Ginza, Sony, and a park. These three words together brings a mixture of excitement and anticipation to our minds. Located in Ginza (the words “gin” meaning “silver” and “za” meaning “guild”), the center of Tokyo’s most glamorous shopping, dining, and entertainment district, Sony has branded its park to be a continuously evolving space.
Ginza Sony Park will greet you with its oasis-like garden in the middle of high-rise buildings, and you will be able to experience the fluidity of spaces combining nature, art and architecture.
Ginza Sony Park (GSP): In addition to inheriting and facilitating the evolution of a concept from the era of the Sony Building, which is to create a facility open to the town, we are striving to achieve three goals for Ginza Sony Park: to create a new brand-communication hub for Sony, to give people the chance to have real experiences, and to make Ginza a more comfortable town.
GSP: When the Sony Building was constructed in 1966, Sony was a home-appliance manufacturer, but Sony currently does business in a wide variety of other fields as well, including music, movies, games, and other types of entertainment as well as finance and insurance, so it became difficult for Sony to achieve brand communication with the showroom building from that time. In 2016 – which marked Sony’s 70th year of business and the 50th anniversary of the Sony Building – we decided to review the concept of the building itself and renovate it to enable it to be reborn as a more appealing, new brand-communication hub for Sony. This renovation project is divided into two phases. Ginza Sony Park, which was opened on August 9, 2018, represents phase 1 of this project. Ginza Sony Park will be open for a limited period until autumn of 2020, at which point the project will enter phase 2, and we will start constructing a new building based on the concept of vertically extending the park.
The status of building indicates the old and new aspects of architectural values coexist at Ginza Sony Park. Would you be able to elaborate on the intention and philosophy of Ginza Sony Park embedded in its architectural design?
GSP: As mentioned above, the park is currently in the middle of the renovation-project demolition stage, and it has the phase 1 status. When we transitioned to phase 1, in order to show both our respect for the Sony Building and our gratitude for our customers and Ginza, we proceeded with the work based on a downsizing approach, and we considered each thing as we demolished it. By utilizing certain things during phase 1 – such as by leaving a tile wall from the time of the Sony Building’s completion that was found during the work and moving the neon Sony sign that was attached to the exterior wall of the Sony Building indoors – we have made it possible for customers to sense the remains of the past Sony Building. In addition, in order to share memories of the Sony Building with our customers, we had a craftsman painstakingly process and produce a number of keepsakes by using louvers from the exterior walls of the Sony Building, and these were sold for charity. (This sale is already over.)
The overall impression of the space was very open with almost no barrier entering to Ginza Sony Park. How do visitors react to this open concept?
GSP: Ginza Sony Park is surrounded by roads running in three directions – including Sukiyabashi Crossing – above ground, and it connects to the Tokyo Metro Concourse on floor B2 and Nishi-Ginza Parking on floor B3, so the park is seamlessly connected to the town and its features. This is extremely rare within the city. The park entrances do not have any doors, so it is an open facility physically as well. Because there are almost no places in Ginza where a person can freely take a rest, Ginza Sony Park is also used for rest and as a sort of personal home base within Ginza in many cases, and – as a facility open to the town – the park therefore contributes not only to people who visit Ginza, who sometimes rest and spend time as they wish at the park before heading back out into town, but to the town of Ginza itself as well.
GSP: 「Inviting」 「Inspiring」 「Interweaving」
GSP: Ginza Sony Park is based on Sony’s spirit since the company was founded, which is doing what others do not, and we are collaborating with various partners to playfully create things that can only be found here and things that can only be experienced here. We are striving to devise a difficult-to-reproduce program that cannot be achieved anywhere else.
Who are the retail partners featured in Ginza Sony Park? What criteria does Ginza Sony Park has selecting such partners and how long their terms are?
GSP: We talk to various parties, hold repeated discussions with them, and then select partners who agree with our ever-changing park concept and say that they want to playfully take on challenges that can only be attempted at our park.
GSP: ・WALKMAN IN THE PARK https://www.ginzasonypark.jp/e/program/015/
・windandwindows ※English page is in preparation. https://www.ginzasonypark.jp/program/017/
・Sony Aquarium ※English page is in preparation. https://www.ginzasonypark.jp/program/016/
While the space is being occupied with exhibitions/events, Ginza Sony Park is still able to provide plenty of resting corners. Explain the concept of how Ginza Sony Park utilizes its empty spaces.
GSP: While studying parks for this project, we learned that it is the empty space in a park that enables people to do various things in parks, including not only resting but also singing songs, exercising, and drawing pictures. In other words, we noticed that, in actuality, empty space makes a park what it is, not greenery.
Therefore, we designed our park based on the concept of purposely leaving empty space available, and our program is intended to utilize this empty space.
Is there any consistent message, regardless of different exhibitions, that you want to deliver to the visitors?
GSP: We hope our visitors will experience the playfulness that we have inherited from when Sony was founded.
When providing such an unique and open creative space in the middle of Ginza, what factors do you take into consideration?
GSP: Inviting, Inspiring, Interweaving, and of course rhythm. We believe that rhythm makes things more enjoyable and richer for both people and the town.
GSP: The two-phase renovation process itself has been a challenge. Choosing not to build even as things around us are being rebuilt is in line with the Sony spirit, which is doing what others do not.
GSP: All the programs and exhibitions we have conducted so far have had different themes and have grabbed attention from different angles and fields.
GSP: Because every program we prepare is extremely playful, unique, and possible only at our park, we are looking forward to all of them.
As a matter of fact, not even we have decided what we will do six months from now and beyond. We hope that everyone will look forward to what we have in store.
As a park, how do you keep its role as a recreational space for citizens while featuring exhibitions that require somewhat of intense storytelling?
GSP: It would be good to mention something related to the fact that the park is a facility open to the town. This might include resting, park accessibility, etc.
GSP: One example would be groundwater, which became an issue during building downsizing. The demolition of the above-ground part reduced the weight of the building itself, and it was found that the building started floating as a result. Therefore, weights have been spread out underneath the park.
On the other hand, we also had a program that utilized this groundwater. It was called #007 eatrip city creatures (https://www.ginzasonypark.jp/e/program/012/). The theme of the program was Ginza’s groundwater, and its concept was to utilize the water welling up from underneath Ginza Sony Park as well as the sounds of musical instruments, park visitors, and people in town to grow food. Talk of a piano set up based on this concept spread among street-piano fans, performance videos spread far and wide on YouTube, this attracted even more people, and a community was formed, exceeding our expectations for the program. In addition, we were pleasantly surprised when a story that we did not expect spread, which was about someone who commented that they were upset because they had recently lost someone important to them, but they were then comforted when they visited the park – drawn to it by the sounds of this piano – and heard someone playing the piano there.
GSP: Because the park is visited by many people who come to Ginza, there are a fairly equal number of visitors in terms of age and gender. Not all the people who come to the park are Sony fans.
GSP: We would be grateful if our visitors experience the playfulness of the park. We believe it is important to strive to ensure that the park is always open to the town and people so that it can be enjoyed by park visitors with unique individual values.
GSP: First, the park is inspiring in that it is ever-changing and gives visitors something new to experience every time they come.
In addition, the park is inviting in that it enables customers to enjoy the park however they wish and to find a place there that suits them.
What are some of the new ideas/programs that you are incubating at Ginza Sony Park right now? What can we look forward to?
GSP: Phase 1 will continue for a limited period until autumn of 2020, at which point the project will enter phase 2, and we will start constructing a new building based on the concept of vertically extending the park.
Does Ginza Sony Park feel there is a need to challenge conventional expectations from what most people have been learning about the word "park"?
GSP: We would like to redefine the concept of a park within a city and make our park the embodiment of a park within a city as viewed by Sony.
- Photos (7) courtesy of Ginza Sony Park Project