Emerged from shared design values, the collaboration between Tokyo-native design studio, Keiji Ashizawa and Copenhagen-based Norm Architects takes its root in mutual admiration and a love for material richness and timeless appeal evident in both design traditions. In the spring of 2018, Ashizawa onboarded Norm Architects to collaborate on the renovation of two apartments in the Kinuta Terrace apartments complex comprising a total of 36 units. Kinuta Terrace was originally built back in the 1980s and features an integrated courtyard that gives residents the advantages of a single-family home. The two design studios partnered with Japan’s leading manufacturer of wooden furniture, Karimoku, on carrying out the renovation, during which the idea of a furniture series arose. Hence, the Kinuta Collection is a series of 12 tailormade furniture pieces that make up the inaugural collection of Karimoku Case Study. All furniture pieces and bespoke elements within the apartments draw heavily on the natural references of the connected courtyard in an attempt to invite in nature as much as possible – in their design language as well as through their material composition.
Working with transparency, light and shadow, the collaborating studios have strived to use the existing architecture to frame both the outside and the inside living spaces in an attempt to open up and guide its inhabitants from one space to the next – an environment where all elements are as closely connected as possible. Nature feels integrated into the apartment from most rooms, looking out into the courtyard, and you can’t quite tell you’re in a city as immense as Tokyo. This makes the apartments very unique and sanctuary-like, offering its residents a very peaceful and harmonious home setting.
Combining a balanced industrial and natural look and feel, each space has been designed to let air and light pass through, creating a natural flow throughout the apartment. Working with double height spaces and large windows, the surroundings are invited inside and vice versa. Repetitive patterns are used to create a soothing sensation, with staircases, rails and wall panels mimicking the pathways of the courtyard, and this architectural approach has been translated into the furniture pieces.
There is an ever so valid need for natural and haptic interiors that can connect modern urban dwellers with a sense of nature in big cities, and through the unique skills and production capabilities of Karimoku, the collaborating studios were able to use the best possible natural materials for the bespoke furnituring, ultimately creating design that last, maintaining the highest possible standards throughout. The majority of the designs feature thoughtful details inspired by structures seen in Japanese temples and gardens; for example the rhythm of the roof lines in temples that the studios paid visits to are evident in the long coffee table.
Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa first met a couple of years back during a workshop visit to Japan, and quickly discovered a great many shared views on design, architecture and art, which sparked a mutual interest in working together. Since, they’ve been drawing on each other’s skills and expertise, collaborating on architectural cases and design projects.