Office in a Bookstore
Located at the premises of a former Shōwa-era hospital, an independent, fine arts focused bookstore and co-owned work space opened in 2019 and quickly gained the attention of young Tokyoites. In 2020, we were asked to redesign one of the former medical examination rooms within the bookstore into an office / lounge. Facing a limited budget and small space less than 13 sqm large with very few attractive original features, it was soon clear the solution had to be radically transformative yet cheap and simple to implement.
Taking investor’s business focus – theater – as a starting point in the design process, we came up with an idea of scenography influenced, stage like spatial setting. A new, seemingly independent elliptical monolithic volume of shelves is inserted in the room, forming a place within a space; a surprisingly spacious void which gives the room clear organizational logic and entirely new identity. By rotating this volume off the central axis of the room, two distinct conditions emerge. First practical: pockets of small surplus space at the corners provide room for seating and give users an unusual sensation of observing the space from the outside, establishing an intimate yet open layout for informal meetings. Second condition is experiential: two distinct symmetries of the room and the elliptical volume with mutually rotated central axis lead to new spatial dynamic. In simple terms, it provides an element of excitement: when entering a room from the otherwise pragmatic interiors of the hospital, one immediately knows there is something different about it, while still being able to read the original dimensions and orientation.

The louver-like shelf volume constructed from thin panels of engineered wood doubles as spatial dividers, taking hints from Japanese byōbu screens. This provides a gradient of light and visibility conditions to the pocket spaces: from complete openness to being hidden, depending on the observer's position. This subtle play with visible and hidden adds one more layer of complexity to the space, making it feel larger and more intricate than it actually is.

The project has a strong DIY aspect. All shelf elements were cut on a CNC router in one of Tokyo’s fablabs from 12 mm thick shina (Tilia Japonica) Lumber Core plywood panels. Material was chosen for its lightweight yet sturdy enough properties and minimum variation in color. The volume was then assembled on site, using only a minimal amount of metal hardware and no glue, taking advantage of the enclosed, self-supporting geometry.

Jan Vranovský in collaboration with Riccardo Daniel

Ryoichi Kawada

Project Manager:
Chiawen Lin

Completion Year:

Gross Built Area:
12.5 sqm

Project Location:
Tokyo, Japan

Office / lounge space, occasionally retail

Shelf Material:
Shina (Tilia Japonica) Lumber Core plywood panels


CNC Router Cutting:
LIFULL Fab, Tokyo

Room Painting:

Special Thanks:
コ本や / Honkbooks

Photo Credits:
Jan Vranovský