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“It’s hard for corporations to understand that creativity is not just about succeeding. It’s about experimenting and discovering.” - Gordon Mackenzie
During my dedicated tenure at Starwood Hotels, I was privileged to lead the development of the Westin hotel brand as a head designer. It was during my first visit to the Miyako Westin Hotel in Kyoto when I learned about architect Togo Murano. He designed the hotel, as well as other notable Japanese contemporary classics: the World Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima; the New Kabuki Theatre in Osaka; and the Nippon Life Insurance Co. offices in Tokyo, among many other projects. He also designed retail spaces like the Sogo department store in Osaka—built in 1936, it was the first modern building of its kind in the region. He later designed similar stores in Kobe, Nagoya, and Tokyo.
No one advised me of the architect’s work when I first toured the Miyako Westin for its long overdue renovation project. I noticed some distinctive details that were thoughtful and modular. I immediately felt comfortable and in favor of preserving Murano’s original intent as opposed to a more destructive renovation. At the time, I was not aware that a renovation project was already in progress, which did not include my review or input. That first much-needed renovation served the immediate needs of updating interior finishes. In the end, the project represented an exceptional corporate hotel brand, but not much to do with the original design intent of Murano’s implementation.
I would like to share some of my snap shots of interior details by Togo Murano from my repeated visits to Kyoto. I find certain charm about his work. These details are not kitschy, but distinctive and retrospective. I truly believe that these details are difficult to find currently; Murano was creative without being extreme and corporate-looking.
Photos by D.B. Kim.