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Aesop Fukuoka uses locational specificity to construct a raw environment that evokes a calm, almost ascetic strength. It forms the second chapter to a story that began in the city’s neighbouring Hakata ward, in an inaugural space also designed in collaboration with Japanese studio SIMPLICITY under the leadership of Shinichiro Ogata. This second store is situated in the Tenjin ward, known as the District of Samurai, and the philosophy and craftsmanship of this ancient order informed the design.

The synergy of the twin wards is also referenced through a subtle dualism. A full-height glass façade reveals symmetrical fixtures and detailing inside, evoking ideas of two complementary halves. This mirror-image effect also accentuates architectural precision and purity, effecting a considered study in streamlined forms and robust materials. Appearing as if forged from the urban centre itself, front doors and rear wall are constructed from panels of oxidised iron, side walls from black stone; flooring is of polished concrete. These rough-hewn finishes speak to the poetics of pragmatism.

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Two polished steel sinks occupy a central position, their hard edges and the lustrous material a nod to the gleaming blades of the Katana, the Samurai’s principal weapon. A large white rectangular lighting installation hangs from the ceiling; a lightweight structure crafted from sheets of hemp fabric stretched over a frame, it emits a luminescence that reflects off the sinks’ surfaces. Fine black product display shelves mounted to each side wall face each other in constant dialogue, while the sales counter, also in oxidised iron, mediates the dichotomy, positioned to straddle the axis between the two halves. The symmetry is gently interrupted by a screen placed on the back wall and a small display shelf in the front window.

Aesop Fukuoka evinces the austerity and purity of the ancient tradition of the Samurai, while emphasising a connection to the binary geography of its city.

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