Architectural firm Nikken Sekkei has renovated an office tower on a prominent corner plot in Nishi-Shimbashi, a historic business district of Tokyo, Japan. The project, known as the ‘ARAKAWA building’, is defined by its dynamic façade that proudly presents the emergency stairs as a design feature. Text description provided by the architects. This is a project to rebuild the owner’s office and residence as well as office space for rent on a street corner of Nishi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo’s historic business district. Many of the mid-story rental buildings, which occupy the majority of Tokyo’s commercial and business districts, are now facing rebuilding time.
ARAKAWA Building is defined by its dynamic façade that proudly presents the emergency stairs as a design feature
ARAKAWA Bldg. has long contributed to its surrounding cityscape, along with the growth of the owner’s business. In its rebuilding, focus was placed on creating a building that would shape an attractive cityscape for the future by revisiting the potential of the building. In many buildings, the connection to the city is limited to the ground floor where most commercial facilities are located. On the other hand, spaces above the 2nd floor are completely cut off from the outside by the stereotypical façade. As a result, a characterless cityscape is created. To address this, all levels of the ARAKAWA Bldg. are wrapped by emergency stairs, which are not only essential functional elements, but also work as an “engawa”-like space (veranda), as well as a buffer from the outside. The idea behind this was to create a new presence that reveals the activities of people within the building and, while adding attraction to the cityscape through its loosely woven relationship with its surroundings.
The dynamic building volume created by the emergency stairs and balconies provides a shading effect to the openings of the floors below. As a result, indirect natural light enters through the small openings without the requirement for blinds. In addition, the framed views provided by the small openings evoke a sense of anticipation toward the outside world, like looking at a piece of artwork. At the same time, the different views and a different sense of connection to the city on each floor will create an awareness of being loosely woven into the whole cityscape. In compliance with the Japanese Building Standards Act, only fire-rated fixed windows of maximum 1 sq m in size are applicable within 2m of the emergency stairs. Also, consideration of the rescue entrance (alternative entrance) as well as restrictions on load-bearing walls for structural design was required to secure the maximum number of effectively usable windows.
The dynamic building volume created by the emergency stairs and balconies provides a shading effect to the openings of the floors below
There are many buildings in Tokyo nearing the end of their commercial life and requiring rebuilding. We believe that if each building focuses on its relationship with its surroundings, this could potentially lead to a more attractive and lively city. Regardless of size, many buildings must address “the balance of maximum and optimal rentable floor area and safety for emergencies.” They must also address “diverse and active ways of engaging with the city,” as unique buildings that are closely linked to the local community. ARAKAWA Bldg. has solved both of these issues by the proposed “shape of the building” and its innovative approach to structure. The exposed external stairs become a place for relaxation as well as adding new expression as an interface with the city. The building has utilized the full potential of every building element, and now reveals the activities of the building users as an element of the building’s façade. Our intention is that the dynamic façade incorporating human activities would also create a new expression in the cityscape.