In light of the release of Wonderwall's second monograph titled ‘Case Studies’, Joanna Kawecki speaks with Masamichi Katayama, founder and director of the Tokyo-based interior design firm on the importance of documentation and his design process.
Top Image: Ozone, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
‘Case Studies,’ a newly released 376-page book, provides a comprehensive look at the work of internationally acclaimed Tokyo-based interior design firm, Wonderwall. Founded in 2000, Wonderwall remains one of Japan’s most prolific and ground-breaking design firms for its breadth of projects in fields such as interior design, architecture, product design and installation art.
The firm is helmed by founder Masamichi Katayama, whose unconstrained approach to spatial design has gained wide attention. With an impressive portfolio of local and international work, Wonderwall is responsible for the store designs of Uniqlo and A Bathing Ape worldwide, as well as the stores of Colette in Paris; Pass the Baton in Tokyo and Kyoto, and Thom Browne New York in Tokyo.
The publication poses an invitation to the reader to dive into his thinking process behind each project by breaking down his unique understanding of how people navigate retail spaces subconsciously. There is an element of entertainment and surprise, each design carefully considering brand identity and target audience yet championing his signature bold themes and designs.
The monograph provides new insights and in-depth analyses of Wonderwall’s leading projects such as Intersect by Lexus, Uniqlo, Westfield Sydney, Yoyogi Village Code Kurkku Cafe and Music Bar, alongside a portfolio overview of other retail, studio and hospitality designs.
Besides showcasing the current designs of Wonderwall, the book provides insights into early projects that no longer exist, such as Nigo’s Nowhere (Busy Workshop Harajuku) and Kaws’ Original Fake in Tokyo. Both projects were prominent in helping to establish Katayama and Wonderwall in Japan and globally.
‘Case Studies’ is published by Gestalten and designed by Wink Creative. We speak with Katayama, who expresses the importance of investigation and process in his designs. He also tells us why the company has decided to release a new print compendium for the studio’s works.
Katayama-san, with a large collection of books yourself, how important is publishing to you?
I love books because they provide me with a lot of stimulation. The reason for publishing our books [for Wonderwall] is to record what we have done and to show our work to a wider audience, inside and outside of Japan. The various responses we receive from our readers allows me to consider more things.
How did you approach this new book and the editing process?
On creating each page, I tried to present our thinking process as clear as possible. Process is the mother of all forms. I think that without knowing [or understanding] our process, people cannot truly know Wonderwall.
How important is photography when documenting your work ?
I think photos are important for the people who cannot [physically] visit the spaces. But the actual stores provide us with much more information than that in photos. You can feel the atmosphere with your own senses if you visit [the spaces] yourself. That is very important, I think.
What is good design to you?
I always start from an initial concept, without being dependent on materials and their possibilities. Forms made by various materials are only elements [to support] a concept.
What is coming up this year for Wonderwall?
We have a few new upcoming projects such as design for domaine TETTA in Okayama; United Arrows Roppongi Hills in Tokyo and Diesel Milan San Babila in Milan, to name a few.