january 5, 2007
  Tokyo’s Chanel Tower Provides Canvas for Israeli Artist
Michal Rovner installation combines art with architecture

by Heather Livingston
Contributing Editor

Summary: A new commercial tower, designed by New York City-based architect Peter Marino, FAIA, opened December 4 in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Drawing on Marino’s incorporation of 700,000 embedded light-emitting diodes (LED) in the tower’s façade, Israeli artist Michal Rovner created her newest video installation, “Tweed, Tokyo.” Rovner’s work radiates out from the Ginza tower as well as Chanel’s boutique in Osaka, both designed by Marino, and are on display through the end of the year.

Completed in only 14 months, Chanel Ginza’s construction was accelerated by dividing the structure into three components and simultaneously advancing the work on each section. At 10 floors and 6,098 square meters of floor space, the tower is the company’s largest retail facility in the world. The first three floors contain Chanel’s “luxurious yet intimate” retail boutiques. Floor Four holds the Nexus Hall, a multi-purpose performance and display area that will be used to host concerts and exhibitions. The fifth through ninth floors serve as office space, and the tenth floor holds the Beige Tokyo Restaurant, a collaboration with renowned chef Alain Ducasse. The rooftop terrace offers customers a more relaxed eatery, Le Jardin de Tweed café.

Iconic Chanel
The tower is layered with stainless steel in glass to symbolize quilting, an icon of Chanel, and is semi-transparent during the daytime and fully transparent at night. Programmed into the tower’s massive LED display, Rovner’s installation generates dreamy images on the façade of the Chanel tweed. Marino says that his “inspiration for creating the massive LED display was the Chanel tweed, which is as iconic as the brand’s logo. In fact, it is part of the fabric of the brand’s DNA.”

It’s not just “art” like a sculpture in front of a building or a painting
on a wall.

Rovner is known for using moving images of the human form as the central element of her artistic themes. The artist notes that “Tweed, Tokyo” and “Tweed, Osaka” reflect the perpetual motion of pedestrians who pass by the boutiques as if filmed from the sky. When animation brings it to life, this vibrant activity succeeds in teasing out pulsating tweed, and fusing the intricacies of architecture, textile, and mathematics into a singular expression of humanity.

The collaboration between Rovner and Marino is their third, following an earlier commission for Chanel Hong Kong in December 2005. According to Marino, the collaboration began when he “saw her works at the Venice Biennale, and then the Jeu de Paume, and asked her if she would do a private commission.” About the evolving relationship between art and architecture, Marino believes that it is becoming “more integrated; not just ‘art’ like a sculpture in front of a building or a painting on a wall. This Rovner is a perfect example of the new integration.”

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Image 1. Interior of the Chanel Tower in Ginza, Tokyo. Photo © Vincent Knapp.

Image 2. Exterior facade of Chanel Ginza with the Rovner installation. Photo © Takashi Orii.

Image 3. Rovner installation with the Chanel Tweed imagery. Photo © Takashi Ori