During the design process, the requests we received were, broadly speaking, of two types: one was to take the “Holy Trinity” the company founder holds as the corporate vision – namely, employees, employees’ families, and partner plants, which are responsible for production, coming together as one to achieve sustainable growth for the enterprise — and reflect this in the architectural design. The second request was to create a structure that above all else protected employees, a concern increasingly on people’s minds in the aftermath of the events of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
The first request was, in a sense, abstract. The designers’ response was taking the theoretical and physical idea of a “house” and using that in the design. In sum, the mutual reciprocity of supporting the company and, in turn, being supported by it in a space inhabited by all employees is architecture that is analogous to a large home and household. The design is an open, flat structure, with each floor resembling a single, contiguous room. The interior is primarily made up of a rich arrangement of natural materials, with vertically-oriented louvers that are manually operated. Taking the process of architectural design, which is often inclined to become a verbose exercise in abstraction, and shifting it towards the creation of something as emblematic and fundamental as a “house” yielded a natural solution to the dilemma of creating an intuitive office. In particular, we used the internal rotating bearings developed by Takigen’s new product team to achieve one-touch opening and closing operations for the 748 wooden louvers surrounding the space. This allows inhabitants to freely retool and “design” the light around them, as though creating their own space at home. We are proud of this feature and the way it has achieved both a concrete and technical solution to the first request mentioned above.
The second request is more direct and realistic, coming out of a sincere need. This was met through the use of a tremor control system in the core regions of each floor, vibration damping through a program of architectural optimization, and the pursuit of a lightweight composition where possible. In addition, tremor-resistant grip techniques were used to shore up the roof foundation, measures were taken to prevent equipment from falling, and an embankment was built to block flooding. A space for emergency stores was built to cope with the possibility of taking refuge at the office in the event of a disaster, and in-house generators were installed in order for executive functions to remain in place at headquarters so it can continue issuing orders to other branches. These implementations are both concrete and cover a wide range of forecasted possibilities. These techniques were all reviewed repeatedly by the client before final deployment – worth noting is the client’s active role in the process, as they returned to the starting point of the requests they had made, proceeding only after refining them further.
When construction was complete, the client, dressed in cheerful Japanese clothes and bathed in light slanting in from the rotating louvers, said something that even now seems to echo in our ears: “You’ve created an office where our staff can feel excited to work every day.” Perhaps it was just us, but it seemed as though the word “office” sounded like “home” that day. In any event, the finished piece was a robust and attractive space that seemed to absorb the light with each passing moment. As stewards who had a hand in the birth of this new space, we are expectantly watching to see what new chapters the large “family” working there creates.