Of course we didn’t learn to build such constructions instantly. They are like a trophy of a very long and hard journey of hundreds of thousands, millions even, architects and engineers. What is more exciting – this is just an another step in our advancement. One might notice that along this journey we forgot how to admire the artistic side of architecture. We look high in the sky to marvel the height of tallest of human constructions but we neglect the elegance behind it. This elegance have longer and deeper tradition than architecture itself. Maybe that is why it is so curious, why we so often forget about it.
The perfect balance between engineering and aesthetics, between style and craftsmanship, that is what makes architecture, nay, what makes art what it is – a genuine expression of beautiful side of human nature. Now I shall make a brave statement, a thesis if you may, that there is no better part of culture that balanced dependency between mentioned domains than Japanese art of joinery. Its perfection of using simple tools (don’t mistake it for primitive!) and its respect for tradition – that is what it makes so special. But there is more to it. I would bet all my savings that the first thing that would come to one’s mind, when asked to imagine carpenter’s tools, would be a hammer and a nail. Now that is primitive! Keep reading, I’ll tell you why.
The genius behind Japanese carpentry hides in the simple fact that all the wooden things, tables, beds, chairs, stairs – lets go even further – homes, temples and buildings were made without any nails. This special and surely uncommon practice was possible because of the puzzle-like techniques to assembly wooden pieces. Of course all the pieces should be prepared with an expert precision to ensure that the structure could be fitted perfectly. That’s where the extraordinary craftsmanship reveals itself – all the fragments are made from wood so precisely that they connect with each other without leaving any protruding elements, without any cracks or irregularities; they create a new, excellently fitted element. Next these assembled parts are used to build even more composite structure, a temple for instance.
This craving for smoothness and notion of ideal unity drives us directly into Japanese minimalism. As we learned already nail-less joinery endeavors to create things which fulfill both aesthetics and pragmatics with simplicity kept in mind. Minimalism for that matter has similar requirements, as it focuses on reducing the subject to its necessary elements – it doesn’t matter if we talk about architecture, art or design. This trend tends to oscillate around the generally understood simplicity and clarity. All values and attributes are limited to minimum and this way only the most needed survive. Splendor is no more. Opulence is no more.
These values accompanied us whilst creating Yamato, a modern styled floor lamp and humble tribute to mentioned part of oriental culture. We deliberately based its construction on equilateral triangle: firstly, we placed this figure thrice each time rotating it by 60 degrees. Secondly, we brought this rotation to life by rearranging it in height and by expressing it in natural materials: pure metals and natural wood. Such construction is extraordinary because it enabled us to create a lamp without using any screws, welds or glue. As in Japanese art of joinery, Yamato is held together only by its existence – puzzle-like manufacturing methods, friction and gravity work together to guarantee the construction won’t fall apart. We use only natural wood: oak and walnut finished with traditional methods like oil and wax. Furthermore, we use only pure metal materials like copper, brass, stainless steel – we also patinate them manually according to traditional recipes. All of this brought together and we ended with beautiful floor lamp, Yamato.
Its design will fit perfectly to any interior created in minimalistic and contemporary fashion. So do you have a mid-century modern living room? Or maybe you own a downtown loft apartment? Either way Yamato will fulfill your desires.
There is also one manifestation of Japanese art which would be a shame not to mention. We all know it but we don’t talk about it. It is so known, so omnipresent that we paradoxically forgot about it. Of course I’m talking about Japanese art of paper folding, origami. There is something magical and rigorous about it. The rules are simple: you can fold the paper anywhere and as many times you like, but you can’t cut it or use another piece of paper. All right, to be fair, these practices are allowed since the “origami revolution” in Edo period of Japanese history (years between 1603 and 1868) but they are not welcome. Here we confront the effort of not using any drastic methods of connecting parts – we can’t use anything that could destroy source material as if it would destroy its soul.
With this respect we created Origamo, a metal giraffe figurine which can be used as a minimalistic apartment decoration. The principles are the same as in origami, but instead of paper we used a very thick sheet of pure metal – brass or copper – as a base source to create this little sculpture. In addition, the metal can be finished with hand-applied patinas based on traditional recipes. In this way, we get an unusual, marble-like „Aged Copper” finish or unique, structural „Turquoise Patina” finish. The effect is outstanding – a minimalist figurine, crated with just a couple of folds.
Of course when you try to learn how to fold origami figurines your reason focuses on the first steps, but your ambition, your heart is dreaming about the most complicated structures. That’s all right, it is natural. But we like to think in more minimalistic perspective, though we don’t abandon ambition . Goal of minimalist design is to make something rich in aesthetic values with using only the little, only the most needed. This view about interior or product design is often connected with modern and contemporary design. So, with our eyes set on values of minimalism, we brought to life Origamo. A majestic giraffe that can watch your house when you are away.
We came a long way – our predecessors used to live in any cave they could find. Now, their successors can rise constructions that can touch the sky and structures that can stop the rivers flow. We’ve become a masters in our own home. We’ve become conquerors of matter, lords of the impossible. But it is utterly important that we stay humble and remember the beauty and elegance behind it. Maybe in that way we will gain respect and place among gods.
The first thing that comes to mind, is that design is related to creativity. People design things. People create things. But as we can create thoughts, we cannot design them. Why? Because creation is much wider than the latter. It can be instinctive, momentary and… useless. Design have a purpose, that’s the second thing. The meaning of “purpose” is a slippery term, of course. In some interpretations we can say that everything has it, thus everything is designed. But that’s a wrong way to look at things, because we evade the intentionality. We end with such conclusion: to design is to intentionally create something with a purpose.
So if I made a sign “Keep of the grass!”, does it mean I designed it? I’ve made it intentionally, I’ve created it and I’ve made it for a certain purpose, for sure: to keep people away from my grass. But somehow we don’t feel comfortable using the word “design” in this example. One might think it would be an exaggeration and that gives us a clue that we forgot about something. This guides us to one of the least palpable term in human culture: aesthetics. We wouldn’t say without suspicion that I designed this sign because during it’s creation, I didn’t care how it looked like. Even if I thought “I’ll use yellow letters on a green background because I like these colors”, that doesn’t mean that easthetics were as important as a function, which I like this sign to perform. That’s where the shoe pinches! To design means to intentionally create something with a purpose and this purpose cannot outperform the aesthetics. And vice versa!
This delicate balance is not only the cornerstone of design – it’s a definition of a perfect design! Lets take a look at Celo, an extraordinary drink cabinet by Zapalgo. Brute, solid, hexagonal block on four machine trapezoid spindles – everything made of raw, pure materials – solid wood, thick copper plates and iron. You can see that this out-of-this-planet design performs perfectly it’s function. Those heavy doors made of solid oak in this example are beautifully shrouded by raw copper sheets. Aesthetic. They however hide a great place to keep your glasses: whiskey glasses, scotch glasses or wine glasses, you name it! Purpose.
We used all our strength to maximize the usage of hexagonal shape and, as you can see, we raised to the challenge. Most of its space is used to keep bottles and glasses, on the wooden bottom or on the glass shelf. And to make sure that the shape is used to it’s full potential, you can hide your wine bottles in the lower section of hexagon – this solution is remarkable because you can recognize the bottle just by looking at the top of it. And at last – but not least – pay attention to the legs. Their screw-like shape not only looks industrial but also it’s useful in shipping – legs can be unscrewed to decrease the shipping costs. Aesthetics and purpose.
As you can see our drink cabinet is a perfect example of true and balanced design. It not only presents itself like something out of this world, something extraordinary, but also as a fruit of wonderful dependence between aesthetics and serviceableness. And as far as design is concerned we couldn’t crave more.
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