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La Kagu: From Warehouse To Community Space

An old publishing warehouse sees new transformation by architect, Kengo Kuma, into a community focussed multi-purpose destination. Joanna Kawecki writes.

La Kagu Kengo Kuma


BY Stephanie Peh

May 14th, 2015


Photos: la kagu © Keishin Horikoshi / SS Tokyo

A former publishing warehouse in Tokyo was recently converted into a new lifestyle concept store, helmed by renowned Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. La Kagu, named after the area itself, is nestled in the historic suburb of Kagurazaka, just north of Shinjuku ward in Central Tokyo.

Located up a grand wooden staircase leading to a wide deck and prominent steel frame, the shed-like space stands at a total of 962.45 square metres atop the elevated street. Since 1965, the space housed publisher, Shinchosha, who recently relocated to a larger space next door.

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The move provided a perfect opportunity for a new vision of the space. A community minded operation began with a Kagurazaka local resident and Kuma, who led the renovation and re-build. Shinchosha had intended to create a multi-purpose space for lifestyle and retail in the residential district, with a local community at its core.

La Kagu Kengo Kuma

While minimalistic and dominant in its existing steel frame, the building boasts generous additions of wood both in the exterior staircase and interior structure.

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La Kagu houses a café, mens and womens retail store, bookstore, as well as an anticipated outdoor farmers’ market. The space is a community driven lifestyle destination for locals and tourists alike. The building’s 9.8 metres high ceiling and wide glass windows allow natural light to seep into both floors.

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Using selangan batu wood for the outdoor wooden staircase, the light brown timber has an interlocked grain, with a coarse yet even texture that is durable throughout seasons. Connecting first and second floors, the staircase serves as a pivotal renovation and design point in grand scale.

The organic and fluid shape is intended to “expand just like the earth.” As architect Kuma explains, “We connected the town and the warehouse, the ground and the architecture, the past and the present.”

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Designed in one year with a construction period of six months, “food, clothing, shelter and knowledge” are the essential categories of the commercial space. Each retail section is carefully curated by a specialist in their field: Momoyo Ando for womenswear; Gyota Tanaka for menswear; Miyoko Okao for living goods, ceramics and lifestyle objects, and the bookspace curated by Yoshitaka Haba.

The open-plan, 50-seat cafe coordinated by Kako Umazume sits centrally in the space and serves as a meeting point for both locals and visitors to the neighbourhood.

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Kagurazaka is a quiet locale which boasts a variety of Japanese cuisines in the compact area. It is also renowned for its numerous geisha houses built in the 20th century, with some remaining today. A French influence presides, with a recent influx of expatriates and French bakeries, eateries and the l’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo located nearby. In the vicinity, the Akagi Shrine Complex was also recently re-designed by Kengo Kuma.

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La Kagu is an example of Japan’s strong growth of retail concept stores that connect with the local community and encourage a conscious lifestyle, the exchange of knowledge and an innovative culture.

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Kengo Kuma And Associates
kkaa.co.jp