YANAGI Sōri

柳宗理

Sori Yanagi web designer hero

“True design lies in a realm counter to trends.”

「本当のデザインは流行と戦うところにある。」Yanagi Sōri

Until 2 September, Japan House is displaying works by internationally renowned Japanese product designer YANAGI Sōri (1915-2011). Uniting the worlds of craft and industry, Yanagi created simple and beautiful items, rooted in Japanese aesthetics. Yanagi’s iconic design is characterised by timelessness and functionality, and over 60 years of history.

Yanagi Sori img for Whats On

Yanagi was born in Tokyo, he was the son of YANAGI Sōetsu, founder of the mingei (folk crafts) movement. Yanagi studied at Tokyo Arts School and developed an interest in modern design, becoming influenced by the work of Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand, whose office he worked in during the 1940s.

In 1952 he founded the Yanagi Industrial Design Institute which created a prolific number of items for daily use and home furnishing. In 1977, Yanagi Sōri was named Director of the Japanese Folk Art Museum in Tokyo.

In addition to household products, his designs also include metro stations, bridges and the torch for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Butterfly Stool

Yanagi developed his iconic design while cutting, folding and shaping pieces of paper. Its fluid and gently curving form, reminiscent of a butterfly's wings poised for flight, was realised using the moulded plywood techniques developed by Charles and Ray Eames. Constructed of two identical pieces of plywood seamlessly combined using only a screwed-on brass rod and two screws under the seat, the deceptively simple design was perfected over three years in collaboration with furniture maker Tendo Mokko and plywood researcher Inui Saburo. Now over 60 years old, the butterfly stool remains an enduring international style icon and can be found in major collections such as that of MoMA and the Louvre.

Elephant Stool

Yanagi’s classic three-legged Elephant Stool debuted in 1954 and is one of the most famous examples of Japanese post-war design. A stacking stool which can be used indoors or outdoors, its clear functional form and versatility has enjoyed enduring appeal. Originally produced in fibreglass, the current model was updated by Vitra in partnership with Yanagi in 2004 and is made from recyclable polypropylene.

Stainless steel bowls and punch-pressed strainers 

Simple and functional, yet sleek and elegant, Yanagi's timeless series of bowls were first designed in 1960. Their ergonomic form developed as a result of extensive research with chefs and domestic cooks. The strainers were later developed in 1999, each designed to fit perfectly inside the matching stainless steel bowl leaving enough room to drain liquids. The Yanagi Sōri series of kitchenware is produced by Nihon Yoshokki in Tsubame City, Niigata Prefecture, an area famous for the quality of its stainless steel and metal-working craftsmanship.

Stainless Steel Cutlery
This cutlery series first went on sale in 1974, the first item in Yanagi's kitchenware series commissioned by the Sato Shoji corporation.
Simple, enduringly elegant and above all highly functional, each individual piece has been meticulously calculated for ease of use: from the distinctive curve of the fork which allows it to effortlessly spear or lift food to the mouth, to the characteristic width of the knife which makes it equally suited to both spreading and cutting.
The Yanagi Sōri series of kitchenware is produced by Nihon Yoshokki in Tsubame City, Niigata Prefecture.

Stainless Steel Kettle

Beneath the kettle's deceptively simple exterior is a highly functional and carefully calculated design: its every feature developed for maximum usability, from the wide sturdy base which ensures water is boiled fast and efficiently, to the ergonomic handle which enables effortless pouring. It was the winner of the Good Design Award for exceptional design and functionality in 1998, and remains one of Yanagi’s best-selling products today. The Yanagi Sōri series of kitchenware is produced by Nihon Yoshokki in Tsubame city, Niigata Prefecture.