L’angolino Restaurant is located in Gunma Japan, Italian restaurant, in order to better integrate into the local environment, the building has a unique architectural minimalist Japanese flavor, The building has been constructed from plywood, and its pointed shape was created as nothing like it previously existed in the town. small, triangle windows were cut-out from the façade to avoid interaction between the interior and exterior, while the restaurant offers an intimate environment with multiple wooden frames used to shape the high-ceiling.
“The client is originally from here, and he has a strong feeling that his hometown should have identity, and that it needs a place that can be a foothold for local people, We researched the building forms and the use in this town, and tried to create an opportunity to change the town by making a building form not existing here,” – Asako Yamashita / GENETO
This structure is an Italian restraint built in Tatebayashi city Gunma. It stands in a typical suburban city setting, where huge chain stores stand along the national road and when you turn off the national road, local small shops, houses and production fields appear. For the starting point to design structure, we conducted a research on the surrounding buildings. As a result, in terms of local eating-places, there were many Ramen noodle shops however there were no places where the locals could leisurely come together. In addition, we found out that the typology of the buildings standing could be limited to only 2.
There are some differences in the scale and coloring of the buildings, however when broadly categorized, it could be divided to the ‘pitched roof with eaves building’, which could be mostly seen in housings and the ‘flat roof no eaves building’, which could be mostly seen in stores. Thus, we decided to design a building that has an exterior, which would not sink into the surrounding atmosphere and become a landmark where people could come together.
We decided to adopt the method of newly built from the hands of the owner for this project from 3 main reasons. The fist one is because we wanted to formulate a community with the local people where we build. The second one is because of the decided budget and the client’s technical capability. The third one is because of the rent peculiar to suburban cities.
For this project we aimed to create a space, which is not only an Italian restraint, but a space where the local people could come together. In regard to the first reason, the client wanted to inform the local people of the restraint from early stage, so through constructing it in the Owner’s built way and having communication with the locals walking through the streets from the building stage, we aimed the building to become a community rooted space where the local people could come together.
For the second reason, the budget for this project was low as only 10 million yen. In order to fulfill the requirements as the scale of the restaurant or the number of seats in budget, the Owner’s built was the most realistic option and at the same time why we chose that option had to do with the clients career.
It was because, when he was young, he worked at a car factory so he had the skills to create components from FRP and welding. In addition, he had experience in manufacturing as in the electric work for architecture. Along with that, the client was interested in the potential of working with our furniture studio (pivoto), which has cultivated its structural plywood manufacturing methods, and to utilize it.
The third reason was because of the organization of the rent. Under normal conditions, it is more common to use an open property of a tenant building or to refurbish a detached store building, but the conditions around Tatebayashi was different from the normal. Compared to the rent of the land, the rent of a tenant room or building was overwhelmingly high. When we were looking for a 65㎡ property, the market price was around 80~100 thousand yen, however for the land which became the site for this project, the rent was only 40 thousand yen for 280㎡. This was the background of how we came to the decision of renting a land and build a new structure over renting a tenant room and to refurbish it spending the same amount of building cost. We realized the situation explained in above is expanding the possibility of building architecture in suburban cities.
Many of the people in Tatebayashi dislike to be known eating in a restaurant in a small community and in contrary it was taboo to make the restaurant totally concealed. The requirements for the building was to be closed visually but open sensibly, creating a ‘Closing and Opening Space’. In order to achieve this space by plywood, we focused on the thickness of the wall.
Even though we enclosed the building visually, we wanted to create a space where the natural light comes in so we created a small triangular window. The window lets in the light, but not unless you go close to it you cannot easily see the situation inside.
The program of the interior is a hall, counter, kitchen and toilet. For the form to constitute this space, we adopted the portal frame made by plywood. We made 10 of these frames crossing, and the position or angle of these intersections divide the programs of the interior. The ceiling height of the hall is high, creating a roomy atmosphere even though the building is small and the ceiling height of the kitchen is low but making a connection from the hall to the kitchen as a one room.
Through changing the height of the portal frame’s vertex in accordance to the interior program, the roof becomes polygon making the exterior shape overlapping the Kanto mountains shapes in the further distance.
We constituted the wall by sandwiching 35mm insulation with 12mm structural plywood, enabling the thickness as a structure and insulation. In addition, the outer walls and roof are applied FRP waterproofing. Through this the wall thickness became thin as 59mm. The 24mm structural plywood portal frames assembled diagonal to the building creates the ridgeline of the roof. Through making the roofs surface a polygon, it becomes a folded-plate structure securing the strength and creating a monocoque structure integrating the roof, wall and portal frame as a whole.
The space created by the ceiling plane making a deflection in the interior space, the portal structural element supporting it and the triangular small windows is a rich space with abundant soft light and has an atmosphere where the customers and the chef could be united with realistic sensation.
Upon creating this new restaurant in the town of Tatebayashi, through the few visits to site we had some occasions to see some public buildings, which are so called the ‘Box Architecture’ in Japan. Even though it has a huge square and a magnificent facility, there is no sight of people. The local shopping street has many closed down shops and offices and the front of the station is deserted. Instead, when we were passing by the area by our cars, we often saw shops suddenly appearing in the middle of the residential area and being busy with people. It was a shop that had fitted into the community of the local people. Hence, we became aware that the key to the shops in this area isn’t about the location, but how to create a good relation to the people of the surrounding where the shop is located. Through this project, we aimed to create an architecture that becomes the gathering spot for the local people and an architecture that could serve as a tool or become a trigger for building up a relation with the local people. This architecture was able to formalize because it was in a suburban city and we are certain that it has a possibility of having some kind of a broad capacity or tolerance to it. We wish this architecture would have prosperity peculiar to this town through accumulating to the city and fitting in.
We have been conducting case studies of spaces where people could gather together through shops, houses and galleries. For example, from the early works such as “SCAN”(2005) we have been thinking about a small public space where the local people could gather and a community could be formed and practiced it to actual architecture. SCAN is a showroom for cars, but it can also accommodate art galleries and concerts. (The small public spaces that we have been working on are not the typical publicly owned public spaces but the publicly intended spaces that even though owned by the private, the local people could freely use.)
This way of thinking became stronger when we designed the ‘TANADA Peace Gallery”(2009). This architecture is where the local the people could think freely as how it could be used if it’s an art gallery, a public hall, a library or a concert hall and it is a space open to the public. The two architecture that we have mentioned has been used more in a diverse way that we have expected and have been accepted by the local people. Also in other designs like houses and shops, we aimed to create spaces open to the public as well and practiced. In L’angolino, through the act of building and the peculiar façade to the surrounding area, we tried to create the public space by making news to the area. For the 2 early projects, we tried to create the public space only within the interior of the building, but for this building, we tried to not only create it within the building but also around the building and surrounding areas. It isn’t architecture by no means with huge volume of space, but through the effective use of the small spaces, we expect it to have the relation with local area and progress the area to have a distinctive character.
The plywood is a material that could be supplied easily and has an abundant ways of processing, and it self has the sufficient strength to become the structural element of architecture. We have always used plywood for products in a scale of ‘larger than a furniture, smaller than architecture’. This is because we always had an interest of creating a space in a way we create furniture since we had Pivoto as a furniture studio. We have been continuing this way of approach because we find the new potential of something in between of architecture and furniture. It was the first time when we created space with plywood as a structural element in the early work ‘Scan’. Through the continuous thin boards, the shape of the space starts to emerge. It is a space that has the scale and detail that a typical architecture wouldn’t have. Since then we have produced several spaces with plywood. In the DG-house (February 2010 edition of Shinkenchiku Jutaku Tokushu magazine) the walls that serve as storage divides up the rooms. The furniture like scale of that part creates the installation necessary for living such as where it extends and becomes tables, sofas, walls or floorings. In the diesel ‘Power Plant’ which was created as a 6-month installation, through connecting the 9mm plywood it divides up the existing space with thin and long walls and creates the space where it makes the products and customers closer. Through these experiences we learned and L’angolino was the first project to create architecture with only plywood. The portal structure has an architectural scale, however the thickness of it is only 24mm, which is extremely thin. The outer walls are also made in the thinness of 59mm. For this structure, each components doesn’t have a direct installation of furniture like character, however it is an outcome because we were creating furniture in terms of the way we construct or the preciseness of the finished product. It achieves a special quality of space through having both the aspects of architecture and furniture.
Project name: L’Angolino
Location: 27-3 Hanayamachō, Tatebayashi-shi, Gunma 374-0005, Japan
Coordinates: 36.238004, 139.554435
Type: Restaurant / Coffee shop / Cafe
Project Area: 61 sqm
Site area : 278 sqm
Completion Year: April 2013
Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Architects: GENETO – 336-1 Nishidaikoku-cho, Nakagyo, Kyoto, 604-0063 Japan
Contract Partner: Kazuhisa Sunaga / Pivoto
Structural Engineer: Takashi Takamizawa
Furniture: Kazuhisa Sunaga, pivoto
Text Description: © Courtesy of GENETO
Images: © GENETO, Yasutake Kondo