This dramatic cubic building in Tokyo is more than just a fashionable retail space for H&M. The Ice Cubes was carefully designed by Jun Mitsui & Associates Inc. Architects to appear feather light and thin as well as very cool -- and we don't just mean hip. A fritted glass exterior makes the building look frosted and allows daylighting in, but not too much heat. The building is shaped as a series of interlocking cubes, from which it takes its name.
The building’s compact site required special attention to maximize space, so the store became a mid-rise tower composed of interlocking cubic volumes. Programmatic and structural requirements helped shape the volumes, which were also required to appear light as a feather. The site also had very strict requirements as to the available air space (tenku-ritsu) and sun/shadow requirements.
Working closely with the glass manufacturer, Jun Mitsui and his team designed a baked ceramic frit pattern on the exterior of the glass. If the frit pattern had been placed on the interior of the glass, it would made the glass look green. Since they were going more for a frosted look, the frit pattern is on the outside and thus is milky white. The fritting is not only an aesthetic strategy, but also an energy efficient strategy that helps keep the building from overheating, while still allowing in daylight. The end result was a very dramatic building that attracted H&M, which values high-impact design, to want to be the main tenant.