Headed up by Oki Sato, the design firm gave the coffee shop a mood and style entirely different from the usual Starbucks experience, turning it into a pristine library, complete with identical books lining every shelf.
Open only for the month of September, the shop was erected in Tokyo’s fashionable Omotesando district. It could have easily been mistaken for a contemporary art gallery rather than a place to knock back an espresso. With the coffee counter and a cluster of tables and chairs located at the back, the shop was defined by a striking ribbon of white shelving that curved around every wall.
The floor-to-ceiling shelves contained hundreds of coffee-hued books that were free for the taking. Each was dedicated to the lattes, cappuccinos and café mochas whose popularity has made the Seattle-based company so ubiquitous. Visitors were invited to freely pull books off the shelves and then trade them in for a hot beverage. They could also remove the back cover and shape it into an espresso cup.
This isn’t the first time Starbucks has worked with big names in the world of architecture and design. Back in the spring, the company opened a coffee shop designed by Kengo Kuma. Located near the entrance of Dazaifu Tenmangu, a shrine in Japan dating back to 919 A.D., the cafe pays homage to traditional Japanese architecture with its wooden web of an interior. For the upcoming holiday season, the company will offer products – totes, cup sleeves, gift cards and mugs – with a checkerboard motif designed by fashion brand Rodarte. These collaborations also signal a larger trend: McDonald’s is revamping its interiors with the help of Patrick Norguet, and Burger King recently launched a redesign in Singapore by Outofstock, a designer foursome featured in Azure’s upcoming November/December 2012 issue.