Peering below from the top of the newly constructed Mori JP Tower, the buildings below appear juvenile, barely scraping the sky. It ties up a beautiful metaphor underpinning Mori’s ethos: to reach new heights in urban planning, business, media and art. It is an ivory tower in an urban jungle. Standing as Japan’s tallest skyscraper, almost 100 meters taller than Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Mori JP Tower is the flagship building of Azabudai Hills, which opens to the public on November 24—30 years in the making.
Architectural Construction and Façade
A veritable masterpiece that is the product of collaboration between the world’s most renowned and influential architects and interior designers, Azabudai Hills blends modernity and environmentalism.
The façade of the three skyscrapers that rise with aplomb over the Azabudai Hills project were designed by Pelli Clarke & Partners, the same group that also designed Mori Building’s Atago Green Hills and ARK Hills Sengokuyama Mori Tower in Tokyo. Conceptualized by architect Fred Clarke, the Mori JP Tower tapers inwards as it rises and culminates in rounded corners, producing a visually appealing slender profile. As Clarke explains, “the top of Azabudai Hills Tower has a flower-like, four-petaled shape, opening up to the heavens and embracing them.” Residence A and B, the latter slighter taller than the former, were constructed upon the same bilateral symmetry as Mori JP Tower, although they culminate in flat corners.
The public realm and lower-level architecture were imagined by UK-based designer Thomas Heatherwick, who is behind such projects as the Olympic Cauldron for the London 2012 Olympic Games. At the center of his design is a pergola-style low-rise structure, embedded with rooftop greenery and encased with steel bars that gracefully descend and interlace, appearing as if its lattice formation melts to the ground in an elegant display of surrealism. Inspiration was borrowed from Japanese spirituality through Heatherwick’s own encounters with Japanese craftsmen creating religious artifacts for Buddhist temples. Heatherwick explains that Azabudai Hills “is the macro of the micro you see in workshops all across Japan.”
Integrating Greenery into Corporate Architecture
Taking a bird’s-eye view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area shows you a seemingly infinite landscape of varying grays. Albeit not uncommon in global urban centers, a lack of greenery does not bode well for air and visual pollution levels. This is why Mori’s urban development projects have always taken deep consideration of environmental impact, harnessing an approach to integrate greenery through their “vertical garden city” concept. This greenscape project is epitomized in four main areas: the Central Green, the Orchard, Sakura-asa Street and the Cherry Blossom Gateways.
The Central Green, with Azabudai Hills Arena as its focal point, is filled with lush flora and tranquil waterscapes. The natural environment is covered with the Cloud, an artificial canopy designed by Heatherwick Studios; its tile floors below serve as event space.
The Orchard covers an area of 200 square meters of sloping landscape, overlooking the Central Green. Emerging from the ground beneath are a number of trees and bushes of herbs, fruits, and legumes emerge, providing an interactive and immersive experience. It serves as a haven of relaxation to refresh the psyche from the bustling of city life
Along Sakura-asa Street, a wide range of evergreen and deciduous trees harmonize with traversing avenues. The hope for this streetscape is to create an immersive experience, where the quintessence of each season can be experienced. During the early summer, the white florets which bloom from dogwoods blush a pale pink, contrasting with its verdant leaves that darken through mid-summer. Moving into the autumn months, maples flush, redden, and fall away in anticipation of the winter, when evergreens provide an accent of color to the otherwise empty branches of perennials.
The Cherry Blossom Gateways that line each entrance to Azabudai Hills bloom at different periods of the spring. Their ethereal touch of pink serves as a gentle welcome to visitors, workers, and residents.
An Urban Redevelopment Project to Revitalize Azabudai
Azabudai Hills is a category 1 urban redevelopment project with an overall aim to improve the area’s infrastructure of roads and parks, and upgrade local urban functions for purposes including crime prevention and disaster preparedness. And through conceptualizing an urban hub characterized by innovation, the project was based on the concept of creating a city within a city. Since 1989, Mori has collaborated with some 300 landowners who came from different positions and circumstances. The project was approved in 2017, and construction began in August 2019.
The land area where Azabudai Hills was erected was characterized by convoluted terrain of valleys and hills, upon which were scattered dilapidated districts populated with small wooden houses. Along with infrastructural concerns, these structures could be endangered by intense earthquakes, posing a major safety concern for their residents.
Under the mission to create a city within a city, Mori imagined an urban complex without barriers between facilities. This entailed strategic planning to integrate diverse aspects of human activity, including working, congregating, relaxing, and learning. Along with the infusion of lush greenery, residents and workers have everything they need within the confines of Azabudai Hills.
Facilities and Services
This concept of an internal city with borderless facilities was planned in consideration of residences, dining experiences, shopping, a school, and office space.
Residence A and B of the tower trinity contain the bulk of the residences available at Azabudai Hills. However, they are also available in the Mori JP Tower and Garden Plazas A, B, and D. For example, the Aman Residences are an exclusive 91-unit residence complex designed in collaboration with Aman Resorts, a Swiss-headquartered hospitality company. Each residence features a tea room, library, reading room, a private lounge along with a bar, and a dining room serviced by private chefs.
However, for a less intimate dining experience, Azabudai Hills features a number of restaurants to appeal to varied tastes. Within the Tower Plaza, for example, there is the Saawaan Bistro—a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant with the ambience of a casual bistro. For those with a sweet tooth, the Garden Plazas also boast a range of cafes. Suzukake, located in Garden Plaza B, is a 100-year-old Japanese confectionary store whose founder, Saburo Nakaoka was recognized as a contemporary master craftsman.
Boasting some 150 stores, offering fashion, food, beauty, culture, art and wellness, Azabudai Hills aims to support affluence and coax residents to bask in new experiences. In addition, the Azabudai Hills Market, a space covering 4,000 square meters situated beneath the Central Green, will feature vendors selling foods and ingredients embodying Japan’s rich culinary traditions.
Office space will be located primarily between floors seven and 52 of the Mori JP Tower. The entire complex at Azabudai Hills aims to function as a unified workspace, stimulating independent thinking without the constraints of a typical office space. Mori JP Tower will have a standard leasable area of about 4,800 square meters—one of the largest floor plans in Japan—allowing this world-class office building to fully meet the needs of global companies.
To discover more in this trailblazing city within a city, check out GoConnect’s comprehensive guide to Azabudai Hills: https://goconnect.jp/stories/mori-building-to-open-azabudai-hills-on-november-24-2023-a-new-paradigm-of-urban-living-in-tokyo/
Jake Benjamin Roiter