Walking Tour: Omote-sandō Architecture

  • Start Tokyu Plaza
  • End SunnyHills
  • Length 1.2km; one hour

Omote-sandō is like a walk-through showroom featuring the who’s who of contemporary architecture.

Start at the intersection of Omote-sandō and Meiji-dōri, with Tokyu Plaza, a castle-like structure built in 2012 and designed by up-and-coming architect Nakamura Hiroshi. The entrance is a dizzying hall of mirrors and there's a roof garden (with a Starbucks) on top.

Continue to Tadao Ando’s deceptively deep Omotesandō Hills (2003). This high-end shopping mall spirals around a sunken central atrium. Andō’s architecture utilises materials such as concrete to create strong geometric shapes, often drawn from Japan’s traditional architecture.

Across the street, the five-storey glass Dior Building (2003), designed by SANAA (Nishizawa Ryue and Sejima Kazuyo), has a filmy surface that seems to hang like a dress (an effect achieved with clever lighting and acrylic screens)

A couple of blocks down, Aoki Jun’s Louis Vuitton Building (2002) has offset panels of tinted glass behind sheets of metal mesh that are meant to evoke a stack of trunks. There’s an art gallery on the 7th floor.

Climb onto the elevated crosswalk to better admire Itō Tōyō’s construction for Tod’s (2004). The criss-crossing strips of concrete take their inspiration from the zelkova trees below; they’re also structural.

You can’t miss the Prada Aoyama Building (2003) with its curvaceous exterior of convex glass bubbles. Created by Herzog & de Meuron, this is the building that escalated the design race in the neighbourhood.

Turn the corner to see Kengo Kuma's design for Taiwanese pineapple cake shop SunnyHills (2014). Kuma is an architect known for his use of wood and traditional Japanese joinery techniques, and this building represents his work at its most playful. The 3D-modelled latticework is supposed to evoke a bamboo basket, but also resembles a cross-hatched pineapple.