Episode 3: The Use and Symbolism of Tiles in Japan Today
The Artedomus Expert Series
In Japan, not only do tiles have applications far beyond those that familiar in Western architecture and design, but the products themselves expand the definition of a tile.
The Artedomus team explored some of the most unique examples of tiles used in contemporary Japanese architecture, which highlight the remarkable breadth of design both in the tiles and in their uses. Most buildings in Japan use tiles not just internally but as external cladding too. “There are lots of earthquakes here, so the buildings are concrete. To decorate the buildings, they cover them with tiles,” explains Yassaman Bahar, senior sales at Artedomus Melbourne.
William Pearce, Artedomus Melbourne sales manager, agrees. Tiles are “almost like architectural jewellery,” he says. In Japan, “they treat a tile beyond just a wet area product, it’s something that’s decorative, it’s something that enhances a building both on the inside and the outside in a way that no other cultures use.” The Celine store in Tokyo showcases this approach, with a façade that is both organic and structured. Phil Brenton, Artedomus managing director, explains that “it’s an example of INAX’s capability to create customised ceramics for small solutions. You can see the very beautiful deep blue glaze that’s typical of Japanese ceramics on a lot of the pieces and the way that they’ve arranged them in different angles to create more of a 3-D effect with the tiles.”
The Artedomus team explored some of the most unique examples of tiles used in contemporary Japanese architecture.
The Toyosu Building lobby also utilises a vertical arrangement of tiles to a very different, but equally striking, effect. With cream terracotta cylinders stacked at different angles, a textured rhythmic effect is created that is enhanced by backlighting illuminating the gaps between each tile. Texture is also a defining feature of the Marc Jacobs building, which features an INAX tile custom-designed for the project, which is now available in Australia through Artedomus. The dark tile has a broken edge facing outward, which en-masse creates a beguiling, almost bark-like texture.
The Artedomus team also visited the Vertical Cemetery in Tokyo, which shows several different uses of INAX tiles. A cream mosaic tile creates a smooth and subtle surface that is employed across the curved areas of the building. This is contrasted with a grid across the windows that consists of a random selection of INAX ceramic architectural tubes in different colours and profiles. Additionally, William draws attention to the “little highlights on the outside of the building around the fences and the walls in a famous INAX product called Sentousai.”
“Almost like architectural jewellery.”
Exploring these buildings and seeing the contemporary uses of tiles in Japan, both on this visit and over the years, has opened the Artedomus team’s eyes to the vast potential of ceramics in architecture. “By being able to show these Japanese projects and these Japanese buildings to people, we’ve been able to show that ceramic cladding is an incredibly beautiful and durable way to clad a building,” says Phil.