SPECIALToranomon Hills Station Tower


Space Copenhagen apply their distinctive aesthetic to their first work in Japan

The Unbound Collection by Hyatt (part of Hyatt’s Independent Collection) is making its first foray into Tokyo with Hotel Toranomon Hills, which opened at the end of last year on the ground floor and floors 11–14 of Toranomon Hills Station Tower. The relaxed, casual atmosphere of this premium 205-room hotel offers a refreshing experience unique among the luxury hotels in the Toranomon area.

illustration by Adrian Johnson

From its location in Toranomon in the heart of Tokyo, the hotel and its guest rooms offer intimate views of many of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

The interiors of Hotel Toranomon Hills were designed by Space Copenhagen, the design studio led by Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou. After studying architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, the two designers founded the studio in Copenhagen in 2005 and have since produced work that spans disciplines including furniture, architecture, interior design, and installation art. They are especially known for interior design projects such as that of Noma, the high-end Copenhagen restaurant.

Inspiration found in Toranomon’s past and present

In 2012, Space Copenhagen made an impression with their redesign of Noma, a restaurant in Copenhagen. Relying on organic materials such as wood, stone, leather, brass, and linen, they transformed the original brown color scheme into black and gray and added furniture that they designed in-house.

Henriksen and Rützou describe their approach to the interior design of hotels, restaurants, and private homes around the world as “poetic modernism.” So, where does this design philosophy come from, and what was their objective with the new hotel?

Studio Copenhagen led the 2018 redesign of the SAS Royal Hotel (now the Radisson Collection Royal Hotel), a historic architectural work by Arne Jacobsen that stands across from Copenhagen Central Station. The studio updated the iconic spiral staircase in the hotel lobby by replacing the red carpeting with a more contemporary color scheme and adding leather-covered railings that match the marble of the floor.

The studio collaborates with furniture brands such as Gubi, Stellar Works, Fredericia, &Tradition, and Mater—some of the most iconic brands to come out of Scandinavia. Their poetic designs emphasize a sense of duality, juxtaposing classic and modern, industrial and organic, sculptural and minimal, light and shadow.

“We’ve had the privilege of being engaged with the Hotel Toranomon Hills project for the past five to six years,” says Rützou. “Toranomon has undergone a dramatic transformation since our first visit. While the area used to be quite business-oriented, there is now a growing sense of diversity, with people engaged in many different activities. We had not been able to visit Japan since before the pandemic, so it was shocking to see how it had changed in just a few years.”

The designers have witnessed the speed at which construction is changing Toranomon, which they say now feels energized and ripe with potential. “All of this community building that was just a vision back then is now becoming a reality,” says Henriksen. “The area is this amazing hybrid between the past and the future, which has been a huge inspiration for the project.” The district dates back to feudal times when one of the gates of Edo Castle was given the name Toranomon—literally “Gate of the Tiger”—in reference to the White Tiger, one of four mythological creatures believed to guard the cardinal directions. It is located in an attractive part of the city, near the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Bay and within walking distance of Ginza.

SPACE COPENHAGEN This design studio was founded in 2005 by Peter Bundgaard Rützou (left) and Signe Bindslev Henriksen (right). They work across multiple disciplines, from interior, furniture, and lighting design to art direction. They are especially known for designing hotel interiors, including 11 Howard in New York and The Stratford in London.

“When we look out the window,” says Henriksen, “we can see that Toranomon is full of energy, that people’s lives are unfolding on many more levels than they used to. As a business center that is now also a residential area, with many commercial spaces and restaurants as well as green stretches connecting all these entities, there’s a sense of anticipation in the air. There is a sense of purpose here based on a very traditional and long-lasting Japanese aesthetic and a vision of creating a community. As we looked to the future, it was an inspiring starting point for us.”

A quiet and intimate use of space

The hotel lounge is a comfortable space to work or relax before checking in or after checking out.

Rützou and Henriksen studied the broader vision for Toranomon Hills before settling on a contemporary space intended to provide guests with exactly what they need. The design reflects the modern lifestyle encapsulated by the building, the interactions between leisure and business, the needs of the contemporary traveler, and the many uses of a versatile public space.

When you enter the hotel’s public spaces, you are greeted with muted lighting, elegant materials, and handcrafted Japanese art that—in stark contrast to the futuristic design and materials of the tower itself—have been carefully selected to impart a tranquil atmosphere. Then, once you make your way to your room, you enter into a private sphere that is serene, soft, and intimate. The space encourages you to slow down and take a moment for contemplation. This approach, which Space Copenhagen refers to as “slow aesthetics,” allows you to recharge before heading back out into the dynamic city the following day.

The furniture and other design elements include newly designed pieces complemented by some of Space Copenhagen’s older works. Together, they create a space that perfectly blends the aesthetics of Scandinavia and Japan.

The restrained atmosphere of the guest rooms was a deliberate choice by the designers, who wanted to emphasize the contrast between the hotel and the hustle and bustle just steps away in the rest of Toranomon Hills Station Tower. “We wanted to create a restricted, timeless, and minimal space, with a great deal of attention to detail and materials that are nice to the touch,” says Henriksen.

Henriksen and Rützou have always felt a special connection to Japan. They are inspired by Japanese aesthetics and feel it has informed Danish design and vice versa. This is why they carefully designed the spaces in the hotel so that they would feel authentic to both the Scandinavian and the Japanese lifestyle. But they also ensured that every room fulfilled the traveler’s need to mentally recharge.

“When you leave the immenseness of Toranomon behind and enter the hotel, the smaller scale of the lobby lets you start to relax,” says Henriksen. “Entering your room should make you feel even calmer, as though you are entering your own home. It was important to us that the room feels like a natural part of the experience of engaging with the city outside of these walls.”

A fusion of Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics

The wide windows offer an up-close look over the Toranomon area. Soft colors and specially designed sofas and lamps create a tranquil atmosphere in the heart of the city.

Many designers see commonalities between Scandinavia and Japan, and Space Copenhagen are the same. Rützou says that the two cultures share a respect for natural materials, especially regarding the delicacy of wood. “Also,” he says, “both cultures respect craftsmanship, an inherent preference for minimalism and precision, and a ritualistic approach to aesthetics and function. Interestingly, although we have similar traits, we have them for very different reasons.”

The two designers have been fascinated by Japanese traditions, craftsmanship, and aesthetics for as long as they can remember. As Henriksen explains, they have felt deeply connected to the country since learning about it in school—maybe even before. “However,” she says, “the Japanese approach is far older and is based in a more spiritual language, whereas we in Denmark arrived at this approach for more functional reasons because it’s about creating a direct connection between our lives and the aesthetics around us. Our tradition is about finding solutions through design, so our designs reflect how we look at life and live life.”

Another commonality is the two cultures’ relationships to time. “Both Japanese and Danish people have a sense of life’s ephemeral and transient nature,” says Rützou. “Nothing is permanent; we are only given a limited amount of time. We call this awareness ‘positive melancholy,’ which I think is not unlike what you in Japan would call wabi-sabi. It’s the idea that the marks and imprints of life give value to the objects that bear them. We care for objects—chairs, for example—over time so that, if we’re lucky, we can pass them down to the next generation. Time is precious, and life is in transition. I think that mindset is fundamental to both our cultures.”

Upon entering your guest room, you can see Space Copenhagen’s careful design choices in everything from the bedside lamps to the hooks on the wall. The sofa and table by the window are, of course, also designed by the studio. In fact, they have created furniture for a variety of brands including Fredericia, one of Denmark’s most established furniture makers, and up-and-coming brands like Mater, &Tradition, and Stellar Works. The furniture in the guest rooms includes pieces custom made for the hotel as well as some of the studio’s historical designs. Regardless of its origin, every piece has been designed for a more comfortable way of living.

“Our intention for the furniture comes from the same place as our intention for the rooms,” says Henriksen. “We couldn’t have found better pieces, as they perfectly reflect the space’s spirit. These chairs we’re sitting on now were made with the Scandinavian aesthetic that combines wood and leather upholstery. They are well suited to these modern spaces and at the same time feature details inspired by classical Japanese design.”

A focus on material and craft

The studio puts care and attention into the design of even the smallest details, such as lighting fixtures and faucet handles.

The ground floor of Hotel Toranomon Hills will be home to the Tokyo branch of Le Pristine, the modern Italian restaurant from internationally renowned chef Sergio Herman. Space Copenhagen also designed the original location in Antwerp, Belgium, where the 1960s architecture and collaborations with local artists and craftsmen have made the restaurant into a work of art.

“We have a funny story about Sergio, which takes place in Tokyo,” says Rützou. “While we were working on the first Le Pristine in Antwerp, we had yet to even try Sergio’s cooking. The first time we tried it was actually in Tokyo, when we were invited to a pop-up event where he was working as a guest chef. So the first time we had Sergio’s food was here in Tokyo.”

It is clear that Rützou and Henriksen are excited to be building a new connection with Herman here in the heart of Tokyo, a collaboration between food and space that to the two designers feels utterly natural.

“Sergio Herman has always taken inspiration from Japanese culture and cuisine,” says Henriksen. “And now, he will be bringing his boundless energy and his European background to the international city of Tokyo to create the kind of cultural hybrid that is always exciting and fun for us to work with.”

Rützou explains that the Toranomon location will be different from the one in Antwerp. They wanted to incorporate a Japanese aesthetic into the language of Le Pristine, relying on the key elements—materials and craftsmanship—to make that happen. “When people walk into the restaurant,” says Henriksen, “they will feel welcomed and energized and feel that they can relax and have a good time. It was very important for us that the restaurant be beautiful, but still casual and fun.”

As Toranomon evolves into a world-class business center full of art, culture, and bustling commerce, a cozy hotel that evokes the comfort of home is sure to become a treasured destination. In the heart of this cosmopolitan city, travelers can look forward to a restful lodging experience like no other.