7.4.2022

Irumando Coffee

A camera obscura that makes the landscape abstract.

The Kodenmacho neighborhood of central Tokyo was for over half a century home to a beloved camera store called Irumando. Our task was to convert the camera shop into a modern-day coffeehouse while preserving its history and name. With memories of the camera store as our starting point, we considered several designs, imagining customers musing about the passage of time over coffee.

The building is small, with less than thirty-three square meters of floor space on each of its two levels. To take full advantage of this limited space, we constructed vaulted ceilings to blur the edges of the rooms and installed dim lighting to create a mysterious, other-worldly atmosphere. The café achieves an effective blend of tranquility and spiritual depth, evocative of the special huts used for Japanese tea ceremonies. Our key design innovation was to turn this dimly lit, confined space into a camera obscura. The Latin term “camera obscura” means a “dark room.” It refers to an early type of camera that harnesses a natural optical phenomenon. The camera obscura device is also called a pinhole camera, which was used in ancient Greece and China. In the café, when light passes through small holes in the wall beside each table, an inverted image of the streetscape is projected onto the opposite wall of the coffeehouse. This creates ever-changing abstract reflections of the outside world, inviting customers to contemplate the transient, elusive images .

Tokyo is a place where architectural heritage is prone to disappear due to continuous urban development. In this age of uncertainty, Irumando Coffee recalls the days of the former camera shop and the passage of time through both its name and design. We have sought through this project to lovingly preserve and pass on narratives of the city.

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