Honored with the Chance to Design the Sony Building

1F entrance to the Sony Building around when the company was founded

Source : The Story of Sony Building 1966-1986, Dec, 1986

It's been exactly 20 years since the Sony Building was constructed. I would like to reflect on those days 20 years ago and touch on how the building came about.

First of all, the Sony Building was built on the corner of the Sukiyabashi Crossroad, the most expensive piece of real estate in Tokyo. It was also built to be a state-of-the-art building worthy of Sony. Both Akio Morita, who is currently President of the company, and I were young at the time, and I recall holding all-night discussions with him in a room at Hotel Okura on what kind of building we should make. Ultimately, we concluded that it would be best to turn it into a showroom, because on such a prime area of real estate, you could not make a profit no matter what you sold.

This led to the idea of the "flower petal" design, where each sub-floor would be staggered by a height of 90 cm as the floors spiral down. I later found out that a similar construction method known as "sazaedo" exists in Aizuwakamatsu, and I was amazed at the ingenuity of the people in the Edo Period. The building is also spectacular to gaze upon at night. It is clad in special aluminum latticework that combines reflected light with transmitted light, making the staggered floors visible from the outside and creating a wall that appears mysteriously colored at night. Sony also embedded 2,300 TV cathode-ray tubes in the outer wall of the elevator shaft, in effect creating a screen capable of displaying images of all sorts to the outside. Unfortunately, regulations on advertising on outside walls meant that little more than patterns and nondescript signs could be displayed. Additionally, Sony made the significant decision to allow 33 m² of the most expensive and valuable land on the corner to be left open to the outside. As a result, the space could be used to host various events.

Exterior view of the Sony Building that shows its Hanabira (spiral staircase-style) floor structure
Exterior wall embedded with TV cathode ray tubes

The art of landscaping has been alive and well in European cities since the Renaissance, with numerous beautiful plazas existing to this day. In our country too, before the war, houses were built with alcoves, providing a space for artistic expression. The Sony Building was similar in this way, and the marvelous events that Sony held at the building were said to turn Ginza into an area where people strolled vertically, instead of horizontally.

If I were to mention one more thing, it would be the panel heaters installed in the 1st floor of the building. That floor is like a plaza found in Italy, but with a roof, where people can gather. You can go there in the early evening, even if you have nothing in particular to do. It has become a gathering spot for young men and women. It was made in the hope that "Let's meet at the Sony Building" would become a trendy motto among the young, and indeed this is exactly what has happened.

I would like to thank everyone at Sony from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to design such a building.

Yoshinobu Ashihara