These photographs were taken at the end of a two years experience as a staff architect at Sou Fujimoto Architects.

The office is located on the top floor of a relatively old warehouse in the city of Shinjuku, Tokyo. It is accessible through a freight elevator and a narrow stair, leading to an open space filled with light. The actual office is organized on an open plan, where desks and partitions are mostly homemade using plywood boards. The boards define a corridor and are used as operative walls for project review pin-ups.

Despite its informal appearance, the firm’s hierarchy is immediately apparent, as expressed in the work space layout. The staff desks are arranged along the perimeter walls. The central area is occupied by large tables filled with arrays of white foam study models. Interns and staff candidates find their personal work space on these same tables, producing maquettes or working from their personal laptops in hopes of being confirmed a staff architect. Only at this point can they move to an available perimeter workstation.

Instead of working in a more conventional personal office, Sou Fujimoto himself prefers operating from the conference room while in Tokyo in between his frequent work trips. Being very active, he spends most of the time in the staff work area, checking the progress through models and images.

The permanently provisional organization of SFA office space goes in accordance with the firm philosophy. A high staff turnover and the preference for a workshop-like appearance. This attitude, shared with several other Japanese architecture practices, has shaped a work space that despite its informality is actually well defined through dynamics of strong hierarchy and time cycles.