Kenji Ekuan was a Japanese industrial designer, best known for creating the design of the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. His designs originate from the sights of Hiroshima’s devastation after the U.S. atomic bombing of the city 70 years ago. He heard the voices of street cars, bicycles and other objects mangled and abandoned, saying they had wished to have been utilized more, he is quoted as saying in a company pamphlet for his Hiroshima exhibit last year.
Kenji Ekuan designs technical information
When I stood in the ruins of the city after losing my father and sister to the bomb there, I was suddenly overcome by this sense of personal mission. In a world where there was nothing left at all, I felt the call of all things man-made. The burned out shell of a streetcar, an overturned truck, a half-melted bicycle… I felt like they were calling out to me, saying, “Hear us, O traveler!” (…)
Experiences like that redirected my perception of the mutability of life from a sense of vanity and desolation to the sense that change drives new growth. I vowed to pursue the kind of change that fit the needs of postwar Japan through industrial design” (Excerpt from an interview of Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist with
– Kenji Ekuan, in “Project Japan, Metabolist Talks”, Taschen 2011
From Furniture to City Planning
Kenji Ekuan Design principles
Ekuan became a monk at a Hiroshima temple to succeed his father, who died due to radiation from the atomic bombing. But he eventually pursued his career in design. He graduated from the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1955 and founded his design studio two years later.
His design principle was a “democratization” of goods and beauty, to make them accessible for everyone.
Kenji Ekuan accomplished his life mission by designing “democratic” objects like public telephone booths, capsules, musical instruments and, – the one which he became famous for -, the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Kenji Ekuan was also responsible for other design classics, including the Yamaha VMAX motorbike and the Narita Express Airport train.
Less internationally known but equally as important are his contributions to the Metabolist project, (Kenji joined the group since the beginnings, at the 1960 World Design Conference), a series of interiors-, housing and mass produced designs and realisations questioning human inhabitation and ways of living.
Featured Projects of Kenji Ekuan
1964 : Furniture House is the result of a series of experiments on the creation of domestic space through movable – Metabolist furniture – each one equipped with a structure of “skeleton”, “organs” and “skin”.
1964 : Ekuan designed the “Pumpkin House” as an expandable structure for a couple, able to feature outdoor space and even expandable to include a mini-capsule for a child.
1964 : Tortoise House is a family dwelling integrated into an inhabitable space frame formed by separated room-units and facilitating growth.
1964 : Ekuan designed the “Dwelling City“, a double stacked tetrahedrons structure with capsules attached on the surface and the interior designated as public space. Cue Metabolism, a collective of architects, designers and a critic that sought to recreate the very definition of ‘city’, transferring it’s apendage from noun to verb. Cities would exist as living, moving and evolving creatures – constantly changing and adapting within a social consciousness. A primitive concept of “Cities within Cities” is obtained by the definition and mutliplications of clusters.
The existence of tangible things is imporant. It’s evidence that we’re here as human beings.
– Kenji Ekuan.
From Furniture to City planning Gallery