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Shakespeare Tower, Barbican

Takero Shimazaki reworking of an apartment for clients wanting to reflect their time in Japan and Scandinavia is a new take on open plan

Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Anton Gorlenko

2024 RIBA London Award

Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
Takero Shimazaki Architects for private client
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 116m2

This is the rethink of an apartment buried in the height of Shakespeare Tower on the Barbican Estate. Having spent many years overseas, the owner clients yearned for a design that was inspired by their time in Japan and Scandinavia, and a home that could happily accommodate the Danish furniture, Japanese lamps, Swedish paintings and Korean pots that they had acquired along the way. Their architect embraced this fully and the result is a project where traditional Japanese architectural language, customs and culture comfortably meet Brutalist Modernism.

  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Anton Gorlenko
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Anton Gorlenko
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Felix Koch
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Felix Koch
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On arrival at the front door, having taken your shoes off, your feet immediately experience the tactility of an arai-dashi stone pebble ‘mat’ (arai-dashi is a traditional Japanese craft where stone pebbles are mixed with mortar, laid and washed with water before drying, leaving a flecked surface finish). The journey thereafter is to the right or left. To the right, an inner corridor leads to a sliding door to the bedroom and, to the left, a column slightly obstructs a direct view into the inner part of the home. This is a place of gentle discovery.

The column is not structural. In fact, it is not needed at all. It is there because columns have a symbolic significance in Japanese architecture. It is a beautiful, facetted terrazzo object. The column sits at the centre of the plan and frames the corner of an area laid out with tatami mats. Bands of terrazzo are set around the perimeter of the apartment floor and across the plan to demarcate different spaces. Being of a similar colour to the external balcony floor, the terrazzo blurs the divide between inside and out. A woven wool carpet, described by the client as ‘the colour of pale clouds’, sits within the banding. Above, a slatted ceiling of strips of solid cherry wood links all the spaces.

  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Anton Gorlenko
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Anton Gorlenko
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Felix Koch
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Felix Koch
  • Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
    Shakespeare Tower, Barbican Credit: Felix Koch
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Existing internal walls have been replaced with delicately fretted timber sliding screens of cherry and elm and these frame both the ‘Japanese tatami’ room and the kitchen, with its crafted new wooden cabinetry, glossy black floor tiles and stainless-steel countertops. The original windows have been restored and masonry walls have been finished in a clay plaster with straw binding, adding a grain to the surface.

This is a new level of ‘open plan’, where spaces are experienced in subtle stages and their function is loosely defined by detail, texture and furniture. The influences are mixed and the overall ambience is both calm and complex.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Thomson Brothers

 

Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects
Credit: Takero Shimazaki Architects

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