The “Fragrance with Lotus Flowers” installation by Nakamura Kazunobu Design-Works uses scrap wood to create an entrancing space for Japanese dance. The designers’ manipulation of space through light and form creates a misty atmosphere that complements the elegant performances. In 2021, the project earned recognition from Interior Design as a Best of Year (BoY) Honoree and won an Architecture MasterPrize (AMP) Best of Best award.

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Traditional Japanese performance taking place on the stage lit up by the installation

The project draws on elements of traditional Japanese gardens. The sacred lotus flower is a key feature of the gardens. In the early morning, a light mist often envelopes the flowers. Viewed as sacred, the fog represents profundity. For the designers, the softening quality of the mist helps visualize the fragrance of the lotus flowers. They emulate this in the installation through transparency and opacity of light and shadow.

Related: Smart flower LOTUS moves in response to light

Sustainable scrap wood design

The installation is composed of over 1,000 thin, vertical lines that form a cloud-like flurry. These strands, made of cypress timber, pay homage to Japanese Cypress trees, believed to be inhabited by the gods. The rods use repurposed wood scraps to avoid harming the lush Cypress forests. According to a press release, “this installation is a sustainable design that can be developed in a variety of ways to suit different spaces by changing the number of lines and the arrangement of the lines.”

Long exposure image of an individual walking on-stage behind the installation

The timber lines are held together by intricate metal lattices, assembled with rods that are only one millimeter in diameter. These lightweight lattices are sturdy enough to suspend from the ceiling and form horizontal lines that bisect the vertical wooden strips.

Close up of the project's wooden rods that shift upwards and downwards

Japanese gardens are maintained by pruning leaves and branches to create gradations of sparseness and density that influence light-play and depth. Similarly, the designers used 3D modeling software to calculate the exact placement and light intensity for each rod. By manipulating the density of the wooden strips and their shifting positions in three dimensions, the designers played with transparency and depth, creating light and opacity gradations reminiscent of fog.

Scrap wood pieces making up the exhibit.

Often, Japanese spatial design focuses on effects produced by formal elements. Through its meticulous design, the cloud-like exhibit evokes an enchanting mood and engulfs performers in a soft glow.

+ Nakamura Kazunobu Design-Works

Images by Masaki Komatsu