Makoto Tajiri of Supposed Design Office (Left) and Ikuo Maeda, Mazda's General Manager for Design (Right)

Interview: The fusion of Mazda design and architecture, and the renovation of the Meguro Himonya Store

Kanto Mazda’s renovated Meguro Himonya Store opened for business on January 3. The 10th new generation store of Mazda, is located in Meguro street, a street filled with numerous imported car dealers; it is simultaneously functioning as the base for distribution as well as a place where clients can experience the Mazda brand.

Makoto Tanijiri of the newly established Suppose Design Office Co.,Ltd. was given the task to come up with its architectural design. A different design from that of the existing new generation stores was born under the supervision of Mazda’s main design headquarters. Why did they choose Tanijiri? What kind of conversations took place prior to the creation of the exterior design? We asked Ikuo Maeda, Mazda’s General Manager for Design, and to Tanijiri about these things.

Maeda(titles omitted from here onwards): “There is already a foot bath establishment that has become a new generation store in Tokyo; this time we wanted to come up with a design for the Meguru Himonya store that is aesthetically unique while also taking into consideration the character of the place. However, though we want it to be unique, we don’t want it to become too stylish to the point that it would make it awkward for people to go into. We were captivated by Tanijiri’s style when we were searching for an excellent architect who can come up with that design. He is an immensely skillful man as he was able to expertly lower the threshold while still creating a space which people can naturally get into.”

Tanijiri is 40 years old and hails from Hiroshima. After spending time working at an architectural firm, he established Suppose Design Office in 2000. He is an up-and-coming architect who is active domestically and internationally who maintains offices in Hiroshima and Tokyo. He engages in a wide range of work with a flexible mindset; from residential to commercial spaces even up to installations.

Maeda: “I can not work in collaboration with someone who tells me to shut up because I am the designer. I knew by instinct that I can come up with a lot of ideas with this person when I first met Tajiri.”

However, it seemed like they could not collaborate well at the beginning. Tanijiri’s first proposal was an exterior design with a negative curve(concave) connected large glass surface. That was rejected by Maeda.

Maeda: “Our conventional wisdom dictates that molding a negative curve into our core is impossible. Perhaps it exists with the other brands, but it is uselesss with Mazda.”

The following is Tanijiri’s recollection of those days.

Tanijiri(titles omitted from here onwards): “Does it really become a round and lovely architecture if we use a positive curve(convex)? I thought that I should perhaps retrograde it in line with Mazda’s aim with the soul of motion design. Maeda taught me the negative-positive theory of car design on that occasion. When a positive curve connects to a negative curve, they end up supporting each other. We did not have such an idea in architecture.”

Maeda: “An arc-like curve is useless even in negative curves. If we are going to put a bit of force into the curvature changes then it would be like what Tajiri said he would do. I thought that it might not be the sort of thing that would be done in architecture (laughs).”

In the first proposal, the first floor of the road side was set in the back with the second floor made to overhang as a feature.

Tajiri: “Maeda said that he wanted it to have a more stable form.”

Maeda: “It is because the stance is given the utmost importance when it comes to car design.”

Tajiri: “The meaning also of the word stance is different when it comes to cars and architecture.”

Maeda: “In the world of car design, there is a logic of a stable form. That is what I talked about endlessly to Tajiri. The stance is something that we could not compromise since this store here is also the embodiment of our brand.”

Tajiri: “The difference between cars and architecture was interesting. Various things are starting to blur in today’s society. There are mobile phones that are like cameras, and there are also those that are like personal computers. I think that it would also be good to exercise the concepts of architecture in car design as it is a concept that is not only limited to buildings. This showroom also appears a bit like a cafe, and at the same time also seems like a house. I definitely think that modernity lies within the borders of such an ambiguous situation.”

The discussion of the two resulted in General Manager Maeda’s acceptance of Tanjiri’s second proposal. This became the base of the final draft.

Taniguchi: The conditions of the site was like a problem child; however, if you will raise a problem child skillfully, that child has the potential to become a genius. We were thinking of trying to draw out that hidden potential since it originally presented a challenge.”

The site of the store has become L-shaped in order to avoid the gas station beside it. The deformity of the site was skillfully leveraged, and the road side of the building was made into an S-shaped curve which brought about a dynamism that gave birth to the design.

(Translated by Michael Sabaldan)