January 14, 2012

Von Jour Caux in Ikebukuro, Part 1

When I posted about architect Von Jour Caux's creation the Dorado Waseda a couple years ago, I learned for the first time that some of his other buildings were in the Tokyo area. Dorado Waseda is such a singularly unique building, it had never occurred to me that it wasn't a one-off.

It took me a while, but I finally made it to Le Bois Hiraki Minami-ikebukuro, about five minutes' walk from the JR Ikebukuro Station. The building gets its name from Hirakiya, the liquor/food/tobacco shop on the first floor. The "Le Bois" is a guess: read as it is written in Japanese, it would be something like "rubowa".

I actually see more of a moth motif than trees, but who knows?

Built in 1979, Le Bois Hiraki predates the Dorado Waseda by six years. Lest you think he was much tamer back then...

...one look at the entrance will make you think again.

The lobby. The mailboxes are in the brightly lit room on the left.

Taken from the elevator: the lobby and the entrance. The colored glass, the tiles, the eeriness -- it's all there, in his trademark mash of cultures and philosophies.

The elevator, with stairs to the left. I went up to the eighth floor for a peek, but once I got into the elevator, everything I saw was as plain as could be. This seems to be a common feature of his buildings.

Like the Dorado, Le Bois is surprisingly affordable. According to a 20-year-old article, he and his craftsmen used styrofoam molds and concrete instead of rock, use aluminum for fixtures rather than bronze, and use stained-glass pigments to color ceramic tiles.  

I worry that the glass is too fragile for the door to be opened and closed too frequently.

A look at the lobby ceiling.

Another shot of the ceiling. For all I know, this photo could be upside down.

Some interesting info on the architect: Von was "the baby of an actress of the modern theater movement known as shingeki, adoptive son of a Kagurazaka geisha and a ne'er-do-well stockbroker, a child who witnessed the fire-bombing of Tokyo, an avid adolescent reader of Edo-period stories and French literature, a carefree Waseda student, an adventurer in America at the end of the beatnik era, a honeymooner with nisei painter Tamiko Yoshihara, a six-time visitor to Disneyland ('The representation is kitch, but the energy to make fantasy is tremendous') and winner of an art award in Chicago's McCormick Place on the day John F. Kennedy was killed."

In the same way you think "Gaudi" the second you set eyes on Dorado Waseda, the first thing I thought of when I saw the lamp-holding arms was Jean Cocteau's version of Beauty and the Beast, released in 1946. When someone first enters the Beast's lair, arms holding candelabras extend from the walls, flames mysteriously flickering. (Photo above.)

If you're interested, the address is 2-29-16, Minami Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo.

Next stop: his buildings in Suginami. But before that, a minor Von Jour Caux building.


Anonymous said...

The link to the map doesn't work (;_;)
Can you update it pleeeeeease?

Sachiko Shiota said...

Done! Thank you for noticing (and wanting the info).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is also a bit like Hundertwasser in Vienna, and we did think Gaudi as well. A fabulous quirky building that should be on more
Tourist info but is not.