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Review: eat • work • shop: new Japanese design

Updated on July 17, 2016
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With eat • work • shop: new Japanese design, Japanese-German author Marcia Iwatate has compiled a visually striking catalog of scores of modern Japanese interiors for dining, work and relaxation. The book’s cover photograph rendered in tones of white and silvered blue wraps to the back in a second image of rich cobalt, black and yellow, serving as a premonition of the crisply elegant yet enticing contents to be found within.

The collected projects are curated as if at a museum. Large and lush images are typically devoid of any human presence, presenting planes of glass, metal, stone, wood (and, rarely, fabric) in faceted geometric complexity, almost always bathed in lighting of unusual or unexpected origin, direction or color. Those images are presented one or two per page, within a strictly ordered layout, ribboned by borders and voids of bright white, and punctuated by blocks of descriptive text. Every gatefold has been designed to please the eye with a refined sense of correctness and balance. Chapters are introduced by paired silvered pages containing biographical backgrounds and early career histories of the individual designers. The book exudes cool almost to the point of coldness and distance; one feels that every space encountered is, in fact, reserved.

Author Iwatate — currently Creative Director for Hizuki, and formerly art director for numerous projects — has chosen the works of seven rising interior designers of Japan: Yukio Hashimoto, Tsutomu Kurokawa, Akihito Fumita, Hisanobu Tsujimura, Yoshihiko Mamiya, Ichiro Sato, and Takao Katsuta. All of the designers have emerged to eminence since the early- to mid-1980s, and the design and completion of their presented projects all took place between 1993 and 2004. They therefore represent barely a single decade of maturation, centered about the cusp of the millennium. (An informative Chronology at book’s end lists a more complete oeuvre for each principal designer, and thus affords an understanding of the evolution of their style and project types over time.)

Each of the designers profiled is represented by four or five projects, with the full spectrum including restaurants, bars, clubs, salons, spas, boutiques, and even an automobile showroom. Project presentations are virtually all limited to only four or six pages, which are often adequate to convey the spaces involved, as they are often limited and compact. Definitive text — assisted by the helpful line drawings of floor plans — convey one’s sense of space and progression through the interiors.

The book’s introduction posits the design tendencies that link the seven profiled designers: an entrepreneurial spirit engaging the young, hip, cool culture of modern Japan; respect for fine craftsmanship, consummate detailing, and varied materials and finishes from both traditional and technological realms; a nod toward flexibility and changeability over time; and preservation of traditional awareness of processional sequencing through interior space.

All in all, this volume offers a sensuously refined and intellectually intriguing window into the minds and agendas of some of Japan’s most promising and productive designers of life’s spaces.

eat • work • shop: new Japanese design is a hardcover book in slightly vertical (portrait) format, 9.25” x 10.5” x 0.75”, and consists of 208 full-color glossy pages. All of its many photographs are full color, and crisp black-and-white line drawings of each project’s floor plans are also provided.

The book is published by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., of Clarendon, VT and Singapore, and is available in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Japan from Tuttle Publishing and its affiliates.

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