For the Japanese lifestyle emporium La Kagü, Kengo Kuma and Associates creates a staircase promenade open to the public. It’s part of Tiny Landmarks, our look at six projects modest in size and budget but immeasurable in impact.
Usually, it’s city planners who make it their business to find ways of carving out public places within dense neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, most retailers prefer to entice shoppers indoors. La Kagū, a unique lifestyle emporium in Tokyo, has reversed that approach with a rambling 962-square-metre staircase, inviting passersby to simply hang out and take in the scenery.
Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, a master at building with wood and steel, the promenade diverges halfway along to create two entry points into the adjoining building: one leading to the main level, the other rising to the second floor. Each deep and shallow step echoes the terrain of Kagurazaka, a district known for its hilly streets and Paris-like café culture. Kuma gave the steps a leisurely incline, to encourage visitors to take their time before heading into the multi-purpose complex. Housed in a former storage facility, it’s now a chic and airy interior filled with a café, a bookstore and a workshop space. The main tenant is a home and fashion boutique that sells such labels as Acne Studios, Maison Margiela and Sofie D’Hoore, along with vintage Danish furniture.
The goal from the start was to open up the site, owned by Japanese book publisher Shin-cho-sha, to the local community. Since their launch, the La Kagū steps have become a destination in themselves, listed in guidebooks and on fashion blogs as a must-do. They have also morphed into a perfect stage for open markets and impromptu concerts.