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Basket Weave Façade

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After the renovation done by Aisaka Architect’s Atelier, the interwoven mesh of fire colored motifs covering the façade of the Keiun Building in Tokyo looks like a basket woven out of burnt twigs and living embers.

Aisaka Architects, a Japanese design studio led by architect Kensuke Aisaka in Tokyo, Japan believes in exploring new possibilities in architecture by using simple and refined design on the basis of essence and nature.

Located on the main thoroughfare between a railway line and a fire station, the 106.63sqm four-storey building contains a row of ground-level shops with three multitenant office floors above. As the front facades on east and west needed special attention for sunlight protection, the architect designed horizontal meshes of braided flames (aluminum plates, actually) alternated with fenêtres en longuêur across the facade of the office block. Behind these, the rhythm of the pillars is made apparent. They are tastefully parted from the façade walls, making the façade effectively independent, exterior almost skin like.

“Keiun” comes from the posthumous name of the former owner, but it happens to mean “clouds in a sunset sky which is regarded as a propitious sign”. I hope this building, like a sunset mackerel sky, will make people on this Fire Street feel “auspicious” on the way to Yoyogi Gymnasium, an Olympic site in 2020.”

– Kensuke Aisaka

The Design

The woven texture created using “knitting method” functions as sun shade and also allows the inside of the building to breathe. The woven pieces are coloured in five different shades of red – intended to reference the brick building that once stood on the site. Ar. Aisaka explains, “The basic color tone was chosen to take into account the continuity with the neighboring scenery as also “the request to keep alive the memory of the former building. The colour was broken down to five Japanese traditional colours – Akane-iro, Ebicha-iro, Hiwada-iro, Bengara-iro, and Kuri-iro – which then were rearranged to provide an eye-catching effect.”

In the interiors, ceilings and walls are white and the floors are covered in a chequerboard pattern of grey carpet tiles. All the horizontal ribbon windows stretch the full width in order to take in the outside scenery, providing physically and mentally comfortable work environment.

The Construction

The aluminium strips are just two millimetres thick so as not to burden the structure, while the arched shape prevents distortion of the facade in extreme temperatures – allowing for expansion in hot weather and contraction in the colder winter months. Besides, long strips of glass between the woven frontage capitalizes on the street and railway-facing facades for view.

Steel brackets were used to hold the aluminium curves in place. These were attached to a layer of autoclaved aerated concrete panels – a type of pre-cast concrete made lightweight by a chemical process that traps gas bubbles within the material. Each curved piece is fixed in place with a bolt at either end, holding the bowed shape. The coloured aluminium strips come to pieces so that maintenance can be done manually and have been arranged in a random order so that if damaged, replacement parts will not appear prominent. “Focus is placed on the Japanese sudare – a traditional bamboo blind that does not interfere with the area of the room and works to pass air while shutting down heat. It is substituted with the high-durability, light, and inexpensive aluminium,” said Aisaka.


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