Design Anthology - - Contents - Text Karine Monié

Ka­rimoku Case Study is a col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­ject be­tween Ja­pan's largest wooden fur­ni­ture pro­ducer and top ar­chi­tects from around the world

Ja­pan and Den­mark have much in com­mon when it comes to de­sign, and new con­tem­po­rary life­style brand Ka­rimoku Case Study is a fine ex­am­ple. The brand launched at the 2019 edi­tion of the 3daysofde­sign fes­ti­val in Copen­hagen, with an ex­hi­bi­tion that saw the Kin­folk Gallery con­verted into a con­tem­po­rary apart­ment. The in­au­gu­ral col­lec­tion is the re­sult of a three-way col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Ka­rimoku — Ja­pan's largest wooden fur­ni­ture man­u­fac­turer, founded in 1940 — Dan­ish prac­tice Norm Ar­chi­tects and Tokyo-based stu­dio Keiji Ashizawa De­sign.

‘One of our con­cepts is a deep love and re­spect for wood,' says Hiroshi Kato, vice pres­i­dent of Ka­rimoku. ‘That means our fur­ni­ture should be long-last­ing and leave time, around fifty to a hun­dred years, for the trees to grow and ma­ture.' Echo­ing the con­cept behind the Case Study Houses — the ex­per­i­men­tal pro­gramme that ran from 1945 to 1966 in the US, in which ma­jor ar­chi­tects such as Richard Neu­tra and Charles and Ray Eames were com­mis­sioned to de­sign af­ford­able homes — Ka­rimoku Case Study will in­vite ar­chi­tects on a yearly or pro­ject ba­sis to spend time at the Ka­rimoku factory in Aichi, Ja­pan, to work on­site and exchange ideas be­fore de­sign­ing and pro­duc­ing new pieces.

The Kin­uta col­lec­tion (Case Study 01) com­prises 12 fur­ni­ture pieces in­spired by the tem­ples, shrines and gar­dens of Ja­pan, and its orig­i­nal ex­hi­bi­tion set­ting was within two apart­ments in the Kin­uta neigh­bour­hood of Tokyo's Se­ta­gaya ward. A col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Norm Ar­chi­tects and Keiji Ashizawa De­sign, both the col­lec­tion and spa­ces re­flect a high level of ar­ti­sanry, a serene feel and a time­less aes­thetic achieved through the use of or­ganic shapes, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and earthy tones. ‘We want to bring back en­vi­ron­ments that are more bal­anced and hu­man-cen­tred,' says Fred­erik Alexan­der Werner, de­signer and as­so­ciate part­ner at Norm Ar­chi­tects. ‘We work with ma­te­ri­als as if they were nat­u­ral bod­ily ex­ten­sions.'

The har­mo­nious fur­ni­ture pieces were created with the aim of en­hanc­ing qual­ity of life while also em­bel­lish­ing the user's life­style over the years. For ar­chi­tect Keiji Ashizawa, ‘con­sid­er­a­tion of space is a start­ing point for fur­ni­ture de­sign. Space rules fur­ni­ture de­sign and fur­ni­ture de­sign rules how com­fort­able a space is — this in­ter­ac­tion re­ally in­spires us.'

In both Den­mark and Ja­pan, the con­nec­tion to na­ture is not only sig­nif­i­cant in peo­ple's daily lives but is also present in the two coun­tries' de­sign tra­di­tions — a fact high­lighted by the in­tu­itive na­ture of this col­lab­o­ra­tion. Re­flect­ing a hu­man-cen­tric and holis­tic ap­proach where ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign meet, Ka­rimoku Case Study presents the op­por­tu­nity to re­think how spa­ces and fur­ni­ture in­ter­act, and how they en­rich one other. In what is a matter of re­fin­ing rather than rein­vent­ing, the use of high-qual­ity and hon­est ma­te­ri­als places the fo­cus on well-be­ing, invit­ing the user to ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign through the senses.

‘With Ka­rimoku Case Study and our col­lab­o­ra­tive work with ar­chi­tects, we want to con­trib­ute to mak­ing a per­fect space that ben­e­fits both peo­ple and na­ture,' Kato con­cludes.

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