Apple wanted this chair. You will, too.
If you remember our trend story on this year’s Salone del Mobilein Milan in the July issue, you’ll know that Japanese designers areﬁ nally making their presence felton the international stage. Westernfurniture behemoths are beginning to partner Japanese designers for calm, enlightened pieces that will bewelcome in the home of anyone with even a lick of aesthetic discernment. Arper landed Ichiro Iwasaki, Fritz Hansen chose studio Nendo, and thelist goes on. But if you don’t want to take our word for it, take Apple’s.
Amid all the star pieces byPoltrona Frau, Arco and EeroSaarinen that populate the new lybuilt US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion)Apple Park, one Japanese design has been quietly doing its job – being both alluring and comfortable –without any fanfare, and that is the Hiroshima chair by designmaestro Naoto Fukasawa.
The gentle curvature of thechair’s back, the graceful tapering of the sides of the arms, the room inessof the seats and the satiny smooth ﬁnishing of the wood show that while this chair was produced in largequantities by Japanese manufacturerMaruni, each still requires hand ﬁnishing. Thousands of these were ordered for the terrace dining areaand visitor centre of Apple Park,with the ﬁnishing customised to match the rest of the furniture in the main cafe.
Says Fukasawa of chief design officer Jonathan Ives’ choice: “I thinkApple’s philosophy isn’t restricted to the products it manufactures,but also extends to its furniture,premises and way of working. Though it’s a high-tech company, it hasinherited from Steve Jobs a spirit ofloving nature. It’s well-acquainted with that spirit, even before theintroduction of the Hiroshima.”
The Hiroshima series (which also includes tables) was released in 2008 and named after the city it was created in. “Since we wished to make an iconic chair, I gave it a wellknownname. I also want edit to be a symbolic name for peace,”he says.
And it’s not a stretch to make the claim to icon status. The Hiroshima chair already had a fan base here in Singapore long before Apple debuted them this year. You may have spotted them in dining establishmentslike the former Hashida Sushi, Les Amis’Jinjo and Hachi at National Gallery. At $1,500 a piece for the basic beechmodel with no cushion (and going up to $3,500 for a leather-cushioned,high version), the owners clearly knew what they were paying for.
“The wood’s natural grain show cases the chair’s history, like ﬁngerprints. Despite the design,each piece is unique,”says Andrew Tan, founder of Atomi and exclusive distributor of the chair in Singapore. “It’s a good investment. Once you sit on it, it grows on you.”
Combining robustness with timeless design, the Hiroshima series sought to highlight the beauty ineveryday objects and materials, which is why there is no paint or varnish on the wood.
“It was challenging to enable mass production of this series,” says Fukasawa. “Combiningmachine processing with the difficulties of handcrafted scraping wasn’t easy; it was theindustrialisation of craft skills.”But it seems he’s master edit, since his 2015 Kamuy wooden furniture collection for Conde House,while less streamlined in shape,followed a similar philosophy.
His trademark minimal approa chisn’t restricted to wood. NaotoFukasawa Design has numerousglobal clients, from Samsung to B&B Italia, but Fukasawa is best known for his work with Muji, the Japanese retail company famed for pure, minimalist designs. Some of his products, including the Muji CD Player, Plus Minus Zero humidiﬁ erand Neon mobile phones, have been immortalised in the New York Museum of Modern Art, for his ability to anticipate beauty that people areotherwise unaware of, and appreciatethe “super normal”.
He says: “My philosophy is toembody things according to this form that people are unconscious of, and to produce a thoroughlybeautiful product.”
01 BARE BONES
To highlight thebeauty of wood,the chair comesunpainted andunvarnished.
02 CONNECTED TO NATURE
The chairs populate theterrace dining area and visitor centre at Appleheadquarters inCupertino.
03 PULL UP A SEAT
Guests at Hachiat National Gallerywill encounter the Hiroshima at the counter.
04 SHAPED FOR COMFORT
The back andarmrests mould to the lines of the body toprovide support.
TEXT CHARMIAN LEONG