Designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates and completed in December of 2013, Sunny Hills is a cake shop in the Minami Aoyama district of Tokyo situated in what is basically a residential neighborhood and at 297 square meters is probably not much larger than a two-story home. If anything, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has given the people of Minami Aoyama a sight that dazzles and jolts the senses. At once beautiful and horribly out of place, his design for the Sunny Hills cake shop is well worth whatever the time and cost involved, simply for its daring to show what is possible in the art of building. On first look, it appears to be an enormous jumble of exquisitely joined and polished sticks that have no clear purpose architecturally. Almost like a scaffolding that hides the building inside, the traditional carpentry of the whole structure is certainly fine to look at, but at the same time confusing.
The building’s design will almost surely draw numbers of people to Minami Aoyama for a look at Tokyo’s latest example of avant-garde architecture, and a good many of those will not be satisfied with only a street view, but eager to see the inside. And since it is a type of store favorite among Japanese young and old, chances are good that Sunny Hills will find itself overflowing with customers eager to sample its pineapple cake.
Sunny Hills cake comes to Tokyo from Taiwan. The speciality is a variety of pineapple cake, a sweet popular in Taiwan and baked in the shape of a bamboo basket. The store is built on a joint system called jiigoku-gumi, a traditional method used in Japanese wooden architecture and often seen in shoji doors and screens—vertical and cross pieces of equal size entwined to form a muntin grid. Normally the pieces intersect in two dimensions, but in the architect’s design for Sunny Hills they are combined in thirty degrees, in three dimensions, producing a cloud-like structure. Using this idea, the section size of each wood piece was reduced to 2.4 x 2.4 inches. Because the building is located in a residential area, the aim was for a soft and subtle impression, something very different from a concrete box type of building. Architect, Kengo Kuma, believes the street and surroundings together with Sunny Hills offer a pleasing harmony to the eye. Some might consider that concept debatable, arguing that the design clashes with its surroundings.