London-based design practice Heatherwick Studio has begun construction on a stunning redevelopment project in Toranomon-Azabudai in the heart of Tokyo. Commissioned by the Mori Building Company, the key feature of the luxury mixed-use scheme will be a “gigantic planted pergola”— an undulating building wrapped in glass and covered in greenery. Spanning an area greater than eight hectares, the site will also include a series of modern high-rises and a large 6,000-square-meter central landscaped square.

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Slated for completion in March 2023, the Toranomon-Azabudai mixed-use development is the first Heatherwick Studio project in Japan to go into construction. The project will include space for offices, residences, a variety of retail, a school, as well as a temple. The architects estimate that 25 to 30 million people per year will visit the area.

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To give the project a distinctive identity, the architects created a “pergola-like system scaled up to district proportions” that rises like a gently sloping hillside covered with greenery. Large panes of curved glass will bring natural light deep into the building, even into the basement retail zones. The organic, sculptural form will also reference Japanese design with its inclusion of traditional craftsmanship styles such as the ‘Edo kiriko’ glass etching technique. 

“Our design for the project responds to the layering of Tokyo; the juxtapositions of scale and the character of buildings that draw the eye upwards,” explains Neil Hubbard, Group Leader at Heatherwick Studio.

“Set within a natural valley, we have chosen to accentuate that topography through our design, creating an undulating arrangement that uses a pergola-like structural system to create a variety of landscape spaces, from hidden gardens to sunken courtyards. Weaving and flowing through the scheme, a family of pavilions emerges from the grid of the pergola. Rather than focus on one single impression, we hope to encourage exploration by creating hundreds of moments to be revealed and discovered.”

+ Heatherwick Studio

Renderings via Heatherwick Studio by DBox and Darcstudio, Image by Mori Building