Renovated office in leafy Japanese resort town reconnects with the outdoors

Renovated office in leafy Japanese resort town reconnects with the outdoors

Kanagawa-based architect Yuji Tanabe transforms an existing commercial building into a modern, flexible office in Japan’s Karuizawa

Yuji Tanabe has completed a thorough conversion of a tired, existing commercial building in the pretty resort town of Karuizawa in Japan, into a modern, flexible office space. The structure, which used to host a restaurant, has now been updated with contemporary design strokes inside, and a modern folly structure just outside the main building, aiming to bring some fun and lightness into the composition. 

The original structure occupied a V-shaped footprint, with one wing spanning two levels and the other just one. The redesign maintained this arrangement, dedicating the whole ground floor to workspace, interspersed with break areas and a cafe for users to relax and socialise. The cafe spills out onto a large terrace, where guests can enjoy the site’s – and wider area’s – green scenery. 

By reinforcing structural columns, the architects were able to free the interior from many partitions, especially on the upper level that was previously divided into small, darker rooms. In fact, subtle, technical but necessary changes were made throughout to bring the space to the 21st century and meet the demands of a contemporary workspace, such as ensuring there are hidden cable racks in various spots, adding insulation to promote natural heat retention in the winter and replacing the old ventilation system with a new, more energy efficient one. 

In a similar way, the landscaping outside was cleared to give way to pathways and the site’s signature tree – the birch. The grey painted, geometric timber folly – which matches the tone on the main building’s cedar wood cladding – is also placed just outside the main entrance, providing extra seating space among the trees. The colour was selected to be as unobtrusive as possible and the set up references local design traditions: ‘The higher level allows people to sit more freely, like sitting on an Engawa, an edging strip of floor surrounding the inner part of a house in Japanese traditional architecture,’ says Tanabe. §

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