Design + Architecture

The New Wonders of the World

by Eimear Lynch


What in the world:
Za Koenji Public Theatre, Tokyo, Japan

Why go: Bright with neon wattage and bustling with Lady Gaga–like Harajuku fashionistas, Tokyo is not known for subtlety. But the aesthetic is less flashy and more fanciful on the outskirts of Suginami City, where rising Japanese architect Yoko Ito settled on an otherworldly, craterlike look for his Za Koenji Public Theatre. "I tried to create an impression of an enclosed tent cabin, or playhouse," Ito says. A thin, sheeny skin of black steel stretched over a scalloped silhouette, the 36,000-square-foot construction certainly dwarfs low-lying neighbors, but its crenated sloped roof and dotty apertures hint at its role as an outlet for community performing arts. Ito designed three stories and three basements to comply with stringent height restrictions. One concert hall is flat and flexible; another, created specifically for rehearsals of the Awa Odori dance festival, has a revolutionary concrete floor that bounces back from the liveliest cartwheels and steps.

Where to stay: In 2007, the Peninsula Tokyo became the city's first freestanding new-build hotel in more than a decade. Earthy wooden fixtures and rough stone elements belie rooms' high-tech features (doubles, $670–$890).

Where to eat: At Kushibeh, much yakitori is served and the walls are plastered in sake labels (Koenji-Minami 4-6-1, Asahi Bldg. BIF; 81-3-3318-7756; entrées, $9–$27).

Next: Calais weaves its magic around a new museum >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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