Strap line 2015

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The hotels feature abundant greenery, to counteract the surrounding district's lack of parks.|||
The hotels feature abundant greenery, to counteract the surrounding district's lack of parks.
04 Mar 2020

Claesson Koivisto Rune complete the holistic, border-erasing K5 Tokyo hotel

Words by  Photo by Photo: Yikin Hyo

The Swedish practice designed everything from plant pots to pencils

The Swedish architecture and design group Claesson Koivisto Rune have completed work on K5 Tokyo: a 20-room hotel in Nihonbashi Kabutocho, a business district within the metropolis' original downtown core.

Housed in neoclassical 1920s bank building next to the Tokyo Stock Exchange — a rare survival of Second World War fire-bombing — the hotel features a holistic design. The Swedish company was involved in every aspect of the scheme, from restorating the derelict buildng to designing plant pots and desk pencils. Furniture was custom-designed for the project.

Claesson Koivisto Rune were involved in every aspect of the hotel's design. Photo: Yikin Hyo.Claesson Koivisto Rune were involved in every aspect of the hotel's design. Photo: Yikin Hyo

The designers were animated in their work by the Japanese word aimai, a connotation of which is the erasure of borders. As such, its spaces have blurred functions: the lounge is also a coffee shop, for instance while the library functions as a bar.

Claesson Koivisto Rune’s design is characterised by a profusion of greenery, distributed throughout the hotel’s shared spaces. Inspired by both Swedish minimalism and Japanese tradition, concrete, cedar wood and stucco are among the most prominent materials. 

Custom-made furniture is arranged around the room, leaving the walls clear. Photo: Yikin HyoCustom-made furniture is arranged around the room, leaving the walls clear. Photo: Yikin Hyo

In the guest rooms, this furniture is distributed as ‘satellites’ around the space, keeping the walls clean and clutter-free. Each bedroom centres on a diaphanous cylinder of fabric, dip-dyed in indigo and lit by a paper lamp, which encloses a freestanding bed and desk. Vast windows allow for a significant quantity of natural light. 

Intending to function as a ‘creative microcosm of the city,’ other amenities include the Cavemen restaurant, which presents Japanese-Nordic fusion cuisine; a cocktail and tea bar, Ao, inspired by Chinese medicine and speakeasies; and a Brooklyn Brewery beer hall.

Many of the spaces are multi-functional, such as this cocktail-bar-cum-library. Photo: Yikin HyoMany of the spaces are multi-functional, such as this cocktail-bar-cum-library. Photo: Yikin Hyo

The hotel took a mere 14 months from conception to inauguration, a fast turnaround that the architects have ascribed to the ‘everything-is-possible’ attitude of those involved. The firm began by describing the personality and mores of the hotel if it were a man. This anthropomorphised K5 Tokyo ‘goes swimming once a week,’ ‘likes to listen to jazz funk on vinyl,’ and ‘used to work in the financial business.’

Established in 1995, Claesson Koivisto Rune was founded by Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune, who met several years earlier while studying at Stockholm’s University College of Arts. While initially focused on architecture, the firm’s work has gradually moved towards a total fusion of architecture and design.

Each bedroom centres on a translucent curtain, inside which sits the bed. Photo: Yikin Hyo.Each bedroom centres on a translucent curtain, inside which sits the bed. Photo: Yikin Hyo

The first Swedish studio to be invited to the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2004, they have since won acclaim equally for their objects — including a chair produced in a mere eight weeks from cardboard to production — and their private villas and hotels. In 2017, they converted a former stock exchange in Bergen into a psychadelic-but-subtle luxury hotel.

‘Their elegance, clean lines and comfortable simplicity,’ wrote MoMA senior curator of design Paola Antonelli, ‘are the epitome of the aesthetics of the new millennium.’

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