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Interview with Ashizawa Keiji

Ashizawa Keiji

Ashizawa Keiji is a Tokyo-based architect/designer. We talked with him about his work, what inspires him, and the challenges and rewards of working as a multi-disciplinary creator.

A gallery of Ashizawa’s work can be found here.

How and when did you form Keiji Ashizawa Design?

I started Keiji Ashizawa Design around three years ago. After I quit the company where I was working, I was at Super Robot for two years. But since the amount of work coming to me personally started to increase, I decided to just form my own company.

What is your involvement with the Super Robot unit? Are you still involved with them?

I thought that Super Robot was an incredible environment for making things. If I thought, hey, I’d like to make something, I could make it that day, right there. (Hosokawa Tetsuya, Okayasu Izumi, and I made things together.)

Hosokawa is a furniture designer but also a professional in metal-working. (He is an amazing welder.) His skill and experience helped me tremendously, and I think I helped wake him up to his own design spirit. Okayasu was originally just an engineer, but the Super Robot environment helped his talent fully bloom. Right now he is involved with Aoki Jun and Ito Toyo as a first-class lighting designer.

My role at the time was product design and exhibition space design. And I was also in charge of the publicity.

Now everyone has gotten so busy with their own individual work that we aren’t able to do shows as a unit. But we still continue to work as business partners.

Are all your architectural projects based in Tokyo or have you worked elsewhere (either Japan or internationally)?

Most of my work is in Tokyo, but lately I have been doing more out in the countryside — a lot of vacation homes. Also, I am getting more work where I do architectural and interior design for a project in Japan working with foreign designers. I have recently been working with Swiss architects and Australian architects.

What inspires you?

This will sound trite, but lots: films, novels, graphic design. When I was at Super Robot, I would get especially inspired by materials around me, or I would have a flash of inspiration while working. When we’d all be actually putting the work together, Hosokawa would be welding or setting something up, I would just think of things. Now, I am a bit removed from that environment, so I am mostly stimulated by architectural sites and factory visits.

Do you think the city of Tokyo and living in it affect your work?

Tokyo is a city that is always being updated. Even today, on the way to go eat lunch, I discovered a new restaurant and a refurbished building. The atmosphere around my studio has changed greatly over the last three years. A lot of the design in this ever-changing Tokyo is instantly consumed and used up. However, the city is like a living thing and very exciting. It may not be a direct influence, but I think I am inspired, for better or worse.

Do you approach projects differently (architectural project vs. product design)?

Not from a design perspective. I first identify all conditions for realizing the design. If it’s a house, I think about family composition, the shape of the plot, legal matters. If it’s a product, I have more detailed conditions, such as budget and specs for actually producing it. I start by searching for the answers of how to satisfy each condition. In my case, in order to go forward with the design, theoretical thinking is a pillar in the process. With Bar Orange, for example, there was a need to sit lots of people at the bar counter. From that, I decided to install the counter diagonally. If I am able to clear other conditions from deriving that answer, things will naturally reach completion as a strong design.

Do you prefer architectural projects or product design? Which medium gives you the most satisfaction?

Obviously, I have clients for my architecture and interior work. But for most of my product work, I don’t have clients. So I am able to mostly do experimental work. I follow a slightly backwards process, where I win clients from the results of the experimental work. Right now, I have a product I want to make, but I am worried that I won’t be able to concentrate and set aside the time for it. Thinking about product design is a real joy for me because I can control everything myself. For architectural work, on the other hand, I create the work over a long period of time while I control the project amongst the involvement of lots of people. It’s very tough work, but for that very reason, it’s pleasurable. And there’s a sort of expression that can only be done in architecture. So it’s very exciting.

Is there any sort of project — product category or medium — that you have not yet worked on but would like to someday?

I am now finally selling my light fixtures as products, but I think it’d be interesting to make a bit more of these products from here on out. At the same time, I would like to do more work in bigger arenas — out on the global stage. That’s my big hope.

How would you describe your style? What is unique to your various projects?

Well, I think I am an architect. Sometimes I am an engineer or a designer or a construction supervisor. There is a kind of design that only gets created from being seriously involved on many different levels. The Flat Packing pieces and the Parabola Light, for example, were pieces that could only be realized after getting information from workers in the factory. Things I learned about steel at Super Robot came in handy for the 11BOXES project. I think there’s a kind of design that can only be done when you cut across many different genres. But I don’t think there’s a better word than “architect” for what I do.

Is there a close-knit architectural community in Tokyo? If not, do you think one should exist?

It’s not “close-knit,” but there are many “architectural communities.” They’re a bit like lethargic after-school clubs, however, only getting together once in a while. They merely act as information exchange. There is a big organization called Japan Institute of Architects (JIA), but they do not really speak much to society at large. I can’t expect much better activity from a large organization. I think it’d be great if there was a community — developing out from the clubs I mentioned — that could create a real movement from bringing together a loose network of people.

Who is your favorite architect and/or designer? What is it about his/her work that attracts you to it?

Charles & Ray Eames:
Their design led to an evolution in technique as well as progress in design. The Eames House is a one-of-a-kind architectural masterpiece, and the innovation remains fresh even today.

Jean Prouvé:
He was a designer, an artisan, and a man who created a factory in order to attain an ideal design environment. It’s his lifestyle that makes him my hero.

Do you follow many architecture/design sites/blogs?

Yes, I look at lots of blogs. I think this stream of new media is changing Japan’s increasingly-stiff media environment.

What are you currently working on? What’s next?

On the architecture side, I am doing a house and a vacation home. For products, I am at the trial manufacturing stage of a product I hope to sell soon. I also am making two or three new products, and I am thinking about showing them at a design event next year. Looks like I won’t be able to get them done in time for this year’s event.


私の事務所は、約3年前にスタートしました。勤めていた会社をやめたあと、2年ほどsuper robotに在籍していましたが、私個人に来る仕事が多くなりはじめたので、会社をつくることにしました。

Super Robotユニットとはどのような関わりをお持ちですか?まだ活動を共にすることもあるのでしょうか?

super robotは私にとって物作りをする素晴らしい環境でした。何かを作りたいと思えば、その日のうちに、その場でつくることができます。(細川鉄也、岡安泉、そして私の3人で作品をつくっていました。)

細川氏は、家具のデザイナーでありながら、金属加工のプロフェショナルですが、(溶接がとても上手です。)私は彼の技術や経験に随分たすけられましたし、私は、彼を触発して彼のデザイン魂を呼び起こしていたと思います。岡安氏は、まったくのエンジニアでしたが、super robotという環境によって、才能を開花させました。いまは一流の照明デザイナーとして、クライアントに青木淳,伊東豊雄を抱えています。





つきなみですが、映画、小説、グラフィックデザインなど、沢山あります。とりわけ、super robot時代には転がっている材料から、または作業中にひらめくことが多くありました。実際にみなで作品をくみあげているとき、細川氏が溶接で、組み立てているときに、ふっと思いつくのです。いまは、その環境からちょっと離れていますが、建設現場や、工場見学はとても刺激になります。




デザインのアプローチとしては、殆どかわりません。デザインを成立させるための条件をまず全てあらいだします。住宅であれば、家族構成や、土地の形、法律などです。プロダクトの場合は、もっと細かな条件、製作可能寸法、バジェットなどです。それぞれを満足させる答え探しがはじまります。私の場合、デザインをすすめるにあたり、理論的に考えていくことがひとつの柱となります。Bar Orangeでは、出来るだけ多くの人数をバーカウンターに座らせるということが条件でした。よって斜めにカウンターを設置することになったのです。その答えを導き出すことによって、他の条件もクリアすることができれば、それが自ずと力のあるデザインとして成立してくるのです。






やはり「architect」なのだと思います。時に技術者であり、デザイナーであり、工事責任者でもあります。様々なレベルで真剣に関わっていくことでしか、うまれないデザインがあります。フラットパッキングや、パラボラは工場を見学し、職人から様々な情報を聞き出すことで実現した家具です。11BOXESは、super robotで学んだ鉄の知識が役にたちました。様々なジャンルを横断していくことでしか、できないデザインがあるだろうと考えています。言葉としては、それは「architect」以外にいい言葉がないなと思っています。


団結したものではないのですが、「architectural community」は多数存在します。それは、活発ではない放課後のクラブ活動のようなものです。時々集まって。情報交換をしているにすぎません。JIAという大きな組織がありますが、社会に発言することはほとんどありません。大きな組織が突然よりよく動き出すことに私は期待していません。前者のクラブ活動から少しずつ発展していく、ゆるやかなネットワークを結んでいくことで、大きな流れをつくれるような「community」があればいいと思っています。


Charles & Ray Eames:

Jean Prouvé:





September 27, 2007

Jean Snow lives and breathes design and pop culture in Tokyo — sustained by an unhealthy addiction to magazines and frequent visits to his favorites cafes. His personal website is located at

Posted in Architecture, Interviews, The Future 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. trevor Says:

    it’s cool work indeed. the couple architectural classes i’ve taken. it’s madness. its not just cool buildings. lots of people compare design and architecture. i think an architect, can do design, but not visa versa imo. the technical side can be overwhelming.

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