Marc Jacobs, Tokyo

Marc Jacobs employs a bright idea to work through a tricky zoning issue in Tokyo
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Posted June 27, 2011
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When Marc Jacobs Intl. built a new flagship for its Marc Jacobs Collection in Tokyo’s high-end Aoyama shopping district, the goal was a soaring space to give the fashion line a distinctive presence in the neighborhood of luxury stores.

“We wanted the building’s exterior to send a clear message about the nature of Marc Jacobs as a luxury brand,” says Stephan Jaklitsch, principal of Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects (New York).

Marc Jacobs has been in Aoyama since 2002, with a three-level store that housed both the Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs brands. As the company grew and felt the need to better distinguish the two brands, Jaklitsch/Gardner began work on the new Aoyama flagship for Marc Jacobs Collection.

But Jaklitsch, who has interpreted Marc Jacobs’ brand vision all over the world, discovered that the area’s zoning restrictions prevented the occupiable portion of a building from being more than two stories above the ground. So he employed a common Japanese building element called a kosakubutsu, or “ghost wall,” to double the height of the building and send a visually dramatic beacon of light out onto the sidewalk.

The three-story retail space is approximately 2800 square feet, including two main sales floors and a basement containing the men’s department. The steel structure on top of the building has perforated panels, with strips of LED lights behind every panel, covered with a reflective tent fabric. At night, the light shines out into the neighborhood, giving the store its dramatic street presence.

The effect is a three-layered striation Jaklitsch calls “a void, a rock and a lantern.” The ground floor “void” consists of a double-height, floor-to-ceiling glass façade that visually connects the store to the street while maximizing the use of natural light.

Ready-to-wear is housed on the second floor in the more private “rock” – a solid form clad in striated terra-cotta. The “lantern” is the kosakubutsu, a lighted sign for the brand.

The neighborhood, home to outstanding Western and Eastern fashion names, includes the all-glass Prada building designed by Herzog & de Meuron. So making a visual impact was critical to Marc Jacobs.

“The design is a carefully nuanced response to the Aoyama neighborhood, distinguished by a mix of both high-end retail statements and modest residential streets,” says Jaklitsch. “The building is distinguished by its materiality, giving it a clear presence, while still keeping with the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood.”

Project Suppliers
Retailer: Marc Jacobs Japan K.K., Tokyo
Veloqx Asset Management Corp., Tokyo
Design: Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects, New York
Architects of Record: Creative Designers Intl., Tokyo (building shell); D.Brain Co., Ltd., Tokyo (building interiors)
Lighting: Axon Lighting, New York; Lucifer Lighting Co., San Antonio, Texas; Lutron, Coopersburg, Pa.; L’Observatoire Intl., New York
General Contractor: Kitano Construction Corp., Nagano-shi, Japan (shell); D.Brain Co., Ltd., Tokyo (interiors)
Mannequins: DK Display, New York