall form of the building, where the three main volumes spell out a ‘T”. The clients wanted to brand the building without branding it, to be sensitive to the neighbourhood which has many embassies and upper class housing. The neighbourhood of Daikanyama is described as an up-market but relaxed, low-rise shopping district. It’s also home to the well-known Hillside Terrace designed by Fumihiko Maki.
Mark has been living in Japan for over twenty years now, first moving there with his business partner Astrid Klein after studying at the Royal College of Art. After working in the office of Toyo Ito they set up their own practice in 1990s with their first project completed in 1996. KDa have been growing their practice and currently have around twenty staff working on projects spanning the fields of Architecture, interiors, installation and were also the ones who started Pecha Kucha. I met Mark when he came to Auckland University for a talk during my undergrad, check out their website for more info on their projects.