Seating: Formed to Function: HIDA Series by ITOKI Design

Japan is not short on natural resources. In fact, 67 percent of the island is covered in forested land, 13 percent of which is the quick-to-grow cedar species that was planted in response to reforestation efforts by the nation’s government after World War II. So when Japanese leaders issued an incentive to its wood craftsmen in the Hida regions to develop innovative ways to use cedar to clear land for more indigenous and fertile forests, Hida Sangyo Company, Ltd. (HSC), was up to the challenge.

HSC’s craftsmen devised a way to add strength to cedar planks via a compression method that turns the typically ductile wood into a material suitable for furniture applications—a proprietary process that caught the attention of manufacturer ITOKI Design, which had been looking for a way to get back in touch with its Japanese roots.

“We thought it was a great story about working back with Japanese partners to realize furniture elements, so it’s exciting for us as a Japanese company,” says ITOKI creative director and designer Jeff Miller. The partnership took off in late 2010, and both sides quickly worked to formulate achievable designs within a tight six-months-to-NeoCon® time frame.

But, according to Miller, it wasn’t only the time race that posed a challenge. “We had to be clever in how we designed,” he says, “as the process to compress the cedar limited us to just a few basic molds in different radiuses. We also wanted to showcase that the wood can be employed in multiple ways.” ITOKI designers stretched their imaginations, and the result was a three-piece furniture collection named HIDA, which features combinations of “simple struts and geometric shapes, like triangles and trapezoids, that come together in a contemporary way but with traditional craftsmanship that you can see,” Miller notes.

Each item within the HIDA series is ideal for use in an office—casual meeting spaces or breakout areas—or hospitality environment. The chair features an iconic 3D profile with a rounded back and seat that seems to float above its geometric base; it’s the only product of this collection constructed using the innovative wood compression process. The six-sided coffee table base, with accompanying four-sided side table, is a modular design that boasts an angled U-shape. And the partition screen is a portrayal of beautiful vertical slats that naturally arc from the tension caused by its frame.

“Despite being an American designer, I feel that our designs refer to a traditional place in Japan without the viewer needing to be told,” Miller adds. “It’s a story about what we can do with the earth and how we can work with our natural environment.” 

—Stacy Straczynski

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