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Shikiri – Ar. Emmanuelle Moureaux’s COLOURS that Work

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on May 02, 2018 at 12:05 PM

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The works of Japanese French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux are a burst of peppy pretty colours – not a wild burst, mind you, but a well-orchestrated symphony of the most pleasing colours arranged in studied compositions that are maddening in their variety of forms, concepts and usages. For, she is the innovator of ‘Shikiri’, a concept of dividing space by the use of colours, in which she uses her self-developed palette of more than a 100 shades to articulate the exteriors as well as interiors of her design. With this, Emmanuelle delivers charming projects in her signature style. What’s more? Her use of ‘Shikiri’ isn’t limited to just architecture, it pervades all forms of art and expression that this prolific designer indulges in, even extending to urban infrastructure and planning projects in and around Tokyo, her base.

My first encounter with Moureaux’s vibrant works was on an internet trip through bank designs around the world. And, one particular building seemed wrongly categorised – that couldn’t be a bank, it looked more like a kindergarten or a day–care centre with all the colourful squares popping out of it! But, guess what? It was a bank, and a seriously well designed one as well. But, hey, what’s with all the colour?

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French born Emmanuelle Moureaux has been living in Tokyo since 1996, and has been inspired by the layers and colours of Tokyo city which give the city its characteristic depth as well as by elements of traditional Japanese architecture like sliding screens. She set up practice in 2003 and innovated the concept of ‘Shikiri’ – ‘creating space with colour’ - which she has brilliantly applied to a mind-boggling variety of creations. For her, colours are not just finishes that are applied to surfaces, but are actual functional elements that divide, demarcate, enhance, subdue, align, spread, reflect and do many more jobs in articulating spaces.

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100 Colours is an installation by Moureaux unveiled in 2013 where she expresses different spaces and their moods through layers of colours imbibed from life in Tokyo. The experience is quite an epiphany for any first time observer just to discover the many languages that colour can speak, the variety of ideas it can emote. Christmas Forest, Colour of Time, Forest of Numbers, Waterras, Bunshi are but a few names of her works from this installation that strike an emotion of awe and wonder on experiencing them.

 

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One of the most poignant ones, though, titled ‘I Am here’ is designed for the METoA (Mitsubishi Electric Touch of Advancement) Ginza exhibition space in which the high precision of a satellite system’s ability to measure a person’s position on earth on the X,Y and Z axes to centimetre accuracy has been expressed beautifully. The interactive installation is a column of a dense crowd of 8,000 colourful tiny womens’ silhouettes from which observers are challenged to find 3 odd ones – two little girls and a cat – which are irretrievably lost in the crowd; perhaps, a gentle nudge towards finding our rightful place in the rush of our surroundings.

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The Sugamo Shinkin Bank in Tokyo is one of Ar. Emmanuelle Moureaux’s important projects from her bursting portfolio, and she has designed several branches of this bank using a variety of applications of Shikiri. The Nakaoki branch has its 3 storey high but significantly lengthy façade divided into colourful cubes which are of four different depths. The deepest ones have terrace gardens with seasonal flowering plants which add to the symphony played out by the coloured cubes. Colour magic continues inside the bank where vertical surfaces are adorned with little splashes of colourful pixels and the same colours are reflected in the cubistic seats of the waiting and meeting lounges.

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Other branches of the Sugamo Shinkin Bank see Moureaux’s colours working in other different ways. One of them has window-recesses and terrace hollows coloured in solid shades all over the façade, another has horizontal slabs of various solid colours piling up as bands above the main entrance in an act of defining the façade and the entrance portico.

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Yet another is surrounded by coloured sticks of the building’s height placed on the decked offset which merge through the all-glass façade with the coloured sticks placed inside as a metaphor of the proximity of the building to its surroundings in its busy mid-town location. The colours reduce the serious officiousness of the banks and make people feel comfortable and cheerful, while also serving to sometimes demarcate/ colour code various departments or areas.

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The interiors of the 140 studios of the cooking class company ABC Cooking Studios are another charming feather in Emmanuelle’s cap. Here, she has used the most delectable palette of colours over the counters, shelves, chairs, cabinets, window dressing and other elements in a brightly lit up café ambience. That surely makes ABC Studios’ motto of ‘creating smiles on faces at dining tables throughout the world’ very easy to accomplish! The Shinjuen Nursing Home’s lounge enjoys a light airy and dynamic ambience thanks to the hundreds of tiny colourful ‘bubbles’ suspended from its white ceiling.

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Emmanuelle Moureaux also creates individual products with the Shikiri application, like ‘Mille Feulle’ which is a storage drawer chest looking like a random pile of thin coloured sheets, or the ‘acrylic x kimono’ series which has tables, storage and other pieces that create wonderful visuals by refraction and reflection of the colours through the acrylic medium. There are some exclusive lines of linen and towels as well among a wide range of vibrant products. She has even given the ‘Mino’, a traditional Japanese rain-cape made of thickly layered bundles of straws a colourful spin by using colour graded layers of yarn!

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Emmanuelle’s Shikiri steps well further than the personal or individual sphere to stamp its presence at the city level. A part of her 100 colours installations adorned the Awaji Park in Tokyo where the long and sinuous thread of stairs that ribbons through the park was decked with a chain of festooned frames spanning across their width. As one kept climbing the stairs, one could experience the changes in colour, experience their aura and actually touch and feel them, as desired by the designer.This, of course, was just one of her many outdoor installations.

 

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Anticipating completion in 2018 is Taipei (Taiwan) city’s Rapid Transit System upgrade called the Circular Line which, spreading circumferentially, will connect the existing radial lines of the city. The steel beams, columns, acoustic barriers, viaducts, station exteriors and interiors, etc. which are part of the 18 km long elevated section of this line and hence, will come in to direct contact with the people of the city, will be adorned with Emmanuelle’s colours on invitation from the rapid transit corporation of the city.

Yes, colours do much more than just add aesthetic value to any place or object, and Ar. Emmanuelle Moureaux has been able to recognise this phenomenon and give it eloquent expression through her works, such that it touches and excites every individual who experiences her works. And, the cutesy, sprightly style she adopts to make her band of colours talk surely endears them to viewers rather easily!

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