Schemata Architects was founded by Jo Nagasaka in 1998. He established his line of work in Tokyo immediately after graduating. They mainly take projects related to architecture, interior, hospitality, commercial, and furniture designing.
Schemata Architects works with tiny details in designs and encourages community belonging. They have unique stories behind their projects and use materials in various unexpected ways. Through their designs, they have successfully impacted many “shutter streets” in Japan and have worked for the betterment of the built environment.
Here is a list of 15 amazing projects by Schemata Architects you must know about!
1. Yagicho Honten – Red Toned Grocery Store
Yagicho has a 280-year history of selling traditional Japanese dried food. It occupies the ground floor of a slim, nine-story office block in Nihonbashi with a 3.65m wide plan. The interior renovation of the store is done by Schemata Architects. They painted all the furniture and fixtures inside the Yagicho grocery store in the shade of red.
The red colour was chosen as it resembled the color of dried bonito; one of the basic ingredients used in Japanese cuisine.
An island cash counter is placed in the center of the store to demonstrate how to make soup stock. It also aimed to create a “non-hierarchical communication between hosts and guests.”
2. Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto Café
The Blue Bottle Café was designed to create an equal relationship between America’s West Coast culture and Kyoto’s culture.
To continue the pebbled grid into the interior, the existing floor level of 50cm above ground level was demolished and terrazzo using the same type of pebbles was used on the ground. Terrazzo is also used in some counters and benches. They decided to remove all the external finishes from the structure and thus the original clay walls and roof structure are visible, connecting to its 100-year old history.
3. Okomeya- Rice Shop
Okomeya, a small rice shop that used to prosper in a modest-sized shopping street in Togoshi Koen, is now on the verge of disappearance. A local team, Owan Ltd is striving to reactivate the shopping street, which has now been called a “shutter street”.
Schemata Architects was commissioned for the renovation of a wooden building of a former vegetable shop, where the shop faces the street, and the residence of the owner is at the back. They decided to regenerate the dilapidated building entirely as well as the shop space. The restoration of the building was started by sanding the columns and the existing wood surface till it matched the color of the new lauan plywood used for furnishings.
“Mutually supporting relationships is crucial to maintain a small business!” Keeping that in mind and the low-cost and one-staff operation of the client, the architecture of the shop is intended to be kept simple. The shop now looks very modest, and Schemata Architects plans on regeneration of more shops to enhance the entire street.
4. °C (DO- C) Ebisu, Tokyo
A company chain running a capsule hotel chain wanted to give a new identity to its chain of hotels. The company asked Schemata Architects to renovate an existing capsule hotel chain. They designed the hotel by changing all the interiors and surroundings of the capsule but kept the capsule as it is. The beige color was used as a base to eradicate the impression of existing capsules.
Saunas were imagined to be a part of capsule hotels by the Japanese people. Hence, saunas were introduced in the design of the hotel. Also, external finishes on the stairs were removed to expose the structural member and it was then re-painted with anti-corrosive paint for maintenance. Later, the entire building was painted in the shade of the anti-corrosive color as a signature color.
5. Hojo Sanci
Schemata Architects converted a. 80-year old traditional house into an office. The timber frame and plastered wall surfaces were carefully stripped off from any external finishes and plaster to reveal the original structural members.
A new tatami room was created near the entrance which overlooks the garden on the other side. The main office is also positioned alongside the tatami room. The desks placed in the office connect the entrance to the interiors of the structure.
The floor height of the space allowed different viewpoints and created vibrant energy by visually connecting with nature. Throughout the building modern and vernacular architecture is emphasized with new furniture, use of I Section beams, and exposed surfaces.
6. Jins Eyewear Shop
This project made Schemata Architects design open plans as the adjacent structures were knocked off. Thus, all the interior spaces of the shop could be easily visible from the outside. The exterior walls of the shop were removed and Low-E coated glass was installed which decreased the amount of ultraviolet and infrared rays without hampering the light entering through the glass.
Replacing exterior walls with glass also helped to build a visual connection with the courtyards from inside to outside.
New walls were constructed and the shelves were designed as a different architectural feature from the main design to bring visual aesthetics.
7. Portable Bike Store
Schemata Architects and Jo Nagasaka made a rental bike store on the ground floor as a program for tourists visiting Jeju Island, the main island of Jeju Province of South Korea. Considering the huge size of the island, they decided to rent and sell folding bikes at the store, as it would be a good way to enjoy the island along with driving.
To make efficient use of the space, a vertically movable hanger rack system was installed so that the ground can be used for various purposes, and the bikes can be stored on the top. Also, the rack system could be used for hanging clothes so that the visitors can freely touch and take a look at items hanging from them.
8. Toy’s Factory
This office space was designed for a music label. It had windows on all the sides and Schemata Architects took advantage of this. To make use of the windows on all sides, a central core was made which had a meeting room, storage, and café inside it. Spaces like the artist’s room, office, and lounge were kept around the core facing towards the windows for its best use.
The space is flexible and forms open spaces around the core. Air conditioners are installed under the windows and the space above the windows is used differently according to the function.
9. Nakamata- Sweet Shop
The shop is located on a street that was once busy and was then at risk of becoming a “shutter street”, as most of the shops on that street were closing down. An existing two-story building was demolished to construct this sweet shop but the brick base of the building was retained.
Bricks were chosen as the main material of the structure as all the shops around the area were using bricks as a unique identity to the street. The floor space of the shop was reduced and a brick base was made which was used by the customers to sit around the shop and also by the workers as a counter.
At the back of the shop, a small space was created and few chairs were kept for people to eat and socialize in the yard. Also, small trees were planted around the shop, thus, the brick flooring was laid without mortar and the plants will need more soil area when they grow bigger. Across the yard is a small structure that was for storage purposes. As a result, the shop laid a positive impact on the street and activated the space.
10. LIM lijo Hair Salon
LIM stands for less is more. The client wanted a minimalistic design and budget-friendly costing. Therefore, the main idea of the design was to “maximize the minimum necessity”. To reduce the cost of the project, readymade steel racks were used for fixtures like shelves and were coated with uni-chrome painting. Even the green color of readymade steel was not hampered to reduce the cost.
Mirrors were placed at various places as they are one of the most important requirements of a salon.
11. Japanese Bathhouse
Schemata Architects renovated a public bathhouse in Japan. Most of the public bathhouses were getting shut in Japan because 95% of the houses had private bathrooms. Thus, the sense of community that the public bathhouse could integrate was evaporating. The partition wall between the men’s section and women’s section was built up to the lintel level only to allow families which had men and women to communicate through the wall. This was a common feature in Japanese bathhouses.
Small square porcelain tiles were used consciously as they are easy to clean and the mortar used is also anti-slip. Soft lights and beige-colored tiles made the environment fresh. Towada stone was used in the bathtubs which were bluish-green in the shade that in turn made the water look blue and luxurious.
To encourage community gathering, the bath areas were kept the same size as before and spaces other than bathing areas were converted into gathering spaces like a beer bar, sauna, and air bath.
12. Museum Café
The ARARIO Museum is the first building built in the Tapdong area, Korea. During the first visit of Schemata Architects, they realized that the space was quiet which was in contrast to their expectation. Therefore, the footfall in the museum was also not as expected. As a solution to this issue, a café was designed which was accessible from the museum.
By doing so, they expected that people would feel invited to pay visits to the museum and activate the space by connecting the city with its people.
13. Chalet on Powder Mountain
The chalet is located on a slope in the USA. The upper floor of the chalet has a balcony where one can appreciate the view from the top of the slope. Also, the kitchen, dining, and living room are on the top floor to enjoy their food and drinks with a view. The lower floor is constructed with steel and enough space is left between the upper floor and the slope.
The structure is highly insulated considering the extreme climate area at the top of the slope. Since the building had to follow strict norms of buildable area, the rooms are very compact but it adds to the grandeur of nature experience.
14. Kitchen Studio SUIBA
With the spread of the internet, people are getting accustomed to a 2-way communication between suppliers and customers which involves a growing demand for shared kitchens on rent. These types of kitchens involve participatory events wherein guests are allowed to cook for each other. Also, there are dedicated spaces for showrooms of different businesses to make customers try their products.
This design was developed in two directions which considered a close range and a distant range. The owner of the building also owns properties adjacent to the kitchen on both sides. From here, people can take a closer view of the space and actively invite them into space. There is a wide road in front of the kitchen and since the building has glass exterior walls, people from across the street can peek into the store from a distance.
15. T-House New Balance Store
T-House was considered to bring unique characteristics of Japan by representing its brands. The main goal of this project was to dismantle the old warehouse and transfer all the components to the new site and reassemble and redesign the space for the new warehouse.
The original idea of the client was to build the structure in alignment with “Japanese” but Schemata Architects had a different opinion about the design. They enveloped the structure with a white façade and a nuki joinery detail. (Nuki is similar to a mortise and tenon joinery, it is a joinery detail used by one of the workers on-site for the old warehouse columns.)
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Dezeen. (2020). Schemata Architects updates traditional sento with tiles and Towada stone. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/09/06/schemata-architects-sento-bathhouse-renovation-tokyo-architecture/.
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