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It’s no secret that high-end fashion labels like Prada and Cartier have achieved a sort of mythical status in Tokyo. But here is something you may not know: Visiting their boutiques brings with it an extraordinary reward even if you cannot afford the dizzying prices of the merchandise. They provide, free of charge, a chance to experience some of the most spectacular buildings in the world.
In the last few years, many of architecture’s stars, including Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito and Tadao Ando, have been hired to design shops for luxury brands and have turned the city into a battleground for a rare, and spectacular, game of architectural one–upmanship. They have followed one award winner with another, one splashy statement with a splashier one. While Japanese architecture is known for its cool minimalism, these architects have thrown that out the window, creating sculptural symbols that are difficult to forget.
“The Japanese consumer has an insatiable appetite for the ‘new,’” said Naomi Pollock, Tokyo correspondent for Architectural Record and author of “Made in Japan: 100 New Products” (Merrell). “As a result, fashion brands hire architects to create novel, eye-popping boutiques that will lure shoppers.” […]