When we first heard that renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma had erected a pavilion made from paper at Fuorisalone 2015 for Milan Design Week, we knew we had to go check it out. Called “Irori", which is the Japanese word for a traditional sunken hearth, the airy structure is a collaboration with Kitchenhouse that reimagines the kitchen as a more flexible, modular space. Read on to see what Kuma told us about the cocoon-like, vulcanized paper structure.
Kuma is well-known for his subtle sensibility and great attention to layering and patterning. In practical terms, his works tend to provide a strong visual impact while relaying design concepts as flexibility, lightness, nature and tradition. In fact, while producing highly modern designs, he does not dismiss the traditional principles of Japanese design. Instead, he reinterprets them in a very contemporary way.
Many of the above principles can be found in the Irori pavilion. The white cocoon wrap itself is an evocative, light and translucent structure made of special 1mm thick vulcanized paper. The whole installation emerges as a floating white hut sheltering a kitchen, but what is inside is quite different from what you might see in a traditional home. Instead, the freehand kitchen design features abstract steel pipes and bamboo boards that can make a table, a bench, or shelves at the owner’s will by being extended or subtracted.
“As your life expands and contracts, so does the kitchen,” Kuma told us.
According to Kuma, the initial inspiration for the pavilion envelope was traditional rice paper, but unfortunately that option would have been impossible to use as a freestanding materials since it is too soft and fragile. For this reason, the architect picked up a more rigid and rugged type of treated paper. But would the structure be durable enough to be placed outdoors? Kuma says that he’s not quite sure, but we hope Irori can act as an experiment to explore that aspect of the material for future uses.