Shiro Kuramata

Japanese furniture and interior designer Shiro Kuramata was considered one of the most original designers of the last third of the twentieth century. He used industrial materials, such as steel mesh, acrylic, and glass to create surprising effects, often playing with transparency and dematerialization. Kuramata studied traditional woodcrafting techniques at Tokyo Municipal Polytechnic High School and studied interior design at the Kuwazawa Institute of Design until 1956. He worked at the Teikokukizai furniture factory in 1953, going on to work in the interior design departments of several Japanese department stores in the late 1950s-early 1960s. In 1965, he opened his own design studio in Tokyo. His early interior and furniture designs reflected traditional Japanese austerity, as well as Western sensibilities. By the 1970s, he was designing furniture in bold, irregular, sometimes surreal forms, and using materials in poetic or humorous contexts that challenged their meanings, as in the “Furniture in Irregular Forms” chest of drawers (1970), and his steel mesh “How High the Moon” armchair (1986). His interior design during this period was as experimental as his furniture, and included several store interiors for fashion designer Issey Myake. Examples of Kuramata’s furniture are in the collections of major museums including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

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