THIS SEAT IS TAKEN

Ap­ple wanted this chair. You will, too.

The Peak (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Ap­ple wanted this chair. You will, too.

If you re­mem­ber our trend story on this year’s Salone del Mo­bile in Mi­lan in the Au­gust is­sue, you’ll know that Ja­panese de­sign­ers are fi­nally mak­ing their pres­ence felt on the in­ter­na­tional stage. West­ern fur­ni­ture be­he­moths are be­gin­ning to part­ner Ja­panese de­sign­ers for calm, en­light­ened pieces that will be wel­come in the home of any­one with even a lick of aes­thetic dis­cern­ment. Ar­per landed Ichiro Iwasaki, Fritz Hansen chose stu­dio Nendo, and the list goes on. But if you don’t want to take our word for it, take Ap­ple’s.

Amid all the star pieces by Poltrona Frau, Arco and Eero Saari­nen that pop­u­late the newly built USD bil­lion Ap­ple Park, one Ja­panese de­sign has been qui­etly do­ing its job – be­ing both al­lur­ing and com­fort­able – with­out any fan­fare, and that is the Hiroshima chair by de­sign mae­stro Naoto Fuka­sawa.

The gen­tle cur­va­ture of the chair’s back, the grace­ful ta­per­ing of the sides of the arms, the roomi­ness of the seats and the satiny smooth fin­ish­ing of the wood show that while this chair was pro­duced in large quan­ti­ties by Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer Maruni, each still re­quires handfin­ish­ing. Thou­sands of th­ese were or­dered for the ter­race din­ing area and vis­i­tor cen­tre of Ap­ple Park, with the fin­ish­ing cus­tomised to match the rest of the fur­ni­ture in the main cafe.

Says Fuka­sawa of chief de­sign of­fi­cer Jonathan Ives’ choice: “I think Ap­ple’s phi­los­o­phy isn’t re­stricted to the prod­ucts it man­u­fac­tures, but also ex­tends to its fur­ni­ture, premises and way of work­ing. Though it’s a high-tech com­pany, it has in­her­ited from Steve Jobs a spirit of lov­ing na­ture. It’s well-ac­quainted with that spirit, even be­fore the

in­tro­duc­tion of the Hiroshima.”

The Hiroshima se­ries (which also in­cludes ta­bles) was re­leased in 2008 and named af­ter the city it was cre­ated in. “Since we wished to make an iconic chair, I gave it a well­known name. I also wanted it to be a sym­bolic name for peace,” he says.

And it’s not a stretch to make the claim to icon sta­tus. The Hiroshima chair al­ready had a fan base in Sin­ga­pore long be­fore Ap­ple de­buted them this year. You may have spot­ted them in din­ing es­tab­lish­ments like the for­mer Hashida Sushi, Les Amis’ Jinjo and Hachi at Na­tional Gallery. At SGD1,500 a piece for the ba­sic beech model with no cush­ion (and go­ing up to SGD3,500 for a leather-cush­ioned, high ver­sion), the own­ers clearly knew what they were pay­ing for.

“The wood’s nat­u­ral grain show­cases the chair’s his­tory, like fin­ger­prints. De­spite the de­sign, each piece is unique,” says An­drew Tan, founder of Atomi and ex­clu­sive dis­trib­u­tor of the chair in Sin­ga­pore. “It’s a good in­vest­ment. Once you sit on it, it grows on you.”

Com­bin­ing ro­bust­ness with time­less de­sign, the Hiroshima se­ries sought to high­light the beauty in ev­ery­day ob­jects and ma­te­ri­als, which is why there is no paint or var­nish on the wood.

“It was chal­leng­ing to en­able mass pro­duc­tion of this se­ries,” says Fuka­sawa. “Com­bin­ing ma­chine pro­cess­ing with the dif­fi­cul­ties of hand­crafted scrap­ing wasn’t easy; it was the in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of craft skills.”

But it seems he’s mas­tered it, since his 2015 Ka­muy wooden fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion for Conde House, while less stream­lined in shape, fol­lowed a sim­i­lar phi­los­o­phy.

His trade­mark min­i­mal ap­proach isn’t re­stricted to wood. Naoto Fuka­sawa De­sign has nu­mer­ous global clients, from Sam­sung to B&B Italia, but Fuka­sawa is best known for his work with Muji, the Ja­panese re­tail com­pany famed for pure, min­i­mal­ist de­signs. Some of his prod­ucts, in­clud­ing the Muji CD Player, Plus Mi­nus Zero hu­mid­i­fier and Neon mo­bile phones, have been im­mor­talised in the New York Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, for his abil­ity to an­tic­i­pate beauty that peo­ple are oth­er­wise unaware of, and ap­pre­ci­ate the “su­per nor­mal”.

He says: “My phi­los­o­phy is to em­body things ac­cord­ing to this form that peo­ple are un­con­scious of, and to pro­duce a thor­oughly beau­ti­ful prod­uct.”

01 BARE BONES To high­light the beauty of wood, the chair comes un­painted and un­var­nished. 02 CON­NECTED TO NA­TURE The chairs pop­u­late the ter­race din­ing area and vis­i­tor cen­tre at Ap­ple head­quar­ters in Cu­per­tino. 03 PULL UP A SEAT Guests at Hachi at Na­tional Gallery will en­counter the Hiroshima at the counter. 04 SHAPED FOR COM­FORT The back and arm­rests mould to the lines of the body to pro­vide sup­port.

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