MVRDV, the Dutch architectural firm based in Rotterdam (the name of the firm is made up from the initials of the partner’s last names, Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries) has made a name " shaping space through complex amounts of data that accompany contemporary building and design processes". One of their latest projects is Gyre, a shopping mall in the very exclusive neighbourhood of Omotesando, in Tokyo, Japan. In fact, they are the first Dutch architects to build a project in Tokyo. And they succeeded in making a shopping mall look equally interesting as all the design boutiques surrounding it, like next door’s Dior flagship by Kazuyo Sejima.
At first, the project was no more than a façade project. But it turned out to be more than that, much to the company’s pleasant surprise. The corner location (the crossing of Omotesando and Cat Street in Tokyo) made this an extremely interesting challenge, combining the big flagship-laden main thoroughfare with the trashy shops of the area’s back streets. So the building is not directed only towards Omotesando, but opening up towards all sides, with larger brands nestled on the ground level and smaller ones located towards the third floor.
Earthquake regulations, financial and commercial reasons made it all the more difficult to implement the team’s initial ideas, like having bigger cantilevers for the balconies or placing the escalators and elevators outside of the building. Having in mind that this was a shopping mall and not a flagship boutique, the architects designed the building with the intention of opening it up to visitors and connect it to its surroundings. Instead of focusing on material, like so many of the façades in Omotesando, this one goes for colour, movement of people and sculpture. Instead of the white pure Dior building next door, we have black, rough edges here. The building was clad in 160 X 800 mm glossy ceramic tiles, with 18 different patterns (including those placed inverted in the façade), thus avoiding repetition.
The building’s shape is based on a concept of five boxes rotating on a spiral, both as a symbol of the flow of shopping people and as a gesture towards other building of the area, like Fumihico Maki‘s original Spiral Building or Tadao Ando‘s spiral in Omotesando Hills. The cantilevers generate roof terraces, accessible by spiralling stairs. The long staircases along the façade make it possible to climb in a fluent motion from the street level to the top storey.
The display windows of the various shops are spread out randomly (or so it seems) over the façade. The mall has, strangely enough, a shopping concept: the PR team of the mall took the central brands of a certain type of shopping, like a "best of" shopping list, making for a very mixed bag of goods (pun intended).