Art on the Move: How CASE-REAL Transformed a Basement Space into a Dynamic New Gallery
Art is often dynamic, fluid, and interpretive – but it’s not very often that it literally has the ability move, shift, and change before our very eyes.
The new “Gallery COMMON” in the Harajuku district of Tokyo will be able to do just that, thanks to the ingenious imagination of Fukoka-based architects CASE-REAL. Known for their transformative minimalist designs that often bear undertones of cleverness, slyness, and even subliminal messaging (see their Aesop store design in Shinjuku), the architects/chameleons have once again subverted expectations with their design concept for this new Tokyo exhibition space.
Like many of CASE-REAL’s past projects, Gallery COMMON is based in an existing structure. A basement room with sky-high ceilings and an abundance of natural light due to its glazed perimeter, the space offered a great palette for the architects’ vision but still needed some minor refinement. As they recently explained, “This feature [the glazed areas around the rectangular space] was appealing as a project space, yet as a gallery, these many glass surfaces were a hindrance to exhibitions.”
Too much light is not normally a problem, but in an art gallery, it may not be ideal (depending on the exhibition). In this instance, the architects decided to concentrate the sunlight on one side, then recreate stark, white walls throughout the rest of the area’s open space. Placing white walls that both work in tandem with and filter out the overabundance of light created an environment with enough space to display the gallery’s many works.
Of course, the use of light is not the only distinctive feature of Gallery COMMON. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the space is its movable walls. Yet another CASE-REAL innovation, the four movable walls inside are attached to H-shaped beams that were already part of the existing ceiling. Easy to store and integrate into the rotating exhibition system, these walls work as foils to their solid, immovable counterparts. This creative touch allows the gallery to not only curate new exhibitions with ease, but also opens the possibility of changing the layout mid-exhibition, an effect that takes interpretive art to the next level.
The natural light also comes into play here. Depending on the display, pieces can be shown in the “spotlight,” the center of the space’s distinctive natural light, or can be shrouded in shadows, mysterious and obscure but no less dynamic.
Despite the seemingly complex inclusion of moveable walls and customizable light, the gallery’s minimalistic touches like a grid-patterned stone floor only serve to enhance the overall simplicity of the basement space. According to the architects, it’s all meant to evoke both rigidity and softness.
Located in the Harajuku area of Tokyo, the new Gallery COMMON is the latest installment of architectural brilliance from the Fukoka-based CASE-REAL. Continuing their tradition of revamping existing spaces into new and exciting forms, the space features movable walls meant to make the gallery experience fluid, immersive, and undeniably distinctive. Once again, CASE-REAL has created something amazing with their movable art space in Tokyo, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “if these walls could talk.” Only this time, they move.