“It is important to find a new purpose from the story of the planet.” – Jo Nagasaka.
It is fascinating how Schemata Architects adheres to its core principles of a “one-to-one” design scale while working on a diverse and wide range of programs. From designing tea trolleys to whole cities, Jo Nagasaka’s commitment to innovation is definitely an inspiration for the world. Jo Nagasaka founded Schemata Architects after graduating with an Architecture degree in 1998, from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. His projects include architecture, installations on a large scale, interior design and creating interactive interior environments, urban design, and product and furniture design.
Mainly focusing on material exploration, Schemata’s approach to design and problem-solving is very unique which is reflected in all their projects. Using space and studying the environment of every project and its site, Nagasaka brings individuality to every design as it is specific to its own story. Hence, he brings character and adds life to his projects by exploring materials and space, not using his standards or universal rules, but through the value, every project holds within itself.
“… We wait until the last minute and explore the identity hidden in the project.”
Everyday objects and existing space are major sources of inspiration for Schemata and it can be seen within the office building. Ordinary but beautiful, every area exudes creativity and productivity. The philosophy of identity that every place holds can be seen in the usage of spaces that might look typical but holds a deeper meaning.
Invisible Development – the large scale
The design techniques Nagasaki fosters and focuses on are misuse, subtraction, semi-architecture, invisible development, and updating knowledge.
The unique principle of invisible development is fascinating and a potent example of how the architect works on a scale of 1:1, no matter the scale of the project. The term ‘invisible development’ was coined during the city development project Schemata has undertaken in the Tapdong area of Jeju city South Korea. The decaying and declining area of Tapdong was on the brink of total abandonment, the central attraction point, Tapdong Cinema was in ruins, nearly toppled in the rain. Now being salvaged by Kim Chang-il, it’s called Arario Museum and Schemata is working on the city’s architecture and interior design.
It has no visible changes or drastic transformations, but there is a distinguishable metamorphosis Tapdong is gradually going through that can be experienced by visitors. The idea is to rejuvenate the city by working on properties one by one and then connecting these buildings together, making the city accessible and an unpredictable adventure at the same time.
The most notable and iconic project as part of this invisible development is the design of the building for a retail shop for the Freitag store for the rental bike shop Portable. To attract tourists and bring life back to the city, cycling would help tourists and people make rounds of the island and enjoy the experience it offers.
Working on each building separately dotted around the island seems like a challenging task but is equally rewarding. The development is invisible in the sense that it cannot be seen until the onlooker takes a closer look and experiences the place hands-on. The exterior walls and the facade is preserved and only the interior spaces are redesigned. An interface system has been invented in an attempt to create activity and a cheerful atmosphere in the city, when visiting one building would pique the interest of the users and make them wonder what other buildings might hold and then guide them towards those.
Jo Nagasaka believes in spatial experience and its authenticity rather than the flamboyant aesthetics that aren’t meaningful or serve a better purpose.
The Small Scale
On a smaller scale, Nagasaka also celebrates his principles and design language. Schemata were asked to refurbish an old two-story inherited house in Kawaguchi. The client’s childhood house was built at a time of population growth and so had a number of private spaces tightly woven together in the layout. In modern times, vacancy due to the decline in population is a real issue and it was beautifully addressed and solved in the revitalization of the house.
The walls were knocked down to create a more open and inviting space, and the master bedroom and kitchen merged into one. Nagasaka “opened” the doors and connected the whole house, the partition walls stripped leaving behind the timber framework and exposed columns. A void on the second floor created an atrium overlooked by two bedrooms and added visual connection and integrity to the house.
Details and unique ornamentation in every room gave them all an individual taste but made the whole space “heavy with love for the house”. “In order to alleviate such heaviness, we removed some of the spatial components, sorted out some components with common characters, and created a sense of integrity – which is a new form of love – we intend to present in this house.”
In 2007, Nagasaka’s ‘Sayama Flat’ won second prize in the Bauhaus award and Happa Hotel is another one of his renowned projects. Other than these accomplishments Jo Nagasaki’s work in the expression of traditional Japanese craft is also worth mentioning. Artek, a furniture company’s exclusive Friendship Collection, boasts Nagasaki’s partnership. His research on surface treatments was put to the test on Artek’s classic pieces. Nagasaki invented his own unique process of ColoRing by merging the traditional techniques of Udukuri and Tsugaru-nuri. The technique and application of colours result in unique textures and surfaces that resemble different topography. Pine wood is treated, layered, and then juxtaposed in a creative manner combining traditional techniques and semi-industrial processes to be made available worldwide.
ARARIO Tapdong project. (n.d.). Schemata Architects. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from http://schemata.jp/arario-tapdong-project/
[Art on Jeju Island] Breathing life into old downtown. (2021, May 2). The Korea Herald. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20210502000112
Barlow, W. (2022, April 5). Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects Envisions a Recyclable Space for a Tokyo Store – Interior Design. Interior Design Magazine. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://interiordesign.net/projects/jo-nagasaka-of-schemata-architects-envisions-a-recyclable-space-for-a-tokyo-store/
Bench 153B ColoRing. (n.d.). Artek. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.artek.fi/en/products/bench-153b-coloring
Cao, L. (2020, February 28). Open More Doors: Schemata Architects. ArchDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.archdaily.com/934394/open-more-doors-schemata-architects
Nagasaka, J. (n.d.). Jo Nagasaka – designer profile | STYLEPARK. Stylepark. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.stylepark.com/en/designer/jo-nagasaka
Us. (2019, September 26). YouTube. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://archello.com/story/96523/attachments/photos-videos/10
Us. (2019, September 26). YouTube. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfnjSqPlUZ4&t=73s