Osaka Brand Committee
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Gaku Azuma
Yasumichi Morita
Yasumichi Morita
Ken Miki
Chiaki Murakami
Ryo Yamazaki
Biolgical field
Water city
Osaka Kaleidoscope
#6 Intangible Design: Yoshihiko Mamiya

人とエネルギーが集まり カルチャーが生まれる 界隈性の空間デザイン。 間宮吉彦

Yoshihiko Mamiya is a designer particularly adept at creating spaces that induce peoples and energies to congregate. These spaces mature into loci from which new cultures are born. From projects in the Minamisenba and Horie districts of Osaka, through to a number of business premises in Tokyo, from every commercial property that Mamiya has designed, a new neighborhood with a unique culture has sprung forth. These are neighborhoods that generate magnetic energy, in that they attract culture-conscious people. So, what are the methods that Mamiya uses to create such spaces?


"Before designing a commercial space, whether it is a shop or a building, it is important to be conscious of the neighborhood characteristics and surroundings that encapsulate the space in question,” says Yoshihiko Mamiya. "An entire city is too big a canvas for spatial design because it blurs what really should be focused upon. Through thinking by individual neighborhoods, on the other hand, focuses become naturally apparent. For example, the Osaka metropolis consists of several loci, including the Namba, Shinsaibashi and Umeda districts. All these vary greatly from each other. Each has its own history, stories and unique energies. You cannot design a space that functions properly without considering such elements within the surrounding neighborhood."

kNot Minamihorie

miaviasophiescasa Esaka


Marui department stores in Namba (Osaka) and Yurakucho (Tokyo) are great examples of how Yoshihiko Mamiya skillfully applies his knowledge and experience of neighborhood-focused spatial design to environmental design concepts. At the Namba Marui store, Mamiya established a design concept he entitled, “Mingle.” By this, Mamiya had the idea of creating a single assembly of individual tenant shops that, while merged, had each an accentuated individual uniqueness. In planning the store’s environment, Mamiya employed a replica of the organic process used when planning the townscape around the Minami district of Osaka. Mamiya used this so as the assembly of shops within the Namba Marui property would naturally evolve into a neighborhood microcosm. On the other hand, for the Marui Yurakucho store, Mamiya located escalators in the center of the floor plan as part of his “Enjoy Branching Out” concept.  He then drew traffic radii spreading from these loci, and arranged shops into a maze-like floor plan.  He did this to give customers an additional sense of enjoyment, derived from their strolling the aisles and discovering favorite shops. If shoppers were to get "lost" in the maze, Mamiya felt they could either retrace their steps to the center of the floor plan and restart their search, or move to different floors of the property, thus circulating freely through the designed space. Such a layout is in fact based on similar theories found in historical examples of urban design. Two examples can be seen in the vicinity of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and in the area around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Mamiya’s idea of considering the customer traffic environment as a single neighborhood was new, in that it differed greatly from conventional department store floor plans. "I know that people would have no concept of such ideas (regarding design) unless such were explained," says Mamiya. "I am happy as long as customers feel satisfied about the space and feel like revisiting it." Although he says this matter-of-factly, Mamiya's "intangible" design techniques have obviously been a key to his success in creating spaces to which peoples, cultures and energies congregate.




When asked how he applies such intangibles to the actual design process, Mamiya responded as follows: "It is called topology. I know it sounds complicated, but the idea is like a mathematic function that is used to objectify space. To express this simply, it is similar to a hole in a donut. The hole is empty and looks devoid of function. In reality, however, it is necessary to create the donut’s form. Empty space gives form to things, and as we continue to create such empty space, we eventually characterize the surrounding environment or neighborhood. My design work gives form to such emptiness." Noticing the author’s confused look when trying to understand this concept, Mamiya added the following: "You know; relationships between people are like donut holes in that there is nothing tangible to see about the relationship construct. Nevertheless, there must be something that exists between the parties for the relationship to exist."

GASHU toutou Kitashinchi


While based in Osaka, Mamiya is expanding his work to Tokyo and overseas. When asked how he feels about Osaka's brand power, Mamiya pointed out that many talented people in various creative fields including architecture, spatial and product design are from Osaka. "For example, Architect Tadao Ando and product designer Toshiyuki Kita are globally recognized creators in their respective fields. They are also both from Osaka. I think Osaka's brand power is something that is naturally nurtured by the local environment and culture.  It has been passed on from older generations to younger people. In fact, that is what I am doing currently in teaching design to college students. By passing on what I have gained, I can help young creators further develop. They will then continue to create new things. It is simply a joy for me to be able to achieve this." For Mamiya, handing down his skills and experiences to younger designers is part of his creative work as well. Mamiya warns, however, that Osaka people sometimes rely on the Osaka brand too much. "This over-reliance works negatively for the brand. This mentality must been rectified quickly.” Mamiya is also concerned that Osaka people may have gone too far in pushing the brand while missing the potential opportunities offered by the so-called ‘donut holes.’ "What are required today are strategic design ideas、that is ideas for designs that move people or market products. Osaka needs stronger administrative and private-sector leadership to promote the effective use of design in various public services. There are fewer opportunities in Osaka than in Tokyo for the public application of such design. But this in fact suggests that Osaka may have more potential. I would be glad to look for such opportunities and get involved in such projects."

May 20, 2008
Kana Yoshimi
Yoshihiko Mamiya Profile

Yoshihiko Mamiya
Born in Osaka in 1958, Yoshihiko Mamiya established his Infix Design Office in 1991.  He has worked on a number of spatial design projects for commercial facilities. Genres include restaurants and shops. Mamiya opened a Shanghai office in 2003. He is currently a professor of the Department of Design, Osaka University of Arts.
He is also a lecturer for the School of Design, Kyushu University. He has published several books including "STYLE INFIX" (published by SHOTENKENCHIKU-SHA Publishing) and "Spaces & Projects x 100" (published by Bungeishunju Ltd).


Author Profile
Kana Yoshimi
Yoshimi works as a copywriter and interviewer and runs her own office, Canariya Company. In collaboration with a talent agency, Yellow Cab WEST, Yoshimi just launched a new project, "Bunkajin," to support cultural figures in the Kansai region with their activities, mainly in casting and producing.