The process of pursuing an unknown goal is more enjoyable than planning backward from a predetermined answer. There is nothing more boring for architects than participating in a project with a predetermined set of “what to do”, such as simply meeting all floor area requirements. What we architects propose at the planning stage would be more important than what we present at the design stage.
When the client commissioned us to design her first tableware store, she didn’t have a clear overall picture for what she wanted. Our first scheme had the simplest volume possible, surrounded by 30cm-deep display shelves all around.
After seeing our model, the client told us that although she liked the uninterrupted view inside the space, she was concerned that it was too open and customers might hesitate to enter. In response to her comment, we made a model composed of several divided spaces and presented it to her. But her reaction was that the space was divided up too much and it would be difficult to talk with customers. She also wanted to maintain some distance between the store staff and customers to encourage a smooth conversation. In response to her remarks, we made a model composed of “bumps” projecting from the right and left sides and presented it to her. This time she liked the scheme, and we enjoyed these gradual design development through quick exchanges of ideas between us and the client. –In product design, the process of quickly making a model based on a new idea is called “prototyping.” By quickly repeating the process of prototyping, presenting a model and getting feedbacks from the client, we come up with a form we had never seen before.
The bumps projecting from the right and left sides configure the space into four zones with the store staff’s zone in the back. The four zones are used to display products from respective categories including discounted products, Japanese tableware, Western tableware, and luxury products. The meandering circulation naturally invite customers to stay longer.
Generally, it is considered that design requirements should be predetermined before the design process starts. When starting a new project, however, one needs to start a design process by conducting research to determine design requirements. As we devoted ourselves to the design process prompted by vigorous exchanges with the client, we realized that we were conducting research to determine design requirements and developing design at the same time, which felt like a journey without a destination. It was indeed a refreshing and enjoyable experience.
Project Date: 2005.12.01
Photo: Koichi Torimura