Louis Vuitton's Ginza Namiki flagship evokes a rippling pillar of water

Japanese architect Jun Aoki creates a water-like facade for Louis Vuitton's Ginza Namiki Tokyo flagship

Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki facade
(Image credit: Daici Ano)

Rippling, shimmering, fluid: these words can all be used to describe the newly renovated Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki flagship in Tokyo, whose façade is inspired by the surface of water.

The new seven-level boutique located on a prime corner spot occupied by the fashion house since 1981, has an abstract reflective exterior by Japanese architect Jun Aoki.

The water-like facade is complemented by smoothly layered interiors by Vuitton's longtime architectural collaborator Peter Marino, who also overhauled the brand's London flagship in 2019, spanning four retail floors and a salon. The store also takes its collaboration with famed Japanese chef Yosuke Suga to new heights: its apex is home to both Le Café V, the second in the world after launching in Osaka last year, and Le Chocolate V, marking its debut as a chocolatier, with the first line of Louis Vuitton chocolates released in April.

For Aoki, inspiration behind the Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki facade is as precise as it is poetic: during the creative process, he contemplated Sazanami (Ripples), a 1932 Japanese-style painting by Heihachiro Fukuda, which depicts with graphic simplicity a shimmering water surface, as well the music of Claude Debussy.

‘It is a work where Fukuda, who was fascinated by reflections on the surface of water, painted only the shimmering of the water surface in ultramarine on a platinum foil screen,' he explains.

‘From music, it was Claude Debussy’s “Reflets dans l’eau”. It is not a grand composition, but a small piece made up of short passages. I felt that if paintings and music could be created from just the playfulness of water, I could do the same with architecture.'

The building’s shimmering resemblance to a ‘pillar of water' was achieved by layering its three-dimensional curved surface with panes of dichroic glass, producing a shifting spectrum of colour variations depending on the angle. 

The end result is an undulating monolith, whose smooth curves reflect in abstraction its surrounding environment, from the lights, motion and towers of Ginza to traces of blue skies and passing clouds.

‘Expressing the natural and continuous shimmering of the water surface by combining panes of dichroic glass with three-dimensional curved surfaces was itself challenging,' adds Aoki. ‘It took repeated trial and error to establish a mechanism by which the colour of the surface changes depending on the orientation, as well as the colour disposition and the range of change.'

Stepping inside, the water theme continues. Bright, fluid Marino-designed interiors unfurl in organic curves, with a dynamic ground floor ribbon staircase of oak and glass (alongside floating jellyfish-inspired décor) plus a mood-boosting scattering of colourful artworks by Vik Muniz, Peter Dayton and Ed Moses.

Curves are echoed throughout, from the rounded edges of wood and glass furniture by Morten Stenbaek and the organic lines of an orange Isamu Noguchi sofa to the infinite rippled reflections of the elevator interior.

Expressing the natural and continuous shimmering of the water surface by combining panes of dichroic glass with three-dimensional curved surfaces was itself challenging

Jun Aoki

Inside the store, visitors can find limited edition pieces including a cosmetic case created in collaboration with Japan’s famed Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo, with an inner lining crafted by Kyoto’s centuries-old textile company Hosoo.

Another highlight is the rear staircase, wrapped in a layered four-storey feature wall of pastel shades of Japanese plasterwork – inspired by the delicate lines of 1977 painting Wave Blue Line by Kimiko Fujimura.

‘The entire interior architecture was designed with fluidity in mind – from the unfurling staircase of sculptured oak and glass visible through to the street, to the circulation of the store itself,' says Marino of the Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki space.

‘This project was designed during some of the darkest times of Coronavirus. It was productive to work with orange, yellow, and gold – joyous, happy, cheerful and bright colors.'

Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki cafe

(Image credit: Daici Ano)

Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki boutique interior

(Image credit: Photography:- Daici Ano)

Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki cafe

(Image credit: Photography:- Daici Ano)

Danielle Demetriou is a British writer and editor who moved from London to Japan in 2007. She writes about design, architecture and culture (for newspapers, magazines and books) and lives in an old machiya townhouse in Kyoto. 

Instagram - @danielleinjapan

With contributions from