In December of 2011 a new retail village quietly opened in the Daikanyama neighborhood of Tokyo. For all its might and glory, Daikanyama T-site surprised many because, in essence, it was a rejection of digital and a celebration of everything analog – books, magazines and curated retail shops. The big bet on books by media and entertainment giant Tsutaya, which operates the complex, seems to be paying off. Three years later the 2nd iteration, Shonan T-Site, has now opened and is ushering in a new demographic in an upcoming suburb about an hour South of Tokyo.
“One major influence was the fact it is located just 2km from the Shonan coast”
Diversity united by books
The structure itself, like its older sister, was designed by Klein Dytham Architects (KDa) and there are considerable similarities. As you approach the complex, the first thing you see is a cascading ivy motif plastered across the exterior, a nod to the company name Tsutaya, says Dytham (蔦屋 is literally “ivy house” in Japanese). “This leaf motif complements the iconic woven “T” pattern used in the Daikanyama project.”
The layout is pretty straightforward: 3 two-level buildings sit back-to-back, each with their own designations. Building 1 is “Entertainment” (stationary shops, camera supplies and beauty salon) while building 2 is “Food/Life” (bakeries, restaurants and designy shops). Over in building 3 is “Family / Fujisawa SST Square” where you can take cooking classes, shop for kids toys and even rent EV cars.
Uniting these diverse shops is an almost 400-ft long “Magazine Street” that cuts through the three buildings like a shotengai shopping street.
A nod to the surf
But one major difference between the Daikanyama location, which is surrounded by embassies and upscale fashion boutiques, is, well, the lack thereof. Besides the fact that the site was near the water, there were really no other major landmarks and context. This posed the challenge of creating a natural, approachable structure. “One major influence was the fact it is located just 2km from the Shonan coast,” say the architects, referring to the laid-back known for its surf culture. “This resulted in a relaxed, informal and accessible dimension to the overall design of the project.”
The centerpiece of a new smart town
Although in the U.S. shoppers continue to unplug from shopping malls and outlets, in Japan it’s a different story. And that was the idea behind Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST), a former Panasonic TV factory site. Again, KDa explains: “The area is currently being developed into a model smart town, with the creation of 1,000 highly efficient solar-powered homes designed to accommodate a modern and connected community. Shonan T-SITE forms the centrepiece of the development.”