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Kobe Croquette

From Wallpaper December 2010:

A Tadao Ando-designed croquette stall is bringing new economic hope to Kobe in 2005, from under a freshly tarmacked footpath in the Japanese town of Aioi, a small white radish surprised townsfolk by pushing its way through the pavement under which it had been rudely buried just days before. Locals dubbed it Dokonjo Daikon "the gutsy radish", and it became an inspirational sybmol. Now, just 65km from Aioi, in the Motomachi district of Kobe, the humble croquette is giving people new hope in tough economic times.

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Kobe Croquette, Japan's biggest seller of croquettes, started out in the Chinatown area of Motomachi. For years it served croquettes until, in 2007, the tired-looking stall closed. But just like the gutsy radish, the Kobe Croquette stall has risen again on exactly the same spot it used to stand.

The visually intriguing stall, opened in September, is the work of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, and is the smallest commercial project the Japanese architect has ever worked on. "Even in a small building, we can incorporate grand ambitions," he says.

Taku Satoh, a New York Art Directors Club award-winning graphic artist was brought in to give Kobe Croquette's packaging a forward-looking makeover. "The place where Kobe Croquette's first shop opened is special," says Satoh. "But it shouldn't be a symbolic place where its history must be retained. Instead, it should be a symbolic place from where we carve out its future".

"When I saw Mr. Ando's architectural plans, it seemed to me they were for a futuristic croquette shop. I didn't want to retain a nostalgic image, so I can up with a "crisp" and "minimal" image, which is the opposite of what was there before, but yet typifies fried food," he says.

Kobe Croquette gave Satoh free rein to determine not only the look of this store, but of all its stores across Japan. "We asked Mr. Satoh to direct everything from graphic design to shop design and the uniform," says Masao Takehara from Kobe Croquette. Like Satoh, Ando kept things simple, even opting to use metal scaffolding poles on the shopfront. "I used scaffolding, partly for the aesthetics, but I also wanted to express the idea that a building like this can be easily built," the 69-year-old architect explains. Such an unusual-looking shop might affect the whole neighborhood, says Satoh. "Mr. Ando's architecture was the trigger, and this shop will be a chance to help spur a revival in the Motomachi area." Customers have flocked to the stall, with queues forming at weekends. It looks like Ando and Satoh's croquette-led revival has begun.

Kobe Croquette Motomachi 2-4-1 Motomachi-dori, Chuo-ku Kobe tel. 78 321 7010  

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