APartMENT by UMA, Japan
Opinion by Richard Baird.
APartMENT is a residential property development in Kitakagaya, a former industrial area of Osaka, Japan. It is part of the Kitakagaya Creative Village Project, an initiative to turn an area, left unused since 1988 following the withdrawal of Namura Shipbuilding Co., into a creative hub. With recent investment many of the warehouses and sprawling factory buildings have been turned into creative spaces and facilities to attract artists, architects and arts organizations.
Working in collaboration with 8 artists, APartMENT is an effort to renovate worker’s housing of Kitakagaya’s industrial past for these new creative inhabitants. This development goes beyond architecture, also encompassing contemporary art, product design and lighting, new technology, interior design and landscaping. APartMENT is made up of three floors, has 18 apartments and a “tool box project” / workshop that allows residents to “edit” their space. It also features a brand identity by local studio UMA. This included naming, wordmark, signage and facade design.
APartMENT’s brand identity is a intelligent and visually interesting expression of industrial past and its creative repurposing. There is pleasant tension between the functional and the expressive, the modular and the one-off, the industrial and the artistic. This comes through predominantly in the design of the facade, a mix of wooden grid structure painted white, and the contemporary colour of corrugated panels, set over a uniform and utilitarian structure.
The visual and conceptual tension between building and its new facade is also expressed through wordmark, a juxtaposition of robust uppercase characters with diagonal cuts across the corners, alongside the framing, italicised and lowercase “art”. It is not particularly sophisticated, however, there is a communicative clarity in its expression that is rooted in the building’s past and its present repurposing, and brings an idiosyncratic quality to a generic name.
Much like the facade, the wordmark gains further distinction in its physicality. Depth and shape compliment the forms present within the old and new architecture of the building, while the outline of “art” is then used as the basis for signage and the framing of space like a gallery.
UMA’s work does not draw lines between graphic expression, signage and architecture, instead weaves these together. It derives much of its distinction from its mix of past and present, continuity and contrast, the bold and the more nuanced, utility and flourish, and makes the most of form, colour and material.
Highlights include the reclaimed nature of materials and their connection to the industrial structures that populate the area, and the way these have been repurposed as visual rather than functional components. The contemporary gallery-like quality of signage, set over the reclaimed wooden blocks of the entrance, and the mechanical utility of a monospace font choice for numbers. More from UMA on BP&O.
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