International Furniture Design Competition

Comments by the Judges

Motomi Kawakami

Chief Judge

The International Furniture Design Fair Asahikawa was held for the 8th time since it began 21 years ago in 1990. The design competition is growing: this time it received as many as 899 applications from participants in 36 countries around the world.

First of all, a preliminary evaluation was conducted based on images of the works submitted by the competitors. 35 works were selected based on the judging criteria such as marketability, originality, quality and advancement of local industry. Although many of the computer rendered images are structurally unsubstantiated, I can say that the overall level of works improves every time the competition is held. For the final evaluation, life-sized prototypes of the selected works were produced either by the competitors themselves or cooperative manufacturers in Asahikawa. It is rare to see such high quality prototypes in other design competitions.

In the main evaluation part of the judging, few pieces stood out at first glance as there are many small sized chairs of a similar caliber. Later, however, we began to notice prominent works that were created with thoughtful, fresh ideas. The earthquake that hit the eastern part of Japan occurred just two days before the scheduled final evaluation in March. This caused unprecedented problems, as judges from Europe could not fly to Japan. We did had no choice but to postpone the selection for a month. Even so, the judges from Europe were unfortunately unable to visit Asahikawa for the evaluation. In the end, Mr. Moormann from Germany participated in the evaluation via Skype.

In the final evaluation, we first eliminated four works, giving us 31 finalists. From these, we evaluated the highest-ranking pieces marked by each judge to select eight award-winning pieces.Despite my concerns about the accuracy of video-conferencing by Skype, the process went smoothly.Moreover, most of the final decisions for the best, second best and Maple Leaf Award were agreed on by the judges. It was not easy, however, to select the five Bronze Leaf Award winners, and we ended up awarding the Bronze Leaf to six candidates. We are truly grateful for the“ Maple Leaf Award”, a new special award added through sponsorship from Quebec Wood Export Bureau (QWEB), Canada Wood and the support of the government of Quebec to promote the effective use of maple wood, Quebec’s local material.

Half Chair” was unanimously selected for the Gold Leaf Award. As the name suggests, the seat is indeed half the size of a standard chair. The structure allows people to maintain the correct posture while sitting. The chair impressed the judges greatly with its fresh and interesting design concept and proportions. The winner of the Silver Leaf Award was “Circle”, a simple folding chair inspired by a cable bridge. It is light weight and well-balanced, but there are certain details that should be reconsidered if it is to be marketed, such as form and tension effects of the rope. The Maple Leaf Award winner, “Hako”, is a shelf made with movable boxes that can be changed around to suit a wide range of uses. While the outer frame needs consideration, the design brings out the beauty of the material.

While I hope that Japan will recover from the recent disaster soon, I have also become keenly aware of the importance of creating a future in which mankind coexists with nature. I can see great potential for wooden furniture, as the proper use of wood is an excellent way to maintain the environment. Some manufacturers in Asahikawa have already been considering the commercialization of certain works entered in the competition. I hope that the world will soon see them as part of the Asahikawa Furniture line.

Motomi Kawakami

Motomi Kawakami

Designer, Japan

Motomi Kawakami was born in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan in 1940. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. In 1966, he graduated from the master course of the same university. After working at Angelo Mangiarotti Architect Office in Milan, Italy from 1966 to 1969, he established Kawakami Design Office in 1971. His work ranges widely from design of crafts, products and furniture to interior space and environmental design. He is a visiting professor at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tama Art University and Kanazawa College of Art.

Motomi Kawakami has been awarded the Japan Interior Designers’ Association Award, the first prize in the Open International Chair Design Competition of the American Institute of Architect, the iF Design Award, the Mainichi Design Prize, the Kitaro Kunii Industrial Design Award, the Tanaka Prize for the Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge by the Japan Society of Civil Engineering, the Yokohama Civic Design Award, and the Good Design Gold Prize.

His exhibitions include “Hybrid - Light and Shade” (Gallery Ma, Tokyo), “Industrial Symphony” (Quest Hall, Tokyo) and “Material Message” (OZONE Gallery, Tokyo).

He has authored “GACHI - Furniture of Motomi Kawakami” (Rokuyosha) and “Motomi Kawakami: Design with Precision and Flexibility” (Amus Arts Press).