Brutal artist’s studio in Hiraki Suwa’s fish market

The studio origins of this brutal artist can be found in a Thai festival. Designer Abb Rogers and artist Hiraki Sawa met at the annual gala Wonder fruit A cultural gathering in Thailand in 2018 and bonding over fish, especially yellowfin tuna. Both are passionate cooks and made them think about cooking, eating, creativity, and creative time and space.

Sawa, who studied at the Slade School of Art under British artist Phyllida Barlow and is best known for his short films and collage-based animations, divides his time between London and Kanazawa, where he grew up. In 2019, he took over an empty, empty office space in the Japanese city, initially planning to set up a small co-working space with a business partner. Then he changed course and set out to create something more adventurous and pattern-busting, which he calls a “coexistence” space.

Kanazawa Artist Studio by Abb Rogers, as seen from the exterior of the current building

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Fish Market: Brutal Artist Studio by Abe Rogers

“For me, a studio is not just a space where I create something, a work of art, but a vast space where I am allowed to do all the steps that go into creating something,” Sawa says. “Where I can cook delicious food, eat, talk, think, walk around sometimes, take a shower, enjoy the wind on the balcony, throw myself into the online space, or lock myself in the toilet.”

Bright colors and brutal concrete at the Kanazawa Artists' Studio by Abb Rogers

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Sawa wanted to create a space that could frame everything and anything as a creative act. “I think the world would be more interesting if we could spend our entire lives weaving life as a work of art,” he says. And Ab Rogers Design, behind the temporary creative village of Wonderfruit, seemed the perfect choice to define the structure and dynamics of such a place.

Inside the Fish Market, Abb Rogers' brutalist artist's studio in Kanazawa

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Rogers created a 200 square meter studio/apartment/event space named Fishmarket. It feels intentionally unfixed and incomplete. Over two floors, the concrete walls and floors were deliberately left raw and in some areas even the insulation was left visible, stepping out of science fiction. “I’m really interested in how to build less and build with less,” says Rogers.

Colorful partitions at the Japanese brutalist artist's studio in Kanazawa

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

A key design element upstairs is a series of plywood pivot panels in neon allowing for the creation of what Rogers calls “fun rooms.” The lower level is dominated by an 8ft long dining table/workstation, tiled in a vibrant blue, with built in stove. The space also includes a bed, an optional bathroom and toilet with privacy. The effect is a kind of simple challenge that, Rogers says, “asks users to determine how the space works best for them.”

The bathroom and lime green wall in the studio of artist A.B. Rogers

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

The Fishmarket was largely set up during the Covid pandemic, with Rogers, who is now largely based out of Lisbon, leading the project remotely. “It really became about feeling the space in a second person and relying on the amazing local architects and craftsmen to interpret your drawings.”

Rogers hasn’t yet had a chance to make use of the space, but a select group of musicians and filmmakers, mostly friends of Sawa, do. The artist wants to create Fishmarket as a place where anyone can rethink and reimagine purpose and practices. “We’re really trying to create design that drives the way people think, work, and see,” says Rogers. “I think people are going to go discover themselves inside that space.”

Kanazawa artist's brutalist studio entrance

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Rogers calls it a “transformative space,” but it’s also designed to function as a rest stop outside the city. The Fishmarket is just a few minutes’ walk from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art designed by SANAA, and an express train from Tokyo makes Kanazawa a cultural day trip. Sawa hopes the fish market will help encourage visitors to stay a little longer and enjoy more of the city. He is currently planning a series of Zen Breakfasts in Space with curator DT Suzuki in Kanazawa. Suzuki, the Buddhist philosopher credited with introducing the United States to Zen thinking, was born in Kanazawa.

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