The Shiseido Art House opened in 1978. A renewal in 2002 boosted its museum functionality, allowing it to amass an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art works which it regularly shows in public exhibitions.
As part of Shiseido's other culture support activities, the core of the Art House's collection consists of works by painters, sculptors, and craftspeople who have previously exhibited at the Shiseido Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo, for example at the Tsubakikai (Camellia Club) Exhibition or the Exhibition of Modern Industrial Art.
The building of the Shiseido Art House was designed through a collaboration between architects Takamiya Shinsuke and Taniguchi Yoshio, and in 1980 it won the AIJ Prize (sponsored by the Architectural Institute of Japan). The artistry of the building itself was recognized again in 2010, when it won the Japan Institute of Architects' 9th JIA 25 Year Prize for “longtime contribution to the local environment, longevity of aesthetics against weathering, and being a structure conveying the significance of architecture to society,” and also for “the people who contributed to cultivating such a beautiful building.”
The Shiseido Art House was designed and built through a collaboration between architects Takamiya Shinsuke and Taniguchi Yoshio. Its elegant silvery “S” curves reminiscent of the Art Nouveau style brought a sense of artistry to the building itself, and in 1980 it was awarded the AIJ Prize (sponsored by the Architectural Institute of Japan).
Taniguchi Yoshio went on to design a number of other remarkable buildings, including an extension of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 2004, for which he received the Praemium Imperiale (Architecture) the following year. About his work on the Shiseido Art House, Taniguchi has said the following:
The design was about putting together simple geometric shapes like squares and circles, and in that sense my intention was to create a form akin to an abstract sculpture. I surrounded the exhibition spaces on the outside with square walls, while inside placing round inner garden courtyards. Then, in the curving exterior wall linking the two circles, I opened a continuous series of horizontally oriented windows, through which the surrounding gardens could be drawn into the interior of the building. The basic policy in constructing the space involved, in addition to the combinations of squares and circles, a further attempt to combine polar opposites—light and dark, empty and full, open and closed, and so on.
When visitors come through the entrance, they are drawn toward the band of light coming in through the windows and allow that to lead them on their tour through the building. In the special exhibition spaces, just enough light is let in as is appropriate to appreciate the paintings and crafts displayed there, but in the standing exhibit spaces light floods in from the gardens outside. This reversed interior-exterior relationship of light right in the center of the building is simple in form, but it creates a very complex space inside reminiscent of a Möbius strip, augmenting visitors' appreciation of the artistic works with a further visual experience.
The outside of the building is finished in metallic silver porcelain tiles and mirrored glass, as well as stainless steel wall joints, all of which are set flush with one another with utterly simple detail and design. Such completely smooth surfaces, achromatic materials, and the omission of the human scale—speaking only of the expressive issues, the architecture of this building can probably be considered rather anti-post modern.
Such abstract shapes and sharp metallic expressions are appropriate for a cosmetics design that is always pushing to be in the forefront of the times, and it was my hope that it would make this kind of strong impression even with just a glimpse from the window of a bullet train speeding by.