Japanese competition celebrates unique designs in wood.
The city of Asahikawa is located in the center of Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan. It is rich in nature and blessed with four distinct and splendid seasons. Its population is about 360,000. Moreover, Asahikawa is located at the foot of Mount Taisetsu National Park, the largest mountain park in Japan, where most of the mountains range about two thousand meters in height. Asahikawa has gradually developed as a trading center of high quality lumber, including lumber harvested in Hokkaido.
"In order to produce good furniture, superior designs are needed," explained Minoru Nagahara, chairman of the organizing committee of the International Furniture Design
Fair Asahikawa. Thus was created the International Furniture Design Competition Asahikawa.
"It is our hope that this competition will enhance the relationship between man and wood, promote the quality of design, and strengthen the link between different furniture-
producing districts throughout the world," commented Nagahara. "We also hope that wooden furniture . . . will build a great and valuable bridge between designers and users, between designers and makers."
The triennial competition was last held in 2002 and included 820 entries from 46 countries/regions. Thirty-four entries were selected from the 820 for main evaluation. In May, eight award-winning works were selected.
Following are descriptions of each of the eight winning entries, along with work statements provided by the designers. For more information about the competition, as well as judges' comments on each of the designs, visit www.asahikawa-kagu.or.jp/ifda.
* Pin Coat by Jens-Oliver Bahr
Pin Coat is a very simple construction. It is based on a foot that is made of aluminum casting in sand-form. The ledges are made of ash-wood. They have different lengths and you can stick them into the holes in the foot. In this way the wardrobe changes its appearance while using it. You can hang up many clothes in a very small area.
* Back to soil chair by Noriyuki Ebina
The seat of the chair is made of fine sliced veneer, which is
normally used as a cushioning material for transportation or to make nests for small animals. Wood chips are glued by natural hide glue. Wooden built-in pieces in back of the seat screw in and anchor the legs, which are also made of wood. This work is designed to acquire the maximum effect by using wood, which is a finite material, to the minimum. Moreover, since the material is 100 percent natural, the chair could return to the soil.
* If Chairs Could Fly
by Matthew Weatherly (United States)
This is an experiment to construct a chair using a limited amount of material. It was created in Copenhagen, Denmark, at Danmarkds Design Skole and is inspired by designs of Denmark, Sweden and Finland. If chairs could fly, it would look like this.
* Bench by Viggo Bach Nielsen
This bench can be placed singularly or placed as a formation of two or more benches creating, for instance, a semi-circular shape (it takes six benches to make a full circle). I call it a bench for two and a half people since two people who don't know each other can sit on it and still feel comfortable. The bending shape facilitates conversation.
* Flight Screen by Peter Schumacher
Tension and light—this screen is inspired by early aircraft with the elegant skeleton of the wing being shown off by the tension of the fabric stretched over it. The fine cotton transforms from opaque to translucent with back lighting; the cotton becomes a screen for the shadows of the frame. When folded, the panels nestle into themselves for a neat resolution to the design.
* Digital clock of lumber
by Kouji Iwasaki (Japan)
This work takes advantage of the characteristic of the veneer, which is sliced so thinly that it is almost transparent. Character looms in the quality of the material, which does not naturally loom. The chassis is made from laminated plywood. Circular buttons on the topside serve as operation switches, and the clock also has functions such as an alarm, stopwatch, etc. (A commercial clock kit is used inside.)
* The Torii bench
by Juha Hakala
The basic principle of the design is to obtain maximum utility with minimum materials and energy. Simplicity is the major idea. Up to three people can sit on the bench at the same time. It can be used as an individual piece of furniture, by the dining table and for many other purposes—a stand for stereos, TV, plants or whatever the user can think of.
* Shelving System SLP by Kai Funke and Wilm Fuchs (Germany)
The clear and very stable structure of the Shelving System SLP is based on the dense interconnection of continuous horizontal shelves, separate vertical boards and semicircular aluminum profiles. Put together without any tools, assembly takes only a very short time.