Shiro Kuramata

"He knew that you can chase novelty,
but that originality is something you have to find inside yourself,
within the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. "

- John Pawson on Shiro Kuramata

Shiro Kuramata Unique cabinet
, ca. 1983
from the office of Tetsu Konagaya, President of Livina Yamagiwa, Tokyo

taken from Phillips de Pury DESIGN June 15th Auction, here.

"My first encounter with Shiro Kuramata was on the pages of Domus. It was 1968 and I was nineteen. For the first time in my life I found myself looking at work which I could recognise, which set something resonating inside me. Some years later, when I was living in Japan, I opened a copy of one of Kuramata’s books in a Tokyo bookshop and experienced that powerful sense of rightness again. With the audacity of youth, I decided to call the master at his studio and introduce myself. Perhaps he was polite, perhaps he thought he must know me, perhaps it was because I was foreign – which at that time still made one a little special - whatever the case, he suggested we meet for coffee. And so a period of architectural stalking began. I was never a formal apprentice. I simply spent as much time as possible in his studio – a cramped studio opening off a modest courtyard in an obscure part of Tokyo - watching Kuramata work, browsing through his books, breathing the same air. I remember reading an interview with one of his staff. Asked about the circumstances in which he had been taken on, the architect explained that he had been visiting an exhibition, when he “ran into Mr Kuramata in the elevator and became engrossed in conversation”. That was how it was.

He taught me the value of discipline and poetry. He was full of both himself. His capacity for hard work seemed boundless; his determination to get things right absolute. For him design was something which happened inside the head. Sketching was a way to record the outcome of a process which had already essentially taken place. “Once a pen sketch is made”, he explained to his staff, “it sits real deep inside oneself and dismantling it later can be difficult”. Another favorite phrase was, “It can be changed until the first nail”.

He was, unusually, an architect who was more interested in space than form. This was as true of his furniture and objects as it was of his interiors. He found ways of making fixed forms seem fluid, of making substance appear substanceless. Light, which itself has no form but can create the illusion of form, was the perfect medium for Kuramata. He also worked extensively with transparent materials, with glass and with perspex. Where I like to work with stone and wood, his preference was for synthetic materials whose perfect surfaces gave the impression of something which had spontaneously materialised in space. It allowed his work to retain the cerebral, abstract quality of thought and appear hyper-real at one and the same time.

More than anyone else before or since, Kuramata could take the familiar and wrap it in strangeness, making it lyrical and sensuously beautiful. He understood that novelty and originality are different. He knew that you can chase novelty, but that originality is something you have to find inside yourself, within the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. One of his great gifts was is in taking the everyday and transfiguring it into something which was new to our eyes but familiar to our souls." - John Pawson on Shiro Kuramata

taken from here.