MONOSPINAL: Bringing ‘video game’ architecture to life

Commercial, Online Exclusive Feature / 2024

MONOSPINAL: Bringing ‘video game’ architecture to life

May 17, 2024

This project serves as the headquarters of a game production company in Tokyo. According to the design team, the office aims to become “a place for the highest level of creation that captivates fans worldwide and supports the foundation of the game production process”.

As almost all employees will be engaged in creative operations, the design team focused on providing a balance between concentration and relaxation while significantly removing the burden of operational work. This is done by creating a building envelope that can ‘shield’ the inner functions from its site limitations, as well as introducing a building system where all facilities, including their energy consumption and security clearance, can be conveniently controlled from tablets.

Site context and design response

The site faces a busy elevated railway with trains passing by every 1.5 minutes on both ways. It is also surrounded by small-scale buildings with a variety of tenants. In response to this, the architects designed slanted walls—made of thin, ten-centimetre-wide aluminium plates—that can allow amounts of indirect reflected daylight and natural ventilation while minimising sound disturbance. These walls also serve important privacy and confidentiality functions by protecting the interior from outsiders’ gaze.

The envelope on each level has also been parametrically tailored according to the different functions, controlling for three environmental parameters: shielding direct light, controlling incident indirect light, and soundproofing railroad noise. For example, the walls of the third-floor voice recording studio has been heightened as much as possible to reduce noise from the railroad. Meanwhile, on the fifth floor where the dining area, lounge and gym are located, the walls are lowered to provide views of the cityscape and the sky, with a balcony that allows for greater cross-ventilation in the space.

Reducing operational work and energy load

The building’s control system that can be operated directly and intuitively on a tablet, or on users’ smartphones, is fully linked to a scheduling system to improve energy efficiency. As users input their schedules, all facilities will be prepared in advance for them. Users can also check the security and equipment status in the building through the same application, incorporating information management to provide an optimal environment for creative activities safely. This system was applied to a building of this scale in Japan for the first time.

Moreover, highly efficient equipment, including air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, CO2 concentration control and rainwater utilisation equipment, are combined to realise a high level of environmental performance throughout the building.

Structural design

With offices on the fourth floor and above, studios on the third, and an entrance with a double-story void on the first and the second floors, the building vertically stacked spaces that require different spatial qualities. This posed some challenges for the structural design, especially in combining different load-bearing systems of various levels.  

By using the third-floor studio space as a transfer structure with story-high trusses, the relatively small column grid on the upper office floors were able to be joined with the structural system on the lower floors, which are consolidated to columns on four corners. Concrete-filled tube (CFT) columns are placed on the four corners to consolidate the load on top of the underground seismic isolation devices. This helped to minimise the number of devices installed while suppressing the pull-out strength, achieving a rational seismic isolation system.

Incorporating video game elements

The landscape design, interior and exterior finishes, and fixtures all hint towards the game world created by the company, which will be familiar to players of the game. This includes the period and region in which the game is set, characters, items, etc.

For example, elements like the medieval-French-style chandelier and contemporary Italian sofas and tables on the first floor, as well as iconic facets of Japanese culture like bonsai trees and the pine trees on the building’s exterior, were modelled after the video game’s settings. These various elements harmonise to create a space that is imbued with a game-like quality while being functionally rooted in the real world.


Project Name

Taito-ku, Tokyo

Completion Date
June 2023

Site Area
802.43 square metres

Gross Floor Area
4105.74 square metres

Number of Rooms
8 floors above ground;
1 floor below ground

Architecture Firm
Makoto Yamaguchi Design

Building Construction
Shimizu Corporation

MEP, Structural, Facility and Electrical Design

Lighting Design
Izumi Okayasu Lighting Design


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