ITTKYU SAIGYO: Chair Design for Traditional Japanese SpaceTakako Murakami, Honorary Professor, School of Design, Nagoya University of Arts
Professor Murakami’s design studies include a period in Denmark, Royal Kunst Akademiet, Furniture Course (1969 – 70). Her research interest focus on chair design for Japanese culture of living, Japanese approach to sitting posture and their relationship to traditional architectural space.
T. Murakami, ‘Ittkyu’, designed for Murakami’s one-man show in the Autun Cathedral, France in 1999.
Takako Murakami’s chair (1999), named ‘Ittkyu’ after a famous Zen priest of the 15th century, with a structure consisting of two intersecting planes forming a seat and a back, is strikingly simple in form and its underlying geometry. The chair is made of plywood. Its finish in the shade of lacquer-red makes a subtle reference to a technique, which has become a classic Japanese cultural symbol.
The chair has a low gently curved oval seat, which interlocks with the back and a frame of supporting cross members. The seat is stretched along the axis of its width positioning the user at the centre of the spatial volume occupied by the chair. This gives the sitter a spatial reference point and a sense of enhanced awareness of location in relation of the object and the space around it - making the chair ‘visible from within’.
Proportions of the volume and the juxtapositioning of surface and edge with the detailing of cuts allowing crossing planes to extend beyond the line of intersection represent unmistakable Japanese character.
Murakami explains her approach and the design concept: ‘Traditional Japanese living style in tatami-mat room is always floor-cognisant, and the sitting posture is very different from European way of sitting. I studied from the posture of Zen priests during their meditation time. This posture is very comfortable for Japanese way of sitting. So, I designed this chair for spiritual concentration and at the same time for relaxation of the body’.
‘Ittkyu’ was originally designed for Murakami’s one-man show in the Autun Cathedral, France in 1999. The exhibition which was set up as an installation was intended as an experiment of situating the Japanese style chair into European classic architectural space: ‘For long time, I have had strong interest in the relationship between space and furniture, especially chairs. Furniture does have very important role in completing the architectural pace. And relation between space and chair are very interesting for me. I choose this Romanesque cathedral as a space for pray and spiritual concentration and I tried to design the chair as a form for pray, to concentrate the mind’. (Quotations from Murakami’s letter to Kermik, October 2010)
In 2006, Murakami continued to explore the concept of the low seat in the context of the traditional Japanese space by designing ‘Saigyo’ Chair (named after a Zen priest and poet who lived in the 13th century). The chair was executed in five different shapes for selected locations in a Japanese temple.
T. Murakami, ‘Saigyo’ Chair, 2006.