Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Japan House

The other day I paid a visit to the wonderful Japan House which has recently opened on Kensington High Street. It's the new cultural home of Japan in London and includes a gallery, theatre, restaurant and retail floor thoughtfully curated with Japanese products. Even from the outside it has a Japanese aesthetic - low key and undemonstrative.

The ground floor houses the retail section and I immediately homed in on the brightly-coloured printed paper items. I love the origami paper and mini envelopes, as well as the paper-covered bins above and the brightly coloured, embossed tea canisters below.

I always love the blue and white colour palette used in Japanese design and there were these lovely little cups for sale (used for sake or soba), as well as the patterned tenegui fabrics below, of which I became a bit of an addict when I lived in Tokyo!

The simplicity of Japanese design was even applied to the way that items were displayed. Everyday home items were showcased as museum pieces, such as these woven soba utensils below.

A beautifully simple tray and bowl are displayed so dramatically and lit from above using stark white light. This silver lunch box sits next to its blue and white furoshiki fabric wrapping.

There is also a large area to relax on sofas and armchairs. Drink a calming cup of green tea bought from the counter at the front, and take in your calm surroundings.

The work of Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto is also on show. On the ground floor he has created an exhibition that uses everyday items. By placing small-scale human figures next to these items, they suddenly change context and become architectural spaces. He believes that the inspiration for architecture can come from anywhere, whether it's a kitchen sponge ('People live in nooks and crannies') or a pile of staples ('A house like bookshelves? Or bookshelves like a house?'). A plastic fruit bag ('A transparent cave') or a circuit board ('Complex, or simple?'). Can you spot the mini white human figures on each piece?

Downstairs in the gallery space, Fujimoto has an exhibition of his ongoing projects and works he is known for but also current experiments for the future.

Many of his forms are very organic and you feel that his thought process is ongoing as he builds his pieces in paper and card. Many of his pieces consider the social interaction of humans and show constructions on many different levels where architecture and nature blend together.

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