Gucci’s latest pop-up is all about Japanese architecture

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Over the past two weeks, all eyes have been on Tokyo’s new Olympic Stadium designed by Kengo Kuma, where a global symphony of culture, athletics and community has united the world. Like most of Kuma’s imposing but durable structures, the heavy wooden venue is in part a tribute to traditional Japanese design, which values ​​the harmony between humanity and nature. Nowhere is this long-standing aesthetic value more evident than in Kyoto, an ancient city whose humble structures continue to attract tourists and taste makers. And now, Gucci has become the latest company to embrace the city’s myriad of charms and stunning architecture with its recently opened “Gucci in Kyoto”.

Calling Kyoto “Japan’s sister city to Florence” – the latter being Gucci’s founding location – the Italian company has chosen to continue celebrating its 100th anniversary in the island nation with multiple events. Gucci initially held fashion, jewelry and watch displays at two local temples (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites): Kiyomizu-dera and Ninna-ji. And between now and August 15, the public can also join in the festivities by visiting the Gucci bamboo house, a pop-up experience that accompanies Gucci’s iconic Bamboo handbags.

A serene garden moment.

Photo: Courtesy of Gucci

For the exhibition, Gucci renovated a machiya—A traditional Japanese wooden townhouse typically inhabited by merchants and artisans — formerly known as the Kawasaki Residence. Although these houses have been around since the Heian period, this building was constructed during the Taishō era of the 1920s (the same period as Gucci’s founding).

According to Japan Central Real Estate, the townhouse, located in central Kyoto, is fashionable in its bones: it was originally built for a wealthy cotton merchant, and after being sold to the Kawasaki family, it eventually served as a kimono museum. Despite its current designation as a Kyoto City Cultural Property, the house risked demolition just two years ago. However, Gucci has since been able to provide additional funding.

A flowery still life.

Photo: Courtesy of Gucci
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The structure was known for its blend of eastern and western architectural features, a juxtaposition that Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, explored in the company’s products. Maison Gucci Bamboo follows the basic structure of a machiya: It is long and narrow with an enclosed courtyard which in this case is full of natural bamboo. The minimalist design has been preserved in some spaces, such as the tatami-floor tea ceremony room, rebuilt under the supervision of tea master Sokyu Nara. Other areas have received the eclectic Gucci treatment, most notably the library, where patterned chairs and a selection of curated books are placed on Gucci floral wallpaper.

Other details include a Sho artwork by calligrapher Shisyu and shoji paper panels adorned with the Gucci monogram. The large-scale sculptural works of art by contemporary bamboo artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV serve as a complementary backdrop to an array of bamboo handbags, which the brand first introduced in 1947. update of the Diana handbag, a vintage design from the 1990s which Gucci recently reissued with bamboo handles and removable neon leather belts.

With several months remaining in its anniversary year, it’s unclear in which artistic city or historic landmark Gucci will appear next. Given Alessandro Michele’s endless imagination and flair for reinvention, anything is possible.

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