The Igarashi Takenobu Archive will be established at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) in the spring of 2023. The Archive will serve as a hub for the new subject of creative sensibility education, using the collected works and research materials of sculptor and designer Takenobu Igarashi.
The Igarashi Takenobu Archive will be a place like nowhere else, where people can learn about the precedent Igarashi set in high quality design and view other materials from his long and illustrious career. In addition to examining Igarashi’s ideas and methods as a designer and artist from all angles, the Archive will feature exhibitions where visitors will be able to scrutinize the designer’s projects in close detail.
The experience of real exhibitions will train the eye and sharpen the mind, helping to hone one’s creative skills above and beyond mere theory. This concept is at the core of the Igarashi Takenobu Archive’s mission and vision.
Born in 1944 in Takikawa, Hokkaido, Igarashi was educated at Tama Art University and went on to obtain a master’s degree in art at the University of California, Los Angeles. Active on the international stage as a graphic and product designer since the 1970s, he has taught at Chiba University and at UCLA. Igarashi was a cofounder of the Faculty of Art and Design at Tama Art University, which established Japan’s first computerized design education program, and became the inaugural head of the Department of Design.
Igarashi changed direction in 1994 to become a sculptor. He became the ninth president of Tama Art University in 2011 and is now emeritus professor. He has been produced numerous works for public spaces, both in Japan and overseas, based on his philosophy of art for the everyday. Igarashi has had an illustrious career for more than half a century as a designer and artist, and is firmly committed to educating younger generations of artists.
Established in 1965, the Kanazawa Institute of Technology was founded on the idea that society will benefit from the fostering of engineers. KIT strives to educate based on its principles of “Character Building,” “Technological Innovation,” and “Industry-University Collaboration.”
With projects crossing generational thresholds, academic disciplines, and cultural backgrounds, students utilize AI and IoT to uncover areas of research with great value to society. Solutions conceived take shape by way of experiment, verification, and validation. Through this type of social inquiry, students are able to foster research capabilities that have the power to change the future.
Lectures are also tailored from the perspective of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, giving students the opportunity to come up with projects that leverage the strengths of different departments and bring global challenges closer to home with a focus through social issues.
KIT aims to produce excellent engineers who are capable of leading the way in a future borne from the information society of today.
Today we live in an ever-changing world, shaped daily by evolving technologies in robotics, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things. Accordingly, there is an increasing need to nurture talent capable of contributing to future society, not only through critical thinking and articulating one’s own ideas, but also by attuning one’s senses to the surrounding world. The notion of creative sensibility education for science students, then, is practically inevitable.
In addition to having a high affinity to KIT’s theory and technology-based education and the discipline of design, which encompasses theory and creativity, the Igarashi Takenobu Archive’s raison d’être arises from art being the driving force behind creative sensibility education. Moreover, the longstanding relationship of trust between Igarashi and KIT indeed plays an important role in locating the Archive at this institution.
When companies began visualizing corporate identities for themselves in the early 1980s, the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, ahead of any other university in Japan, entrusted the project of establishing its own visual identity to Takenobu Igarashi. In his capacity as a design advisor at KIT for over 30 years now, Igarashi has continued to watch over the students and their education, with its outward-facing view on the world.
KIT has already incorporated into its ethos the idea of STEAM, an acronym for five closely connected areas of study: science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. The Igarashi Takenobu Archive will spearhead the study of art at KIT through a unique program that stimulates the right side of science students’ brains, thereby fostering unfettered thought and a robust creative sensibility.
The Archive comprises all of Takenobu Igarashi’s design works, select sculptures, and other artworks, as well as works and books by other artists. All of these pieces have been donated by Igarashi to KIT.
The artworks feature graphic design, product design, axonometric alphabets, craftwork, and sculpture. In addition, valuable materials that reveal the iterative process, such as models, sketches, tools, design originals, photographs, and books, are included. Created over a career spanning more than half a century, the Archive houses a collection of more than 5,000 pieces.
As an assemblage of Takenobu Igarashi’s innovative and imaginative artworks, the collection exemplifies his creative brilliance and will be an important resource for designers and educators around the world.
The Archive will act as a hub for research into the social and cultural context of Igarashi’s work, as well as that of the designers and artists who came into contact with Takenobu Igarashi himself. Results garnered from such research may also be displayed in an exhibition.
In addition to preserving a permanent collection in the Archive, new works and materials, including books on art and design and pieces for future exhibitions, will also be considered.
Collection pieces and materials will regularly be put on display. Exhibitions may consist of pieces by Takenobu Igarashi only, or display his works alongside those of other artists.
The uniquely curated exhibitions will compel the viewer to become aware of the pleasure of viewing, and to see a hidden beauty that may not be expressible in words. The Archive showcases the quality of the pieces while asking the viewer to consider what makes them so appealing. Visual juxtapositions give the viewer an opportunity to see things in a new light.
When I was a little child, it was normal for children to make their own toys. I grew up on the northernmost island of Japan, where nature made a big impression on me. I devised various ways to play and enjoy myself. Those experiences are the basis for who I am today. When I was a young designer, I found out about drafting tables used by architects and interior designers. This new tool enabled me to create graphic designs that expressed my ideas and attracted attention worldwide.
A MoMA curator saw one of my works and asked me to send it to New York. However, seeing this request as a great opportunity, I decided to bring it there myself. I had the courage to go and see someone I wanted to meet, and that courage helped me to achieve success in later life. Some years after I began to make sculptures, I aimed to create works that were different from the ordinary image of carvings; rather than heavy, solid chunks, I wanted to make thin, soft objects that were light enough to be lifted with just one hand. I created works freely with my hands, without being particular with regard to perspectives, ideas, fields or materials, and this resulted in the creation of my own original works.
I agreed to the establishment of the Igarashi Takenobu Archive at KIT, hoping that through my 5,000 works and materials, my experience and way of thinking would stimulate the minds of talented young people and help them create the Japan of the future.
Some years ago, I commented on a poster of Mr. Igarashi’s that was stored in a museum. This gave me a chance to see him, and in 2020, I wrote a book on his 3D alphabets. I still remember how surprised when I saw the materials and works that he had collected and stored over a period of 50 years. The quantity was enormous, of course, and I lost my words; all I could do was to utter “amazing”, as I looked at the neatly filed and well-organized materials and alphabet carvings stored in special boxes. I truly felt that I wanted to convey his greatness, not only through his materials and works, but also through his methods and his attitude.
As a researcher of design history, I found various archive materials helpful. This is my turn to return the favor.
I would like to make this archive a hub for KIT’s creative sensibility education and a revolutionary example of design archives in Japan and the world.
In my school days, I read a book by Mr. Igarashi in a library, and I was impressed by his words, “I don’t want to be a professional. I want to keep taking on challenges with the spirit of an amateur throughout my life.” I was also surprised to find out about his working style of two days off per week and no overtime, which was very rare in those days.
Mr. Igarashi was designing many geometric works, and since I liked abstract forms, I was convinced that his studio was the best place for me to learn.
My dream was not realized at once, but some years later, fate led me to become his assistant.
Mr. Igarashi changed from being a designer to a sculptor and moved to Los Angeles. We worked far apart from one another, living in the United States and Japan respectively. Subsequently, we worked together at his studio in Akiya, on the Miura Peninsula; however, we now live in Hokkaido and Kanagawa, and have a long history of teleworking.
I have worked with Mr. Igarashi’s clients, architects, and personnel from factories and exhibition sites in order to install his sculptures, prepared design conferences and exhibitions, designed graphics, made models and done administrative work. While producing my own works, I have worked for 25 years on his projects, of which there has been a constant stream, forgetting the passing of time.
I think I first met Mr. Igarashi in 1975, when I was working on the design of the Kanazawa City Tamagawa Library in the office of Mr. Yoshio Taniguchi and asked him to design a sign for it. The building was located on the former cigarette factory site between Kanazawa Station and Katamachi. It was the first and last work jointly designed by Mr. Taniguchi and his father Yoshiro, and it was also the first of a series of modern architectural projects undertaken in Kanazawa in those days. I suppose it was also one of Mr. Igarashi’s early works, created when he was devoting a lot of energy to graphic design. Looking at the sign, I still feel that its modern, pure and unpretentious font and layout capture the features of the architecture and give an element of grace to the “suppressed avant-garde” building. After that, I became independent, and moved my office to Yokohama in 1998, when I started to work on public facilities and large architectural projects. I didn’t see Mr. Igarashi for several years, but after he became a sculptor and came back to Japan from Los Angeles, he suddenly came to my office. During the conversation we had at the time, I found out that he was looking for a place to live, so I introduced him to one of my friends who was a realtor in Zushi. Subsequently, I became involved in projects of his such as the exhibitions and design conferences of Tarokichigura (Takikawa City, Hokkaido), the restaurant il Cielo of Hotel Miura Kaen, his gallery Kazenobi in Shintotsukawa, and finally this Igarashi Takenobu Archive. When I look back on those days, I had many hard struggles, but strangely, I enjoyed them. Pain didn’t bother me, thanks to the rush of adrenaline that I got from being inspired by him. My constitution seems to change when I work with him. As for this project, I was impressed by the idea of establishing his archive at KIT. Now I’m excited, because I feel like I have returned to my starting point, when I was purely interested in architecture, and fascinated by the works on site, without knowing anything.
I was born in Ishikawa, and at the age of 20 I moved to Yokohama to go to university. After that, I moved to Tokyo.
While studying architecture in a new environment, my roots were in the landscapes and experiences in the towns, rivers, mountains and sea of Kanazawa.
At graduate school, I designed the machiya buildings along the former Hokkoku Street in Kasuga-machi, Kanazawa City, and researched the lifestyle of the people who had lived there and make a measured drawing. I held an exhibition the results design for master’s degree to local residents in one of the machiya building on the street.
I had secretly hoped to work for my hometown, and now I’m happy to be involved in the design of Mr. Igarashi’s archive.
When I was a student in Kanazawa, I often went to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, the D. T. Suzuki Museum, and the Kanazawa City Tamagawa Library. This city is full of buildings and other works that make us feel like talking with their creators and spending time among them. I think this means a lot to people who hope to create or design things.
Now the Igarashi Takenobu Archive has been added to those places in order to create a place for sensibility education.
I would like to lend my full support to this project to make it a space for communication between creators and recipients.
“I’m thinking of opening a very small design shop in Hokkaido that will attract people from every place in Japan and the world. Although it will be small, the shop should be a raw precious stone; it might look dull if not polished, but it will emit an overwhelmingly bright light when polished. I’d like you to design the shop.”
These were Mr. Igarashi’s words to me at my first meeting with him 15 years ago. I still remember that I was shocked, as what he said felt like a revelation about my mission. The time I worked with the staff to open the shop, inspired by Mr. Igarashi’s strong will and pure heart, was a hard yet really happy experience.
I’m sure that the Igarashi Takenobu Archive at KIT will be a magnificent project to pass down all of his works and thoughts to future generations throughout the world, and I’m feeling a rush of excitement like that of waiting for a new day before dawn.
I truly appreciate being able to participate in this valuable project.
I first met Mr. Igarashi in 2006, when I interviewed artists with a connection to Hokkaido. It was natural for me to be very nervous about interviewing a world-renowned sculptor who had just come back from Los Angeles; however, the stress disappeared in seconds when I met him. His gentle demeanor and friendliness gradually put me at ease.
I clearly remember “Komorebi,” which I saw in his studio in Yokosuka. It made me feel light and free. It is the kind of work that you want to keep looking at forever. Still now, my first impression of Mr. Igarashi remains unchanged; he is pure, free and jolly.
Our relationship continued after that; for six years, Mr. Igarashi had a studio in our house, which doubled as my husband’s design office and my office. The daily inspiration that he gave us in those days is precious to us. His stories about foreign cities and architecture were particularly interesting. I hope to make a trip to some of the places he told us about someday.
I was born in Tokyo in 1966. I studied Swiss design at an American university and I was much inspired and influenced by the type of education that involved highly organized information. I first saw one of Mr. Igarashi’s exhibitions in 1989, when I was working for a design office in New York, and I was struck by his distinctive geometric designs and his wide range of activities. After I came back to Japan, I visited his office with my portfolio and started to work for Igarashi Studio as a graphic designer. I was engaged in company CI design, product graphic design and the MoMA Poster Calendar, and learnt a lot. After leaving the office, I have had regular communication with him. In 2018, I took over his long-held position working for KIT, and worked on designing its new identity. In 2020, I worked on the design of “Takenobu Igarashi A-Z” published by Thames & Hudson in cooperation with Ms. Sakura Nomiyama, director of the Igarashi Takenobu Archive. The archive project at KIT will help people to learn about Mr. Igarashi. It is meaningful to me, and I’m honored to be involved in it.
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