Shikiri, division by color
Inspired by Japanese sliding panels, Emmanuelle Moureaux—a French architect who has operated for more than a decade in Japan—has developed shikiri, a new concept that literally means "to divide space with color." In truth it is not only a new idea but also a neologism that becomes a practical design device.
In the project for the Sugamo Shinkin Bank, she invented what she calls "Millefeuille Rainbow," a rainbow-colored 12-layered "puff pastry" that emerges from of the building's main facade to welcome bank customers luminously. Looking up becomes spontaneous, and according to Moreaux, the view of the sky can put people in a better mood—naturally.
Moureaux uses color not as a finish applied at the end of the design process; the French architect is not interested in its ornamental use but in the potential of color to define innovative spatiality.
With shikiri, Moureaux works a delicate conceptual and design transition in the use of white in prismatic refraction. Once refracted and divided into different colors, it is ready to define form.
Although her architecture is reminiscent of certain modernistic gestures, Moureaux clearly departs from the abstraction sought by modernist architects through the repeated use of white and transparent volumes.
Architecture that promotes happiness
Sugamo Shinkin Bank is a banking group that promotes architecture as a means of providing a necessary service to their customers; so much so that their motto is, "We are happy when we make you happy." After having already commissioned two projects, the director of Sugamo Shinkin Bank asked Moureaux to design the Shimura branch for which he requested a colourful, cheerful building that would make people forget the seriousness of being in a bank.
So Moureaux sought to create an atmosphere where contact with the natural elements becomes tangible; the proof of this is the intentional connection with the sky and the invitation to look upwards. This intent is expressed explicitly both on the façade as well as in the interior.
Once inside the bank, three elliptical skylights of over one meter in diameter connect the building's three floors and offer a piece of the sky to the bank's clients. They turn out to be not only collectors of light but above all conduits that allow the natural circulation of air.
On the first floor ATMs, teller windows for operations and for consultation are all organized in an open space furnished with chairs of 14 different colors that contribute to the festive atmosphere.
The second floor houses offices, meeting rooms and a cafeteria, while on the third floor are rooms reserved for employees to rest and change uniforms. In addition to the spatial elegance, Moreaux adds further visual and symbolic meaning to the walls and ceilings. The multi-colored dandelion-shaped stencils enrich the walls of the bank and recall the custom of blowing on flowers while expressing a wish. Outside, the colored horizontal planes leave a faint trace, subtle reflections on the white surfaces, that can lend a gentle, but warm, touch to the building.
The colored lights that switch on in the evening respond to seasonal changes and illuminate more or less brightly at different times offering a landscape that is, in fact, never equal to itself.
Salvator-John A. Liotta