Columns, roofs, doorways, walls and ramps are those vital bits of buildings that rarely draw attention. They’re supposed to be functional but who says they have to be generic? The question has led a growing list of architects and designers to make the pilgrimage to a factory in a gritty part of Shiroi, a city near the eastern edge of Tokyo.
This is where Kikukawa, an 85-year-old family-owned company with 200 employees, has sculpted exquisite steel, bronze, aluminum and titanium facades and interiors for luxury retailers, office buildings, train stations and museums around Japan. Its handiwork has gone into Japan’s ancient temples and tallest towers. Despite its modest size, Kikukawa’s name carries weight in the country’s 52 trillion yen ($462 billion) construction sector. Architects such as Kenzo Tange, Arata Isozaki, Kengo Kuma, Toyo Ito and Kazuyo Sejima have all commissioned the company for their building projects.