I swung by Cafe Stylo before it opened to customers for this quick interior photoshoot. Even though this cafe’s been opened for 8 months, It still felt unreal to step into this interior design project, especially after I invested hundreds of hours / 8 months into it as my first ‘real’ built project, and it being here overlooking the skyline of Ginza and Tokyo.
Takita-san, Cafe Stylo’s restaurant manager (always in his black suit and gleaming smile) welcomed me in and curiously watched me set my camera and equipment up, while asking me about my experience living here as a foreign architect / interior designer. We talked about the work expectation differences between American and Japanese culture, and laughed at the fact that I was taking my ( 代休/compensatory day off from overwork) to photoshoot interior shots… for my work-assigned upcoming lecture. Once I began shooting, Takita-san turned up some pleasant jazz, brought me a stellar cup of espresso on the house, a Salmon Florentine Benedict and a creamy, Classic Eggs Benedict. (Thanks again, Takita-san!)
Café Stylo isn’t really a clear reflection of my personal style; I’m honestly not into light rustic wood flooring … and particularly the existing, dark, narrow length of the space was an extreme pain in the ass to work with (the inevitable struggle for every building along Chuo Dori). I prefer cleaner, pastel colors, natural lighting, and subtle warm glows. But this was honestly a killer experience of merging both American and Japanese design, materiality, and even food. And I love these masculine Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec Softshell chairs and Jasper Morrison Hal chairs in ice blue..
Through photos, I [present the outcome of a collaborative project with NYU planning and my clients, Itoya’s CEO and art director, who specifically requested for these California hipster accents (warm rustic wood, grey walls, and subtle hints of steel, glass, and plants.) Yes, this is what’s hot in Tokyo and I am truly thankful for the several compliments and positive feedback we get from Itoya, guests, and other designers.
The vision and story behind this cafe though, are major reasons why I decided to move all the way here to Tokyo and work on this project. Itoya’s CEO envisioned this rooftop cafe to be a place for gathering, socializing, nourishing, and comforting – to bring employees, customers, and foreigners from all over the world together, to open doors and merge eastern and western cultures altogether. If you know me, you know I’m a huge supporter in designing architecture and feeding people with the main intention of all of these purposes.
And the main purpose of this photoshoot was not only to document my work but to also present a series of photos for my then upcoming lecture I entitled, 建築でもてなす (kenchiku-de motenasu), meaning Hospitality Through Architecture. I presented this 30 minute lecture on a series of past work (both personal and precedent) and emphasized my belief that the purpose of architecture isn’t just to give society aesthetically pleasing buildings. In this cyber society with so many high-tech skins and buildings, a lot of them that surround us are actually quite intimidating, elite-associated, and cause some individuals feel lesser than who they are. But I strongly believe that architecture’s purpose is to serve individuals, to be hospitable to individuals and communities. Sure, we all have different visions of hospitality; architects probably visualize a hotel design, while chefs imagine cooking something up in a restaurant. But in all areas of hospitality – they all require a type of service, with a purpose to serve people with something to brighten their day.
Through my adventures of cooking for my dad, myself, and friends since I was a child, to studying and practicing architecture with professional architects, I’ve learned that that the roles of a chef and architect are quite similar. The roles and goals of the chef and architect are to serve people with something that makes their lives a bit better-whether it’s through aesthetics, taste, materiality, lighting, an/or spatial configurations. And this is why I’m still happily jumbling the two.
I ended the photoshoot at this particular favorite view. I have a tendency to always sit at this seating area against the glass window. It’s where I sit and eat with old friends/coworkers, or simply gaze out aby myself and visualize other ideas and possibilities.