Undercover Lab

Undercover Lab in Tokyo, Japan by Klein Dytham architecture

The following text and images are from Klein Dytham architecture for their design of the Under Cover Lab in Tokyo, Japan.

Undercover Labs is a design studio for one of Japan's leading fashion designers, Jun Takahashi of Under Cover. The building itself is very undercover. Not only is it tucked away in the back streets of Harajuku in Tokyo, but the site is also very deceiving. A narrow but long driveway leads to a 12m x 12m site at the rear.

Our response to the site, brief and client was very undercover too - not wanting to make a huge flamboyant statement which said look at me but rather a strong but understated design.

It was in fact this narrow driveway which was the key to the project. How to make the building impressive and commanding when the main bulk of the building is 10m set back. The tube seemed a natural way to bring the building to the street. But because 5 cars had to be parked on the site the tube had to be suspended and cantilevered as supporting columns would have made the drive way to narrow.

The 20m long tube is attached to the building for 10m of its length - it then cantilevers out the next 10m unsupported!

The building houses a studio, press showroom, and warehouse. There was a requirement to get 20m long clothing rail into the building for the designers press collection. The tube, the only 20m straight run on the site makes the ideal press room.

The tube was made to look as anonymous as possible, almost like a shipping container where you have no idea of its contents. The tube also conjures up images of telescopes and other instruments giving the building a mysterious feel - nobody knowing quite what is going on inside. So much so that some people feel intimidated just walking under the tube if they are unannounced.

All steelwork in the staircase is painted black to give the building a more generic warehouse feel rather than a showcase feel. It almost feels like the space is external as the studio space and press space is glazed off from this area. In the studio spaces on the 2nd and 3rd floors the ceilings are painted black too, which makes the space feel higher as you cannot read where the ceiling stops.

The circulation though the building is very simple. Guests arriving to view the press collection on arriving get a hint of the double height basement through the expanded metal floor and then proceed to the press tube on the 2nd floor without having to disturb the design studio.