21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo Midtown

A tribute to Japan’s past endeavors in design

By Sue Ann Kunath    - 2 min read

For those of us that hold a great interest in architecture and design, the Design Sight 21-21 (read as “two-one two-one design sight”) behind Roppongi's Tokyo Midtown building is certainly worth a visit. This private design museum, Japan’s first, opened in 2007 and was intended first of all as a tribute to past achievements of Japan in the area of (industrial, architectural, environmental and fashion) design. Secondly, it should also function as a beacon of inspiration on how to approach future endeavors from a design and aesthetic point of view.

The museum is discretely positioned in the left back corner of the garden behind the Midtown building. The building structures of the museum and of the next door located Canoviano Café look identical with their eye-catching triangular roofs made of giant steel plates.

The structure, now considered to be one of Tokyo’s signature works of architecture, is impressive and beautifully simple in its aesthetics at the same time. It houses two floors, with the entrance and reception on the ground floor. A staircase leads to the ‘underground’ area, where travelling exhibitions are held.

Walking on, one is not sure whether to enjoy the exhibitions first or the design of the building. Despite its minimalist features, the space 'asks' for your attention. Outside light comes in through the large windowpanes and the inner courtyard on the basement floor, with the concrete spaces lit up by spotlights that are placed here and there to highlight the individual exhibition pieces.

Although the general admission fee is 1000 yen, one could be in and out of the building within 20 minutes. The exhibitions that are held are interesting—the current one being "TEMA HIMA: the Art of Living in Tohoku"—but for those people that rather prefer a museum with a larger focus on history, culture or art with a more extensive display of relics, paintings etc., I suggest they should perhaps skip entering the museum whilst still being able to enjoy it from the outside. Those that can truly appreciate architecture or design however, will certainly find their visit to the museum worth their while.

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Sue Ann Kunath

Sue Ann Kunath @sue.ann.kunath

In September 2010 I came for the first time to Japan on a look-and-see visit. I didn't know much about the country nor its people, let alone had any clue on what it really meant to live here. One day, after renting bikes and stopping at a construction site, a worker came up to me, smiled, bowed, picked up my bike and carried it to the other side of the road, after which he helped me get on it again. Right there and then, I was sold! Up till now, I am still amazed how friendly Japanese people can be, how lovely this country also is and I look forward to sharing more of these enjoyable experiences with you.

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