When fabrics go boingboing
May 2, 2016
Jo Nagasaka, founder of Schemata Architects in Tokyo, in front of his installation “boingboing” in the Kinnasand showroom in Milan.
Photo © Patricia Parinejad, Stylepark

Jo Nagasaka is always good for a surprise or two. In 1998, the architect founded his studio Schemata Architects in Tokyo. In his projects he is forever on the lookout for contemporary solutions for well-known objects – and to this end tends to rely on both pioneering and innovative technologies. His projects range from XXL installations to interactive interiors to smaller products and items of furniture. During the Salone the Japanese designer created an installation called “boingboing” for Kinnasand’s Milanese showroom. The four vault-like architectural edifices of different sizes are made up of only two materials: a fabric called “Waver” from the company’s current “Zoom” collection, and a whole array of light guides that give each of the four entities shape and structure.
Uta Abendroth spoke to the man who loves first and foremost to work on a scale of 1:1, irrespective of the project.

Uta Abendroth: Jo Nagasaka, the title of your installation is “boingboing”. Sounds like a lot of fun. Does fun play a major role in your projects?

Jo Nagasaka: I like fun, but I am not sure whether it is such an important criterion in my work at the moment.

You used the transparent and airy “Waver” material from Kinnasand’s “Zoom” collection for the four freestanding structures. What is it you like about this textile?

Jo Nagasaka: My first impression was that I am dealing with something I am not at all familiar with, instead of simply liking it. I was simply not used to working with such a soft and light material. It is very pleasant to the touch. I think this material is wonderful to use for curtains in a home.

How did the idea take shape to design a temporary architectural structure with it?

Jo Nagasaka: Initially we had no idea what to make with such a soft material. But then we decided, since we are architects, to have the material standing up, as it were, in a way that would emphasize its characteristic translucence. We decided to develop a freestanding structure instead of hanging the material on existing columns. The result of this development and design process is the four different-sized structures of real physical presence, whereby glass fibers carry the vertical loads, because they are interconnected and therefore mutually supporting.

The material structuring the lightweight “Waver” consists of light guides. Not your classic choice for structural stability. Do you like putting things to different uses?

Jo Nagasaka: I like discovering the new possibilities a material affords. But in this case I didn’t plan to make something spectacular. I opted for light guides because the material is transparent and easy to procure in the required length.

What does craftsmanship mean to you? Does it constitute the basis of design and architecture in your eyes?

Jo Nagasaka: Good craftsmanship is essential if you want to produce good things. It is indeed our approach in the office to develop ideas while making things by hand there.

Six years ago you combined wood and synthetic resin in the “Flat Tables” for Established & Sons. Do surfaces play a special role in your work?

Jo Nagasaka: The concept behind the “Flat Tables” consisted in combining two different materials and thereby creating a new quality. Surfaces weren’t really at the forefront.

How do your objects influence the space around them?

Jo Nagasaka: In the case of “boingboing” the structures create soft and springy subdivisions of the space.

Some of your works, for instance the Vitra trade fair stand you built last year for the Salone out of euro-pallets and storage racks, give the impression that they have been improvised. What is it you like about the “unfinished”?

Jo Nagasaka: I think that when designing the Vitra booth we successfully developed a system with which we could freely improvise and combine elements. Normally display methods are predefined in the typical exhibition situations. At the Vitra stand however each designer was able to freely determine his/her presentation style. I think that is very important. The concept involved suggesting “movement” by means of a spatial composition. The pallets lent the stand an active as well as a playful touch.

Are there any typically Japanese elements in your projects, or do you rather see yourself as a global player?

Jo Nagasaka: I’m not sure. But since lots of people seem to enjoy my work and understand it without detailed explanations on my part, I would say that my work probably falls into the global category.

Jo Nagasaka conceived four freestanding structures using Kinnasand’s “Waver” fabric by and thin light guides as a stabilizing element.
Photo © Patricia Parinejad, Stylepark
The structures, made of the lightweight, translucent material, look like delicate textile sculptures in the space. Photo © Patricia Parinejad, Stylepark
Combined with the material, transparent light guides form a stable, self-supporting mesh structure. Photo © Patricia Parinejad, Stylepark
View from the inner courtyard into the Kinnasand showroom with Jo Nagasaka’s installation. Photo © Patricia Parinejad, Stylepark