WRITTEN BY Manuel Bernaschek

If you want to see one of the most interesting ‘Starbucks’ locations in the world, all you need to do is Google the words ‘Kengo Kuma’ and ‘Starbucks’. You will quickly find pictures of a unique store that look like a pile of matchsticks caught in the middle of an explosion.

Built in Japan in 2008, it now one of a few locations that the renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has designed for the coffee giant. Another interesting one in Taiwan is made from 29 recycled shipping containers, and yet another is in Vancouver’s Shaw Tower.

Leading Canadian real estate dveloper Westbank Corp, who originally developed the Shaw Tower, recently commissioned Kengo Kuma to design a new building for them at 1550 Alberni Street – and the plans called for custom piano to be designed for the lobby. Kengo Kuma, who is known for creating unique skyscrapers – not designing coffee shops – was intrigued by the opportunity to design the case of the piano. Once designed, it would be built by Fazioli Pianoforti in Italy – who is widely accepted as the finest piano maker in the world.

The final design of their piano case uses 40 planed of beveled Hinoki wood – the same wood used for many of the building’s wooden elements. The wood of the piano case is sculptured to capture the look and feel of the building’s exterior, a look that is echoed in many of Kuma’s buildings. In Japan, Hinoki wood is widely used and highly revered for its straight and uniform grain, which is a desirable quality for the piano manufacturing process.

Kuma’s team handed the designs over to Fazioli’s team in Italy, whose team of 60 people faced the challenge of turning drawings into reality.

What is now called the ‘Kengo Kuma Fazioli’ was shipped to Vancouver by air and unveiled at the ‘Unwritten’ Exhibition at Oakridge Centre. Fazioli Pianoforti founder Paolo Fazioli visited the exhibit on the 30th of January, 2019, and greeted local Fazioli piano owners and fans at a Cocktail event in his honour.