From-First Building (From-1st Building), Kazumasa Yamashita (1976)
Rarely does the design of a building shift the thinking and design approach in a specific field of architecture. When it does happen it can influence architects and city planners for years to come. The From-First Building or From-1st Building was designed in 1976 by Japanese Architect Kazumasa Yamashita, Architects & Associates. Located in the southern part of Tokyo’s stylish fashion district of Minami-Aoyama.
In its time, this five story, brick tile building was marked as the introduction of a new design approach to commercial architecture. Winner of the Architectural Institute of Japan’s architectural design division prize in 1976, its design did not follow traditional functional planning which was popular at the time. Rather, it followed a more free flowing composition which allowed for more circular movement within, and labyrinth style of architecture.
At the time, commercial architecture looked to focused on the ethical values of the society rather than the benefits of a materialistic society. Focusing on housing, educational and cultural institutions. The desire of an “ideal society” was at the front of the minds of city planners. The From-First Building completely flipped the script on its approach and whom they wanted to reach. Their approach was one that placed consumerism first. Making location an important role in in the buildings productivity and success. Commercial buildings at this time were usually located in commuter-friendly areas, closer to major railways and busy streets. In contrast, the From-First building was built on a 1500 square meter lot in a very busy, urban part of Tokyo. Allowing for the already developed city around it to influence the building's usage.
The design of the buildings inner working were also important to it functionality. The entire lower level was reserved for commercial retail spaces which fit right well into the narrative of Minami-Aoyama. The ground level was designed to be a half story up and a half story down to create a full height story open plaza. The plaza's open maze-like walkways and stairways allowed easy access to those looking to access the shops and restaurants from the street as well as from inside the building. This was a design feature that was added later in the building design to create a full height floor without taking from the buildings over all height which was already being affected due to shadow ordinances. The upper floors of the building were a mixture of offices and maisonette offices targeted at freelancers, designers, lawyer and writers. A wise decision as Minami-Aoyama was quite a popular district for creative people.
The building's attractiveness and influence not only fit well in to the already growing area but also opened doors for others to create their own first-forms within the building. Emerging Japanese fashion designers Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake who were both seeing major success in their clothing brands and opened up their first stand alone showrooms in the From-First Building the same year it was completed. These subtle shiftings were responsible for ushering in a new wave of modern fashion retail design and commercial architecture around Japan. Influencing projects like Canal-City Hakata in Fukuoka and Roppongi-Hills in Tokyo. The From-First building has been said to be the death of Early Modern Architecture and heralding a new era of modern commercial driven architecture.
“Shin-Kenchiku" June 1976
"Kenchiku-Bunka" June 1976
"Japan Interior Design" June 1976