In Tokyo, design that has made history

At 21_21 Design Sight, The Original presents 150 projects by great design masters, including Enzo Mari, Michele De Lucchi, Gio Ponti, Achille Castiglioni

An exhibition on view until 25 June,
The Original at 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo, the location opened in 2007 in the Roppongi district thanks to the collaboration between the fashion designer Issey Miyake and the architect Tadao Ando.

Curated by three outstanding names in Japanese design – Takahiro Tsuchida, director of the show; Naoto Fukasawa, supervisor; Kaoru Tashiro, design assistant – the event springs from a consideration: design makes our existence richer, more engaging and easy, expanding the possibilities of human thought and action. But today life flows too fast, and there is the risk of forgetting the true essence of “project work.”

The Original does not follow fashions and changes, but sets out to present reference points, through about 150 selected products, projects that have influenced the history of design, but precisely for this reason have also been removed from the flow of that history.

Projects that represent the foundations, the bases for all the ideas of the designers who have come later. Takahiro Tsuchida, a design journalist and also a curator of the show, has defined them as sharing “authenticity, charm, purity, boldness and force.”

The “fundamentals” selected by Tsuchida, Fukasawa and Tashiro draw on a legacy of design extending from the end of the 19th century to the 2000s, to find articles unfamiliar to the Japanese audience, like the Moser chair by Werner Max Moser, a handle by Gio Ponti, and tableware by Trude Petri.

The installation displays the various objects, accompanied by texts and photographs to explain their historical and aesthetic value, with a sort of “a latere” exhibition: the walls are decorated with about 50 shots by the artist-photographer Gottingham (the pseudonym of the Japanese Gosuke Sugiyama), specifically made for the event, offering an unusual visual approach to each product. Some of the items have also been assembled by the interior designer Yumika Yoshida in an installation that demonstrates their use in everyday life.

Obviously Italian design is a major presence, with projects by many great masters: besides Ponti, there are also Enzo Mari, Michele De Lucchi, Mario Bellini, Achille Castiglioni, Giancarlo Pozzi and Franco Albini.

All photos courtesy 12_21 Design Sight and Studio XXingham