The Green Contemporary Mall in the Heart of Kyoto
Shinpuhkan is a shopping mall located on Karasuma-dori avenue in the center of Kyoto. Once the Old Kyoto Central Telephone Office, the complex was renovated in 2020 and includes fashionable shops, bars and restaurants, as well as the first Japanese Ace Hotel, built in a modern annex designed by architect Kengo Kuma.
Completed in 2020, Shinpuhkan reminds of the latest shopping centers inaugurated in Tokyo, offering to experience edgy shopping and restaurants within an ecologically friendly architecture. This kind of complexes is less frequent in Kyoto, whose rather flat and traditional cityscape does not have room for tall buildings. Therefore, this new address, located along the large Karasuma-dori avenue running in the city center from north to south, arouses curiosity.
The shopping mall in based in an historical red brick building, registered as cultural property by the city and dating back to the end of the Taisho Era (1912 - 1926). It is the Former Kyoto Central Telephone 📱 Office, built at the times by Japanese architect Tetsuro Yoshida (1894 - 1956). He was specialized in the communication sector, and he has also designed the Tokyo Central Post Office 📮, known today as Kitte Marunouchi.
A successful architectural renovation
From the street, the facade of Shinpuhkan blends Western influences and early 20th century modernism. Materials such as brick, wood and steel were kept raw as a tribute to the initial design. The successful resulting atmosphere is both simple and refined, industrial and traditional, urban and spiritual, to the image of Kyoto going through the ages without losing its heritage.
A second recent construction, designed by famous architect Kengo Kuma (born in 1954) complements the complex. Louvers filter the light and give some air to the high-rise parts that combine well with the retro style of the original building. Since June 2020, this new building is home to the Ace Hotel 🏨 Kyoto, the first establishment of the American hotel chain in Japan.
The renovation project kept some space for the friendly green touch of plants and trees. A small inner garden called Niwa, of European inspiration, is located in a patio around which shops and restaurants revolve. Note however that access to the outdoor terrace, which has an elevated view on the patio, is only possible to the hotel’s customers. The roof of the former Central Telephone Office also became a green roof to help keep the natural cool for the complex’s environmental record.
A beautiful place worth the detour
Rather than for the shops, that are certainly ahead of the current fashion trends but that can be found anywhere else, the shopping center is interesting for its very beautiful, respectful of the past and future-oriented architecture. Nonetheless, the concept-shop (THISIS) SHIZEN which is both a café and a wonderful plant shop stands out.
Although located in the center of Kyoto, Shinpuhkan is slightly remote from the most popular sightseeing sites and blends in the relatively calm and tranquil atmosphere of its neighborhood, in which you will also find the International Manga Museum and the small Rokkaku-do temple in the south of Kyoto Gosho Imperial Palace.