Colin Nagy, head of strategy at Fred & Farid, a global advertising agency, writes this opinion column for Skift on hospitality, innovation, and business travel. "On Experience" dissects customer-centric experiences and innovation across hospitality, aviation, and beyond. You can read all of his columns here.
One of the most convivial, thoughtfully designed spaces in the world is undoubtedly the Tsutaya bookstore in the high-end Daikanyama neighborhood of Tokyo. The store is a series of large, connected bookstores, ample outdoor space, and a cozy bar and lounge surrounded by first edition books, beautiful chairs, and perfect lighting. People can be seen chatting with one another.
The communal space is the perfect antidote to the maelstrom churning over technology these days, one that is leading to a growing backlash over concerns about privacy. As people vowed to delete Facebook last week, its humbled CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to manage the crisis by vowing the social network would investigate outsiders’ handling of its users’ information. Earlier this year, Skift was out front in pointing out the impact this tech backlash could have on travel, which takes us back to Tokyo for a lesson about returning some humanity to tourism.
The Tsutaya space is the type of environment that you want to spend time in; there’s a lot of intellectual stimulation, ranging from vinyl to an incredible selection of international magazine titles, to antique tomes, etc. The bookstore, designed by the Klein Dytham architecture firm, is the perfect representation of a space that is designed to bring people together in a thoughtful way, and one that makes you believe in the power of print, good lighting, and in-person connection. Plus, they do well financially given the size of the crowds.
It is a welcome alternative to the coldness of our increasingly digital times, and one can’t help but think the concept could be increasingly expanded into other realms, such as hotels or even airports. Recently, Tsutaya announced a partnership with a residential developer in Japan to make shared spaces in apartment buildings better and more interesting.
No Matter How Many Eames Chairs, Shared Spaces Fall Flat
According to the Japan Times, the brand is now helping real estate developers design the communal areas of residential complexes. Everything will be based on the specific vibe of the neighborhood and composition of the building. The operator of Tsutaya, Culture Convenience Club, will draw on what they’ve learned designing public communal spaces across the country.
When we consider what the shared space is like in even the sharpest residential developments around the world, most fall flat. People just walk through them en route to their apartments. And no matter how many beautiful Eames chairs are or pseudo lounge areas, they seem dull and lacking life. When you add the context of a bookstore style environment, where people can browse, read, and interact with other building residents, it makes a ton of sense.
Monocle Magazine Gets Into the Communal Space Game
It appears to be a trend. Sansiri, the Thailand-based property developer, recently invested in the London-based publisher, Monocle. The deal leverages the magazine’s considered thinking on urban design, interiors, and obsession with community spaces to put together a new approach to apartment living. The homes will not be Monocle-branded, but they will likely fit into their stated design vision and values. It is adding a layer of soft diplomacy and creative vision over the typical financing and engineering thinking of most developers, and might just help command a price premium as a result.
This thinking doesn’t just apply to the domestic and living realms; you can bet it will also extend to larger scale property developers and anywhere that humans spend time in spaces. Developers need to understand how to move malls and shopping experiences from overly air-conditioned halls of sterile global brands into more experience-led environments, where it is comfortable to spend time on the weekend and of course, spend more money. Of course, the same thinking can be applied to hotels: How are common spaces places that aren’t merely transitory but engineered to be thoughtful, engineer serendipity, and make people smarter? Plus, break people out of their self-imposed social trance back into the physical world.