Masamichi Katayama, the founder and principal of the Japanese interior design and architecture firm Wonderwall, turned 50 earlier this year. To celebrate his achievements, amongst which are countless retail interiors in Japan and beyond, the german publisher Gestalten released a first comprehensive monograph on Katayama’s work, Wonderwall: Case Studies ($69).
Chances are you have seen Wonderwall’s work even without knowing it, only if because they designed pretty much every UNIQLO store outside of Japan. But those are the boring ones – the real juice of Wonderwall are the countless quirky retail spaces the firm has designed in Japan, successfully marrying tradition and modernity, splicing different elements into combinations that seemingly have no rules. Try piecing together a common aesthetic thread in the myriad of Wonderwall’s designs and you will probably fail, and just as well.
When Katayama was 30 years old and only starting out, he was approached by NIGO, the creator of the streetwear brand A Bathing Ape, to redesign Nowhere, a store in Tokyo that NIGO opened with Jun Takahashi of Undercover. NIGO loved Katayama’s sleek redesign so much that he has hired Katayama for all of his projects since (including the New York’s SoHo store with its revolving sneaker display). As A Bathing Ape achieved cult status, so did Wonderwall. Katayama has not looked back since.
The first half of the 376-page monograph is devoted to in-depth studies of eleven of Wonderwall’s projects, such as the Thom Browne store in Aoyama, Tokyo, and the Intersect cafe by Lexus, also in the same neighborhood. The rest of the book takes quicker looks at his projects like the Loopwheeler store, Nike Harajuku, and A.P.C. in Daikanyama. There are also projects done outside of Japan, such as the Diesel flagship and the Samsung one, both in New York.
What makes the book really stand though is a slew of essays, short interviews with Katayama’s admirers (KAWS, Pharell, NIGO, and perhaps most importantly, the widely admired Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto), and last but not least, an overview of Katayama’s collections of objects and his favorite places (Bergdorf Goodman in New York, John Lobb in London, the Four Seasons hotel in Milan). All of these give the monograph a personal bent, letting the reader into Katayama’s world. Because Katayama’s fascination with objects and enthusiasm for collecting, which also extend to books and music, is what makes him a successful interior designer, at least according to NIGO and Tyler Brulee of Monocle. It only makes sense.
All images are courtesy of the publisher.