“By cutting and folding the steel plate, the floor generates ‘rooms’
and gardens sunken in the ground.”
WRIT TEN BY
An architect and a landscape designer outfit a fashion showroom
in steel plate, lava stones, leather, and pine.
1 PLANTING SPACES
2 BACK SPACE
3 DESK SPACE
5 MEETING SPACE
Photo, Daichi Ano; drawing, courtesy Yuko Nagayama & Associates
When Takashi Koike recently decided to commission
a new showroom and office for the Japanese clothing
brand Sisii, where he is the head designer, he had
several seemingly contradictory objectives in mind.
He wanted a space that was striking enough to leave
a lasting impression on national and international
buyers visiting Kobe, where the brand was born in 2001.
At the same time, he wanted them to feel soothed
and relaxed. Of course, the showroom also had to be
functional for Sisii staff. Furthermore, Koike thought,
it should create a public presence for the brand
and act as a sort of Kobe flagship—even though the
showroom would not actually be open to the public.
If that were not enough complication, Koike
enlisted designers from two different disciplines
to execute his vision. Fortunately, the pairing of the
landscape designer Toshiya Ogino and the architect
Yuko Nagayama proved to be an inspired choice.
Ogino took on the task of making the interior—
formerly an office—unforgettable but not overwhelming. He assembled an interior garden stocked with
local lava stones and indigenous vegetation, including
Japanese red pines. Meanwhile, Nagayama united the
garden elements and the functional requirements by
inserting a thin steel-plate floor that floats 28 inches
above the original floor.
“By cutting and folding the steel plate at places,
the floor generates ‘rooms’ and gardens sunken in the
ground,” Nagayama says. This allowed her to carve
three distinct work zones out of the 1,500 square feet.
The staff hosts buyers in a meeting room settled
below the normal level; office activities take place
around a piece of floor that functions as a shared desk;
and, between those zones, the latest Sisii collection
is presented on artificial tree branches. “The antirust
layer on top of the steel floor is the matchmaker of
the interior,” Nagayama says. “The natural color fits
in with the atmosphere of the garden as well as the
earth-colored leather jackets” (a Sisii trademark).
The greenery integrates surprisingly well with the
program of an office. But real vegetation needs a lot
of care. To ensure enough light for the trees, the showroom is brightly lit 24 hours a day. (After office hours,
Sisii switches from halogen lights to more efficient
metal-halide lamps.) And since the showroom is in
a glassy storefront on a busy shopping avenue, this
has the added effect of transforming it into an eye-catching public showcase—just as Koike wished.