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Sara Mercer looks at the Roppongi phenomena
Sara Mercer

Fashion has always been an important element of architecture but the ongoing development of Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills district takes the fusion of designer brands and architecture to a new level.
Roppongi is no mere shopping centre, it’s a full quarter or district, a city within a city. Nothing on this scale has been created before. Constructed by building tycoon Minoru Mori its opening in 2003, after 17 years of land acquisition, planning and construction was just the beginning. Roppongi Hills, which cost $4bn to build, now houses over 200 shops, restaurants, cinemas, an art museum, an observation deck and most importantly some of the most influential designers any women with a love of fine


clothes and high heels could wish for…. Gucci, Armani, Christian La Croix, Louis Vuitton.
A host of leading architects have been involved in the creation of this homage to fashion. US firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) designed the main tower creating a focal point for Roppongi, supposedly symbolically representing the power of Mount Fuji in the distance - to many though, hugely out of proportion with the rest of Tokyo. The 54-storey block was aptly named after its creator, Minoru Mori, which has also become the cultural hub, housing the Mori Art Museum, a cinema complex, restaurants, cafes, stores and the offices of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, TV Asahi, Yahoo! Japan and the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.
Herzog & de Meuron’s flagship Prada store provides a classic example of design on design. The most recent addition is the 21_21 Design Sight museum designed by Tadao Ando and conceived by fashion designer Issey Miyake. It is a museum and interactive venue devoted to ‘seeing the world through design’. The name is a play on the term for perfect 20/20 eyesight, suggesting vision “into the future”. This sleek concrete structure sits in a green landscaped corner of the Midtown development.
Proving that design is not just skin deep, internationally acclaimed design team, Conran & Partners have created some spectacular interiors within their two residential towers, the Roppongi Hills


club on the 51st floor of the KPF main tower and the Ark Hills Club at Ark Hills on the 37th floor of the Ark Mori tower. These interiors deliver an exciting fusion of Japanese traditional and contemporary.
For those wishing to escape the bustling streetscape, sanctuary can be found in the Roofscape, a peaceful roof designed in association with Dan Pearson, inspired by English countryside complete with its hedges, pastures and copses.
Two decades ago, Roppogi was a myriad of allotments, now it’s a cathedral to retail. It’s concept was to allow people to “live, work, play and shop in proximity”. And this certainly has been achieved….. as long as you have chic shoes and expensive clothes.

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