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Toto showcases cutting-edge shapes in design

by Tetsushi Kajimoto

For anyone interested in contemporary architecture and interior design, as well as a little extra luxury in the kitchen or bathroom, the Toto Nogizaka Building is the place to admire the latest curves, lines and designs.

The eight-story building in Minato Ward, Tokyo, houses a showroom on the first floor, where a series of high-quality kitchen and bathroom fixtures imported from Europe and the United States are displayed.

A gallery on the third and fourth floors featuring occasional exhibitions by contemporary architects and interior designers.

The bathroom and kitchen fixtures on display and sale in the showroom range from washbasins and faucets to toilets and bathtubs.

“These modern and high-class imports are popular with architects and designers as well as people who have a discriminating eye and are tired of common Japanese fixtures,” said Hidekazu Osawa, a manager of Cera Trading Co., a unit of the sanitary fixtures giant Toto Ltd., which runs the showroom.

Despite their relatively high prices — on average 30 percent to 40 percent more than their more mundane contemporaries — consumers’ growing interest in interior design have pushed up sales despite the prolonged recession, according to Osawa.

On the third and fourth floors, the Gallery Ma (space) hosts occasional exhibitions. The gallery was set up in October 1985 as part of Toto’s contribution to culture through the promotion of such professionals, who, until then, had few chances to display their works.

“As a manufacturer of building equipment, we hit upon the (gallery) idea when Japan was entering the period of the bubble economy and coming up with many building projects, but many architects and designers were facing difficulties in finding ways to let people know about their creations,” a representative of the gallery said.

Several exhibitions are held every year, with each event showcasing a single architect or interior designer and running for two to three months. The professionals also give a one-day lecture at a separate venue.

The current exhibition features the works of Koh Kitayama, an architect specializing in modern commercial and housing complexes, and runs through April 27.

It will be followed by an exhibition featuring architect Nobuaki Furuya from May 18 through July 19.