Inspired by the river formation known as the Wand (pronounced Wandō in Japanese), as well as the aptly placed location of the building itself, Coil Kazuteru Matsumura Architects’ Kyoto Wand Café offers a perfect respite for those who are on a journey to appreciate the calming sites of Japan’s former capital city Kyoto. Packed with details that resemble a double if not multiple generations of film photograph exposures, patrons are bound to enjoy a drink stop inside an architecture filled with traditional and modern details.
Kyoto Wand is found in Kitatoryo, Higashiyama district of Kyoto. The café occupies a former two-storey townhouse that has become one of the many buildings to recycle itself into rest-stops for the popular tourist city. The renovation of the townhouse revealed an entanglement of the existing structure with the layers folded from previous renovations. The treatment of the renovation included a stripping back of the façade to allow a unanimous connection to the attached neighbour dwelling. The unravelling of multiple building layers paved way for the interior to embrace the traditional structure of wooden beams, pillars, and earthen walls—perfectly embodying the eclectic character of Kyoto itself.
From ground level, the cafe’s presence is visibly noticeable from the glazing on the northern and eastern façade. The area is accessible via the sliding partitions on the north, greeted by a steel staircase that travels up to the secondary area above. A bespoke half-swan chestnut tree log sits alongside the eastern façade, which playfully pokes out on the northern exterior to offer a quick pitstop for convenience. The café, aspiring to be a unique temporary resting point for travelling tourists, also offers end-of-trip facilities. Showers, locker rooms and changerooms built at the southern end with a tsuboniwa (small garden) as a threshold point awaits in an interior liken to modern bathhouses.
A strong connection to the existing structure leads to the use of the humble timber found in fixtures and joinery, including the countertop with a unique washi paper artwork, flooring, shelving and furniture. Among all the warmth, the architects introduce silver metal elements for the contemporary touch within the ensemble.
With thoughtfulness and artisan care, the café’s central hearth is encased with undulating and textured indigo-dyed wooden panels and blue-tinted steel sheeting, adding a touch of ukiyo-e elegance when lit up in the twilight hours. Blue chairs are used to support the welcoming colour contrast. The loft area on the other hand is a conversion of the old attic is adorned with white walls and humble timber flooring, ready to be converted into an exhibition or gallery space when time permits.
With a panoramic view that frames the season peaks and wanes of the wonders of Kyoto, it wouldn’t be hard to find curious individuals to pause and watch the peacefulness beyond. Besides, being able to sit within a café that bears layers of history and considered details, surely this would immediately be on everyone’s to-go list for their next Japan travels.
[Images courtesy of Coil Kazuteru Matsumura Architects. Photography by Yoshiro Masuda.]