Kengo Kuma’s furniture that blend into the surroundings
This summer, Japanese furniture maker Time & Style showcased a selection of furniture designed by architect Kengo Kuma. Like a compilation of rare B-sides, the exhibition, titled “Furniture that blends into the surroundings,” represents years of creative output and celebrates a facet of Kuma’s practice that has thrived quietly in the shadow of his acclaimed architectural portfolio.
As the exhibition title suggests, Kuma’s chairs, sofas, and tables — many of which were conceived for specific architectural projects — were intended to “blend” into the buildings and interiors that surround them. As a result, these objects bear the DNA of the tectonic environments from which they originate. The lightweight, stackable GC Chair, for instance, reverberates with the clean, modular proportions of Kuma’s GC Prostho Museum Research Center. Both works of design take inspiration from the interlocking wood puzzle pieces of the Japanese game chidori, embodying a structural simplicity and lightness that is achieved through the skillful manipulation of wooden joints.
Kuma’s KA sofa, on the other hand, took shape as the architect was designing the large open interiors of the Wuxi Vanke Art Gallery in Wuxi, China. Viewed from certain angles, the sofa’s tri-part configuration, rendered with triangular volumes upholstered with taught fabric and supported by a thin pane of stainless steel, introduces dynamic, oblique lines into its surroundings. That its flat sitting surface is supported only by angled elements marks an innovation for sofa design, explained Time & Style founder and managing director Ryutaro Yoshida to Architectural Digest PRO. A frontal view of the sofa, however, reins in its unique asymmetries, holding them but for a moment in a restful silhouette of two horizontal volumes. Likewise, the accompanying, trapezoidal DI table fluctuates in shape and complexity, its angled, wood surfaces flitting from two- dimensional flatness to three-dimensional spatiality depending on the position of the user.
The exhibition, which took place in a gallery in Amsterdam from June to mid-August, marked ten years of collaboration between Kuma and Time & Style. While the pieces in the collection reflect the diversity of Kuma’s oeuvre, they also express a strong aesthetic cohesiveness, held together by the designer’s ability to charge simple gestures with extraordinary meaning. One illustrative example is the MA sofa: the gentle curl of the futon not only enhances the functionality of the familiar household item but also draws out the warmth and comfort that is so innate to the object that it is almost always appreciated unconsciously. As with the hidden joints of a skillfully crafted wooden chair, Kuma’s furniture does not ask to be admired and contemplated, speaking instead by almost completely harmonizing with the surroundings.