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An Inspiring Interview with Yasuhiro Yamashita, CEO at Atelier TEKUTO

An Inspiring Interview with Yasuhiro Yamashita, CEO at Atelier TEKUTO

Luxury Lifestyle Awards has recently chosen Atelier TEKUTO as the winner of an award in the category of Best Luxury Resort Architecture in Japan 2022 for 2 waters and DenPaku Hotels. We spoke to CEO Yasuhiro Yamashita about the company’s commitment to the communities it works within, the design ethos behind its architecture, and its plans for the future.  

Luxury Lifestyle Awards: Congratulations on being chosen to receive such a prestigious award. What does this mean to the company and the people who work there?  

Atelier TEKUTO: This is only the second resort facility that we have designed as a company, nevertheless it is a great honor to have won an esteemed international award. We draw huge encouragement from this recognition as we work towards our next development and appreciate its contribution to Japan’s policy of promoting a ‘tourism-oriented nation’. I believe this award will give our employees a sense of pride in their efforts, encouraging them to work with even greater ambition and initiative. 

LLA: You founded Atelier TEKUTO in 1991. What was your thinking behind setting up the company, and what were you planning to achieve initially?  

AT: After apprenticeship at three different firms, I decided to pursue my own design and established my own design practice. At the firm, we specialize in the development of architectural materials, unconventional structural systems and out of the box construction methods. These are things that are easily overlooked in normal situations, but if we find them to be appropriate, then we strive to achieve these goals. Since the early days we have been highly regarded both in Japan and abroad for our environmentally friendly architecture. This was influenced by my upbringing in Amami, a place rich in nature and people full of love, nurturing a desire within myself to try to be close to even the smallest things. 

LLA: You were born in Amami Oshima, where these two award-winning projects are based. You obviously have a special affinity with the region. Can you tell us what it means to you and why you feel so passionate about your work there?  

AT: There are approximately 360 villages on the Amami Islands. Each village has its own unique culture with different dialects, songs and dances that have been handed down over more than 750 years. We believe the splendor of these cultures and the people who carry them are nothing less than a precious treasure that should be shared with the world. The recent registration of the Amami Islands as a World Natural Heritage Site is great news but brings with it new risks to the local community and culture through over-tourism and land being bought up by rich investors. That is why I believe we must be involved in caring for our hometown as we enter a new stage of Amami’s story. 

LLA: What did you discover when you explored the conditions on the island and how the community was faring? 

AT: We found that the everyday splendor of the island is so commonplace that islanders do not always realize how precious it is. We believe that encouraging interaction with people from outside of Amami will help the residents recognise the value of their remarkable culture and thus become more interested in its preservation. 

LLA: How did you come up with the idea of reviving the village culture of the region?  

AT: As a student, I had to leave Amami to pursue higher education. Since then, I have traveled extensively as an architect, visiting various regions of the world. Through these experiences and also traveling frequently between Tokyo and Amami, I became aware of the uniqueness of my own hometown. 

 LLA: Tell us what you have achieved on the island and how the local communities have benefited. 

AT: We found that the everyday splendor of the island is so commonplace that islanders do not always realize how precious it is. We believe that encouraging interaction with people from outside of Amami will help the residents recognise the value of their remarkable culture and thus become more interested in its preservation. 

LLA: Why do you believe it is essential to build healthy communities while creating new developments? 

AT: Providing a place with a sense of belonging for the socially vulnerable is quintessential to community development. Magun Square is a project of ours that attempts to embody this. It houses three varying facilities for the elderly in the forms of private residential homes, a day care center and a home nursing station. In addition to this, after school activities and cram school for children are held on a regular basis, encouraging a range of ages to inhabit the space. We are also collaborating with facilities that support persons with disabilities, offering opportunities for jobs and activities. ‘MAGUN’ means all together in the local island dialect, we want this project to be a facility that continues to embody this meaning. 

LLA: Can you explain the concept behind the design of DenPaku The Beachfront Mijora?  

AT: We designed with three words in mind; Zen, Art and Nature. The concept was to create a simple space that made the most of nature in Amami. The result is a space in which guests can reflect on their inner thoughts whilst embracing the surroundings. A single pane of glass eliminates the boundary between the interior and exterior, the size of which is the maximum dimension available in Amami. The form was based around this single pane, capturing the scenery of Amami like a picture. Combining the inorganic, concrete walls (that also serve as typhoon countermeasures) with the burnt cedar wood creates a contrast between tradition and modernity. This highlights the warmth of nature whilst taking inspiration from traditional Amami ‘Takakura’ Architecture. 

LLA: What can guests expect from a stay at the resort?  

AT:The guests can expect a joyful stay that is full of serenity and inner reflection, an experience that provides a harmony between oneself and nature. 

 LLA: What was the thinking behind adding the 2 waters complex adjacent to DenPaku The Beachfront Mijora?  

AT: Initially, the reception for all guests, including the guests of the Mijora guestrooms, were conducted in the Denpaku Amami Hotel. However, the Mijora guestrooms are the more luxurious and hence the more expensive spaces, this meant creating extensions that complemented the luxury resort was inevitable. It also allowed for cuisine and beverage that corresponded with the experience to be provided to the Guestrooms. After deciding to create an exclusive reception for the MIJORA facility, the original reception became the check-in location for three renovated facilities. 

LLA: What extra facilities does 2 waters offer guests?   

AT: Apart from the reception function, it offers a fine-dining restaurant and bar, an infinity pool, a local produce store and an outdoor activity space. 

LLA: These two exceptional projects have been an enormous success, attracting tourists to this beautiful island and providing employment opportunities, and helping to build strong communities. Which achievement are you most proud of? 

AT: As mentioned, we are extremely proud of becoming the largest private company in the northern part of Amami Oshima. In addition to creating significant local employment, we are also excited to see the people from outside of the island, with sympathy to our concept, move to Amami to engage in our mission of community development. 

LLA: What challenges have you had to overcome while completing these projects?  

AT: As we own all of our facilities, raising funds to carry out the development has been difficult. By working with three local banks headed by Chairman who understand our passions and concept, we have been able to expand the scale of the project. We are very pleased with the results that we have achieved so far. 

LLA: Looking ahead, what are your plans for the company’s future development? What projects do you have in the works?  

AT: We are working to develop similar resort facilities and community developments on other Amami Islands such as Tokunoshima and Kakaroma. 

For more information, visit http://www.tekuto.com/en/ 

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