Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo- Between remnants of rice storehouse from the Edo period, and toy wholesalers from after the war period, this area has been gaining popularity in recent years as a hub for local artists and craftsmen, and even among travelers from overseas as a “sacred” place for lodging. Surrounded by a large park which serves as a place of recreation and relaxation for local residents, and a facility for environmental education, this was a project to renovate a warehouse, more than 50 years old, into the first overseas outpost of Dandelion Chocolate, San Francisco’s premier “bean-to-bar” chocolate maker.
The project was to include a factory and stand where the entire process from cacao bean selection, to bean roasting, to even wrapping the final chocolate bar can take place, as well as a café and workshop space. The brand’s signature chocolate bar is made from just two ingredients: 70% cacao beans and 30% cane sugar; and each bar is produced by hand to bring out the unique flavors of the cacao’s origin. Our goal for this project was to carefully take down, reinforce, and renew parts of the deteriorated structure, while maintaining the artistic power of the original architecture.
Adding to this the original work of experienced craftsmen, we began our design to bring forth a new value to the structure. The large, glass entrance of the factory faces the park, and the eaves on the roof blend well into the surrounding architecture. One can also see into the interior of the factory where the cacao beans are stored, sorted, and selected. We wanted to give a sense of anticipation to the customers, but at the time, be perfectly clear about what kind of work was being done inside. As you climb a few steps and into the factory, you will find bags of cacao beans to your side, and an expansive chocolate factory that retains the architecture of the original wooden building.
We aimed to create an environment of complete harmony where one is greeted with the fragrance of high quality cacao beans, and the sound of the production machinery, the care that is put into the packaging by the dedicated staff, and the loyal customers; and completing the picture with a backdrop of vast nature found in the park opposite the factory. As you climb the stairs to the second floor, you will find a large café space with exposed beams and columns of the original wooden structure. The seating area has an open layout, so as to allow customers to relax and enjoy their time here. On the other side of a glass partition is an area that can be used to hold chocolate workshops.
As you look down from the tables, you have an unobstructed view of the chocolate factory, giving you the feeling of being right within the production line. We put a great deal of thought into the architecture, design, furniture, plants, acoustics, and graphics to “craft” a one of a kind shop environment, which parallels the bean-to-bar concept of Dandelion Chocolate, in which carefully selected cacao beans are “crafted” into high quality chocolate bars. We wanted to create an environment that will leave a lasting impression on both customers and chocolate artisans alike for many years to come.
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