For the ones among us that are interested in architecture, Kengo Kuma is for sure a well known character. The Japanese architect is known for it’s close relationship to natural materials and his criticism against some approaches in contemporary architecture. In fact his text Anti-Object: The Dissolution and Disintegration of Architecture written in 2008 calls for an architecture of relations, respecting its surroundings instead of dominating them. Let’s discover what that means for the latest collaboration between Kuma and Caran d’Ache.
Who is Kengo Kuma
First and foremost, let’s better understand Kengo Kuma´s philosophy and working methods, since this gives great insights in how he shaped the Varius of Caran d’Ache. Born in Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1954, Kengo Kuma is recognized as one of the most important and significant contemporary Japanese architects. After graduating from Tokyo University in 1979, he spent a couple of years, from 1985 to 1986 at Columbia University as a visiting researcher. He then founded his atelier “Spatial Design studio” (now “Kengo Kuma & Associates”) in Tokyo in 1987, followed in 2008 by the Paris studio.
His poetics declines the materials according to their emotional capacity, connected to the intrinsic constructive characteristics and teachings of the Japanese tradition. Yes, Kuma is ”listening to materials”!
For Kuma it’s essential to study the site, in order to integrate the work into its context, so that it does not upset the balance, but is also a natural derivation. Examples include the Great (Bamboo)
Wall House close to Peking or the Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum in Tarougawa. Both incredible examples of integration rather than ”objectification”, as he would call it. Fundamental in his constructions is the use of light, with which he tries to achieve a sense of “spatial immateriality” through the use of natural materials or glass.
Talking about natural materials and glass, one of the
buildings that best represents his architectural vision is the Water/Glass House, in Atami, Japan, built in 1995. A guest house built opposite the ocean, strongly influenced by the “Hyuga” Villa, the only project still existing in Japan by the German urban planner Bruno Taut (1880-1938) and built during his stay in the eastern country during the Thirties. In fact, as well Bruno Taut is worth another article since he was one of the fathers of modern architecture. But this is a story for another day.
Fact is, that if you analyze Kengo Kuma´s personal and professional development, you immediately recognize his touch and philosophy in Caran d’Ache´s writing instrument. Combining steel and
wood, his favourite materials, Kuma and Caran d’Ache have been able to create an object of incredible harmony. In these aerial structures that defy gravity reads the philosophy of an artist favouring an architecture based on respect for culture and the environment. Sculpted with extreme delicacy by the craftsmen of Caran d’Ache in the prestigious and sacred wood of Hinoki Cypress, the body of the instrument is engraved at different d
epths creating a delicate superimposition for a perfect grip and refined touch. Its design is completely new to Caran d’Ache, inspired by the“chidori”, a traditional Japanese toy based on the ingenious interlocking of pieces of wood, a recurring motif in Kengo Kuma’s light ridden creations.
The Suspended Forest in Montricher
Talking of which, there is another famous building that comes to my mind, when we talk about Kengo Kuma. In Switzerland this time, guess what. The Suspended Forest in Montricher. The site is located at the foot of the Jura Mountains, close to the deep forest. A family house which would be part of the Jan Michalski Foundation. Its mission is to foster literary creation and the practice of reading. The house is suspended from an existing concrete canopy already part of the foundation.
So reading and writing, here we are again. Two fundamentals for every human being and perfectly
summarized in a writing instrument that, from my point of view is a piece of modern art with really only few comparable pieces.
The daring contrast in texture and colour between the blond of the polished wood and the brilliance of the silver-rhodium-plated attributes, as well as the artist’s stamped signature, complete this exceptional new edition. The Varius Kengo Kuma is enclosed in a spectacular wooden veneer case inspired by the colour of the pen’s body
The interesting thing is, that Caran d’Ache has decided to create an entire capsule collection of the Varius, that includes a Fountain Pen (€ 1’150), a Rollerball (€ 980) and a Ballpoint (€ 920), in order to give to all
type of customer the opportunity to own and use a Kengo Kuma Limited Edition. The Production has been limited to 1000 pieces of each type and has a generic numbering on the Metal Plate mentioning “1 in 1000”.