masayuki kurokawa: soban reinterpreted
masayuki kurokawa: soban reinterpreted masayuki kurokawa: soban reinterpreted
sep 16, 2010

masayuki kurokawa: soban reinterpreted

soban reinterpreted by masayuki kurokawa image copyrights © 2010 OCDC, designboom, masayuki kurokawa

‘soban reinterpreted’ is an exhibition on korean low tables. the traditional role of a ‘soban’ was to act as a tray for carrying food from a kitchen to a main building, or ‘the man’s part of a house’.  while inside the living rooms, the ‘soban’ played its primary role as a dining table. ‘sobans’ have a long history – in murals of the ancient tombs from the goguryeo dynasty, the wooden ‘sang’ and ‘ban’ appears as a four-legged and a three-legged low table. also leg-less ‘soban’ tables were found in moo-yong-chong’s (ancient tomb) mural paintings. oval ‘soban’ tables were made of earthenware and are dated from the silla dynasty.

‘soban reinterpreted’ is a cultural charity initiative and research project curated by designboom. designboom invited 5 international designers and 5 korean designers to send us their contemporary interpretation of this wonderful korean furniture icon of the past. the 10 original drawings and 10 prototypes on show will be sold in an open auction to visitors and the proceedings will be entirely donated for funds of an educational project to UNESCO.

the exhibition is one of the highlights of ‘seoul world design capital’ celebrations and opens tomorrow on september 17th at the jamsil stadium in seoul, south korea. ‘soban reinterpreted’ is promoted and organized by the OCDC – oriental culture & design center, seoul.

soban reinterpreted by masayuki kurokawa image copyrights © 2010 OCDC, designboom, masayuki kurokawa

our first article on the exhibition features a low table that has been created by japanese designer masayuki kurokawa.

‘small furniture items are mysterious objects. a ‘soban’ gives me comfort and serenity, like an affectionate baby cat it clings to me. my impression of korean culture is warm and soft, I expressed it in the smooth texture of the furniture.’ masayuki kurokawa

(japanese) 小さい家具は不思議な存在です。子猫のように僕に寄り添って居心地が良さそうです。 韓国の文化を感じながらイメージした僕のスケッチを友人のアーティスト、有馬晋平 さんに託しました。手触りの優しい子猫ができました。

(korean) 작은 가구는 신비로운 존재이다. 아기 고양이와 같이 나에게 살갑게 붙어서 안정감을 주고 마음을 편안하게 해주는 것 같다. 한국의 문화에서 느껴지는 부드럽고, 다정한느낌을 장인 有馬晋平씨와 함께 아기 고양이와 같은 감촉의 가구로 표현하였다

the prototype was built in collaboration with japanese master artisan shinpei arima.

credits: sketch/黒川雅之(masayuki kurokawa) making/有馬晋平(shinpei arima)

soban reinterpreted, original drawing by masayuki kurokawa image copyrights © 2010 OCDC, designboom, masayuki kurokawa

any time, any placeit is not known when ‘soban’ tables were first used in korea, but they appear in murals of ancient tombs from the kogoru and shilla dynasties. much later, in the joseon period, the structure of the single-story, wooden houses and the custom of sitting on heated floors provided an impetus to the diverse and extensive utilization of these small wooden tables.

historic background of the exhibition ‘soban reinterpreted’ logo of the exhibition © 2010 OCDC and designboom

in ancient upper class homes, everyone ate individually at his or her low table and the small dining tables (‘soban’) in various shapes and design were also used to carry meals. they appear only when it is time to eat and disappear with the dirty dishes after the meal. any room in a korean house becomes a dining room when the low table is set there. a similar low table determines the nature of the space also in the scholar’s study-cum-salon (‘sarangbang’), which had usually a reading desk (‘seoan’) accompanied by a smaller desk for keeping writing equipments – called ‘the four friends of the study’ – paper, brushes, ink and ink stone. ritual trays and incense tables are brought and placed at funerals or seasonal rites.

the bigger the house, the more ‘soban’ tables are needed to accommodate more events. as usually women prepared food and served them on a soban, the tables had to be light in weight. sobans are mainly made from ginkgo, pine, zelkova, maple, jujube and linden wood, especially ginkgo trees as they were the most suitable for their weight, resistance to humidity, and deformation from exposure to moisture. zelkova wood is also a desirable type of wood for its beautiful grain, and pine wood is widely used for its availability. to ensure that the tables are waterproof, they are finished with transparent, black or yellowish-red lacquer. soban tables are of a practical, frugal and appealing aesthetic and incorporate the natural patterns of the wood. the tables are often of asymmetrical nature since woodworkers used green wood and the wares inevitably deform when drying.

‘soban’ tables are classified by two, basic standards: the shape of the legs and the way the legs are assembled with the upper plate. ‘soban’ tables have distinctive features according to where they were made. haeju city, hwanghae-do (province), naju city, jeollanam-do(provice) and tongyeong city, and gyeongsangnam-do (province) are all famous places of manufacturing. however, there are more places that produce sobans with unique, local characteristics in their forms. for instance, kangwon-do (province) has produced soban tables that are similar to the ‘haeju’ style but with less decorative and rustic elements.

masayuki kurokawa was born in 1937 in nagoya, japan. he is an award winning architect and product designer, whose work has won numerous honors worldwide. he graduated from the department of architecture at the nagoya institute of technology in 1961. in 1967 he completed a master and doctor course at the graduate school of architecture at waseda university. in 1967, he established masayuki kurokawa architect & associates, inc. he is a professor at nihon university graduate school art. his works are in the permanent collections of many museums, including the museum of modern art (MoMA) and the metropolitan museum of art in new york city and the denver art museum. his product designs have been manufactured by such international companies as: maruni, artemide, toto, ricoh.

soban reinterpreted fund raising charity and research project that culminates in an exhibition

seoul design fair september 17th – october 7th, 2010jamsil sports complex, seoul, south korea

organizer: OCDC – oriental culture & design center, seoul

curator: birgit lohmann, designboom

special thanks to – fernando and humberto campana – claesson koivisto rune – masayuki kurokawa – daniel libeskind – karim rashid

– byunghoon choi – kyungran choi – jihoon ha – yoon gyoo jang – seung-h sang

for their generous help and support during the making of this exhibition.

copyrights © 2010 by OCDC – oriental culture & design center, designboom and the designers/architects, creators of the artworks on show. all rights reserved.

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