When you visit SHIBAURA HOUSE for the first time, you’ll probably be surprised by the building. Its appearance sends out a very strong message: its seven stories are all wrapped in transparent glass. You can see everything that is happening inside, from the outside. Each floor is connected by a split-level, creating a sense of unity across the entire space. The design is by architect Kazuyo Sejima, of architect studio SANAA, who has designed buildings all over the world.
SHIBAURA HOUSE is a company headquarters and a community space in Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo. The company was founded in 1952 (and was formerly called the Advertising Plate Making Company), but in 2011, it was turned into SHIBAURA HOUSE when the headquarters were rebuilt. As the name suggests, the idea was to build a ‘house’ (rather than only an office) in Shibaura.
SHIBAURA HOUSE operates as an open space where local children, office workers working in the area, and overseas visitors all gather together. From cooking and English conversation classes to lectures with guests from both Japan and abroad, we hold over 100 cultural programs every year. What’s more, the ground floor is open for anyone to come in, just like a public park. At lunchtime, you can come in and watch the neighbors go about their business.
As an initiative of one company trying to build relations within a local community, SHIBAURA HOUSE is a kind of social experiment. Because we are based in Shibaura, we want to make it a more interesting area. I think there is more we can do. That was also the thought we had when we founded the space. Nine years have passed since it opened, and now many people come to visit us, from both within Japan and abroad.
A community that creates friendships
Shibaura used to be a warehouse district, and then it became a typical office district. However, over the past few years, new apartment buildings have been built, and increasingly, singles and young families are moving in. Now it is gradually changing into an area in which commuting workers mix with local residents.
However, even though many people are densely packed together in a small area, most people do not know which company is working in the building next door, or who their neighbours are, and opportunities to meet each other are limited. As people who work in the district, we couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable about this.
We created SHIBAURA HOUSE as one way to resolve that discomfort. In the beginning, we wanted to create a bottom-up initiative that would enable people to co-exist with each other. We continue to hold onto that goal.
Recently, thanks to our collaboration with Minato Ward City Office, we began holding events at other locations outside of SHIBAURA HOUSE. While connecting topdown and bottom-up approaches, we focus on initiatives that take the entire local area into consideration.
Becoming a hub for creative culture and initiatives overseas
While creating connections to the location community, we are proactive in connecting to people overseas. In particular, we focus on the creative fields of art, design, and architecture. This is because our own company’s background is in advertising, a cultural and creative field.
Our open space, where anyone is welcome, is the perfect place to introduce unique activities from overseas. In collaboration with the embassy, we invite many people from abroad, including groups and cultural institutions. Through workshops and residencies at SHIBAURA HOUSE, these groups are able to share their activities with a wide audience.