Commissioned to redesign the façade of the Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Matsuya Ginza, architect Aoki Jun & Associates transformed what previously was a concrete block tower into a luminous pearl shimmering in the urban landscape. Inspired by the luxury retailer’s monogram and the city’s art deco architectural history, Jun turned Vuitton’s monogram into a repetitive geometric motif. The pattern was then pressed and perforated onto sheets of aluminum and coated with an exceptionally durable pearlized fluropolymer paint. The opal hue and three-dimensional pattern give the façade a plush quilted appearance that subtly changes with the light throughout the day. At night, LED lights placed behind the perforated reliefs of the façade make Vuitton’s monogram visible in the dark. Very classy, very cool.
Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.