Interior designer Yoshiaki Miyashita reignites love for bookstores at Malaysia’s first Tsutaya
While photography creates a past while capturing a frame of the present, architecture transforms the needs of people today into design for a better tomorrow. From an early age, Yoshiaki Miyashita developed a strong sense of the unusual, as his lens-man father would take him to their hometown of Kanagawa, Japan to capture life or places. often invisible. Now an esteemed interior designer of Culture Convenience Club Co Ltd, which operates Japan’s largest book chain, Tsutaya, Miyashita seeks to bring character to drab buildings by creating a strong interior design identity.
Although one of his most ambitious undertakings includes the rejuvenation of the Wakayama City Library, in which a public complex has been transformed into a thriving community center and the cornerstone of the city, his popular works still revolve around the creating memorable spaces for Tsutaya Books. His interpretation of the Nara outlet isn’t quite as lofty as, say, Klein Dytham Architecture‘s purpose-designed Shibuya flagship store, but he takes into account the needs of the local community while retaining the historic charms of the prefecture.
The monumental, brutalist style of American architect Louis Kahn captures Miyashita’s imagination just as much as the visual spectacles shaped by fellow Japanese interior designer and furniture maker Koichi Futatsumata, whose famous creation Restaurant on the Sea evoked a rich discourse built around food on the island of Teshima.
“Mastering a rapport between nature and artifice is a skill that I really admire,” says Miyashita, who also draws inspiration from travel, such as visiting Kyoto’s Tofukuji Temple and the epicenter of art in Paris. “Always aware of the power of natural landscapes and the importance of spatial quality, these visionaries know when not to intervene.”
Spend enough time in a Tsutaya bookstore, and such a scene will become familiar. For the 31,000 square foot Pavilion Bukit Jalil store, which has room for at least 240,000 books, Miyashita rids his designs of superfluous visual clutter to design an efficient floor plan that guides customers through their intellectual journey. . A floor-to-ceiling shelving unit at the entrance communicates the concept of space and human scale to all who enter.
Although the mall’s bookstore is a public domain, it harbors the warmth of home with private nooks to linger or chat over a cup of tea. In keeping with a minimalist, marketing-free aesthetic, the best-selling section doesn’t scream for sale, while wooden furniture remains in a modest palette of unassuming earth tones. So calming and meditative is Japanese omotenashi (the philosophy of caring for customers wholeheartedly) that you won’t be blamed for thinking that the store wants to politely bow down for your patronage.
With the onslaught of e-commerce and digital reads, a community-focused brand like Tsutaya could be the turning point in the current story to revive physical bookstores. “People think we suffer losses because they can read for free. But that’s not the case – many of them end up buying the books they’ve been browsing because they want to finish them at home. Also, by becoming part of the local fabric, a bookstore has become a gathering hub to connect like-minded people,” says Miyashita.
For a word that suggests the least, minimalism in Tsutaya’s dictionary conveys a greater ambition: cultivating freedom of thought and amplifying voices without the noise. Soon we’ll be heading to Tsutaya Books in hopes of seeing our favorite author read or spend the day with another Murakami epic (Miyashita is a fan, by the way). Bibliophiles, it’s a date.
This article first appeared in Haven’s Issue 104, Summer 2022.