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Building from the bottom up: our public

When you visit SHIBAURA HOUSE for the first time, you’ll probably be surprised by the architecture. Its appearance sends out a very strong message: the architecture is clear and transparent with its seven stories all wrapped in glass. The design allows everything that is happening inside to be seen from the outside. Each floor is connected by a split-level, creating a sense of unity across the entire space. The design is by an architect Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA), who has designed architecture all over the world.

▲ The design is completely transparent, allowing the building to blend into the surrounding area

SHIBAURA HOUSE is a company headquarters combined with a community space in Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo. The company was founded in 1952 (and was formerly called Kohkoku Seihan Inc.), 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’ that is open for people. 

SHIBAURA HOUSE operates as an open space where local children, office workers working in the area, and overseas visitors can all gather in one place. From cooking and English conversation classes to lectures with guests from both Japan and abroad, we have been organizing 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.

▲ You can often see children doing their homework in the free space

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 commuters mix with local residents.

▲ Many office workers walk pass in front of SHIBAURA HOUSE every day

However, even though tens of thousands of 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. We are working every day to bring us closer to our goal of creating a place where strangers meet and make friendships. We continue to hold onto that goal.

▲ OPEN! FURNITURE is a project that built public furniture along a canal. We organized events with musicians and dancers as part of the project.

Recently, in collaboration with Minato city hall, we began holding events at other locations outside of SHIBAURA HOUSE. While connecting top-down and bottom-up approaches effectively, we are planning on working 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.

▲ Inviting guests in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan

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.

(2020.10.27)