Sejima Kazuyo

Speaking and planting at Shibaura House’s kick off event May 25 for “Community Herb Garden” project


今年も芝浦ハウスは、素敵な妹島 和世さんがデザインしたモダン文化センターで野菜やハーブを育てています。今年で二年目です。今年のテーマは「コミュニティー・ハーブ・ガーデン」です。キックオフとなる5月25日は、13時から16時まで、団塚 栄喜という有名な日本ランドスケープ・デザイナーと一緒に、トークイベントとハーブ・ガーデンづくりを実施いたします。定員は20人、費用は1000円。芝浦ハウスのサイトで、是非申し込んでください

For the second year, Shibaura House is planting edibles in its handsome glass and steel culture center designed by Sejima Kazuyo. This year’s theme is Community Herb Garden.

I’ve been asked back for the kick off event on Saturday May 25, from 1 pm to 4 pm. I’ll be talking with one of my Japanese landscape design heroes, Danzuka Eiki (団塚 栄喜), and afterwards we’ll join the participants in planting an herb garden.

Space is limited to 20 people, so please register on Shibaura House’s site if you’d like to participate. The cost is 1000 yen. (The event is in Japanese, but I think language should not be a barrier).

Inspired by Shibaura House, a new type of office and community space

オランダ大使館の文化・デザイン関係の方の紹介で、新しいShibaura Houseを訪れて、創設者の伊東 勝さんに会いました。去年建てられたこの建物は、広告会社の事務所を兼ねたコミュニティスペースです。

Thanks to Mr Bas Valckx, who works in culture and design affairs at the Netherlands embassy, last month I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Ito Masaru, who has created Shibaura House as the headquarters of his advertising agency, Kohkokuseihan, and a new community space between Rainbow Bridge and Tamachi station in Minato-ku.

The building, designed by prominent Japanese architect Sejima Kazuyo of SANAA and completed in the summer of 2011, is as stunning as one could imagine: floor to ceiling glass walls, each floor plate unique, a form that combines transparency, simplicity, and elegance. There’s a sizable roof and three outdoor areas, a rectangular balcony and two curvy, double height voids.

But I was even more impressed by Mr Ito’s vision for work, community, and art. He kindly gave Bas and me a tour, which included rental areas, his company’s office, meeting spaces, and a ground floor cafe open to the public. Mr Ito is extremely knowledgable about urban planning, art history, and even permaculture.

His reason for creating Shibaura House and his plans for its future are inspiring and unconventional. He told me that his motivation for creating Shibaura House was to create the very opposite of the advertising business that he runs. And while he is pleased with how the building turned out, he is eager now to make it more alive, with more soil, people, and activity.

Too often, even in Silicon Valley, I have seen companies seek to wall themselves off from neighbors and outsiders. Global icons like Facebook, Google and Apple locate their employees in office parks, making their facilities off limits to non-employees and promoting secrecy over collaboration. I think Mr Ito’s bold vision suggests new ways to use real estate, to operate a company, and to become a vital part of local neighborhoods.

The neighborhood context is very diverse and layered: close to canals and the Tokyo Bay, near a main water processing facility, and neighbors with a variety of architectural styles from post-war, 70s residential, to more recent projects. As Bas reminded me, the area is reclaimed land from Tokyo Bay from the Edo period.

I’d love to see more plants, wildlife, and agriculture at Shibaura House. Things like bee hives, chicken coops, urban satoyama plants. It would also be great to see Shibaura House engage its neighbors with  with local food, plants, and wildlife habitat connecting buildings and waterways with green walls, roofs, and sidewalks. I am eager to see how Shibaura House grows and takes shape in the coming years.