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Creators of an Unprecedented World #2 An interview with the designer of WIHL’s interior space as the reading areas near completion

Creating spaces where each visitor feels welcome

Shōtarō Nara (TANSEISHA Co., Ltd.)

We visited the Building 4 construction site as renovations were nearing completion. The contractor, TANSEISHA, was proceeding with the remaining work at a rapid pace. TANSEISHA is a specialist in the creation of unique spaces in a variety of fields, including enterprise, event creation, public works and culture. They are an iconic company for people in the industry. In addition to TANSEISHA’s stylish creations—which include shops and restaurants in Shibuya Scramble Square, and the Toshima City Tokiwaso Manga Museum—they also design practical spaces, such as clinics and hotels. You have likely encountered some of the public spaces they’ve created.

As we step into WIHL, the first thing that strikes the eye is the presentation of the walls. They have the warmth of wooden texture paired with design features that reflect the energy of creative, playful minds. We spoke with Shōtarō Nara, one of the main designers of the project. He is in charge of the reading areas in the facility. He consistently radiates an attitude of respect and consideration for the artisans and carpenters on the construction site. In the midst of all the bustling activity, he impresses with his ready smile.

Nara explains, “We managed to get this done in time. I am proud that we’ve been able to create a good space here. I think this is particularly good because there is no self-assertion here.”
[No self-assertion? What does that mean?]
“WIHL’s concept is ‘Explore Your Story, Speak Your Heart,’ isn’t it? The core users of the library are the visitors, so we just tried to create a space where they could feel calm and relaxed, and they can feel welcome. If people can feel that, we will have achieved our vision.”
As Nara’s words suggest, the large table in the center of the reading area may serve to create an amicable connection between visitors who just happen to find themselves side by side. We can imagine them talking about the books in front of them. The space feels as if it could become the transporter of readers, acting as an invitation to move from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Nara continued, “On the other hand, we also tried to create a place where the visitors can concentrate on reading. I hope they will enjoy the cocoon chairs that our team created.” Of course he has always kept foremost in his mind the people who want to immerse themselves in the world of a book. This reading space is unique in that it provides for both possibilities: people opening up and communicating, and people focusing intently on what they are reading.
When asked if he could describe any difficulties that he experienced in the process, Nara began, “Well, I can’t think of anything in particular.” Eventually he reflected, “I really don’t care about the hardships of the past. When I work, my motto is to find a way to embody the clients’ wishes and intentions and then develop a means of enacting that. It’s my job, of course, but I’m doing it because it’s more fun than anything else. It’s been about a year since I was lucky enough to join this project team. There were some unexpected developments, and some things had to be redone. I can’t say that there were no days that I wish had never happened. Nevertheless, if I end up creating a space that makes people want to visit again and again, that would bring me ultimate happiness.”

Nara’s smile once again refreshed us, just as it had done throughout our visit.

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