The architect behind the Art Week Tokyo pop-up bar

The architect behind the Art Week Tokyo pop-up bar

Rising architect Suzuko Yamada trained with Sou Fujimoto before setting up her own independent studio in 2013. She has since made her name through experimental local designs including Daita2019, her family home in Tokyo. The house was inspired by the habitats of mountain gorillas she saw in Rwanda, improvised in the jungle foliage. With a wall barely in sight, the structure emerges from a moving forest of windows and joinery, blurring the boundaries between house and garden. Yamada now brings her ethereal spatial interventions to Art Week Tokyo’s pop-up bar, which is traversed by a network of thin metal bars suspended in the air. She spoke with us about the design of the place, her vision for the architecture and her favorite drinking spot in Tokyo.

Art Newspaper: What inspired you to frame the AWT Bar space with these simple outlines instead of traditional structures? How do you hope visitors enjoy the bar experience?

In small spaces such as bars or homes, elements such as stairs, furniture, lamps and of course people can have as much or greater influence than walls or ceiling in defining the space. How each object affects the space it occupies is one of my interests. For the AWT strip, we isolated the outlines of the objects to test whether people could still perceive space through all those cut and extended shapes. It’s not minimalism, but we wanted to minimize the elements and highlight the impact of their remains. Visitors will feel the space alternately expanding and contracting as they walk through it.

Suzuko Yamada Courtesy of Suzuko Yamada Architects

Do you have a favorite bar in Tokyo and what makes it special?

I love spending time at Suzunari Yokocho in Shimo Kitazawa, an alley lined with small places to eat and drink. I enjoy how each bar there has its own unique atmosphere.

You’ve said that Sou Fujimoto influenced you to think about architecture opening up possibilities for the way we live. What new possibilities do you envision for future homes and cities?

Ask people to describe the layout of their city and you’ll get all kinds of answers. Some may start with the train station and then follow the roads from there, while others may consider squares or historic buildings first. A city that does not conform to any single rule is full of discoveries and allows people the freedom to use or live in it in their own way. This is my vision for homes and architecture.

You’ve talked about vernacular architecture being a starting point for all your projects. What does this idea mean for your practice?

The vernacular is a reflection of how people view and respond to their surrounding environments – not just in architecture but in all creative fields, from song and language to dance and cuisine. I want to make things that not only solve problems, but also bring up different ways of seeing the world, including nature and society.

Your studio is among 20 young companies selected to design facilities at Expo 2025 in Osaka. Can you give us any hints about this and any other future projects?

We are working on a rest area in a large forest. We want to see if artificial outlines – the buildings – can contribute to producing a rich and complex environment like a forest with trees and other plant life. Another project includes reclaiming agricultural lands. We hope to propose a new model for agritourism.

out bar, Aoyama Complex 1F Appearance, 4-5-30 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, November 2-5, 10 a.m. to midnight

• Tokyo Art Week It runs from November 2 to 5. See all our coverage here

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