Tokyo Table
Japan, 1986
Shiro Kuramata

pastel, ink, and coloured pencil on paper
23.8 × 31.9 cm

The table is made from a material of Kuramata’s own invention: a special kind of terrazzo he named Star Piece. In contrast to traditional, marble-chip terrazzo, Star Piece contains shards of broken glass, which are embedded in a synthetic-concrete substratum before they are polished down to a silky smoothness. The exact circumstances of this invention are hazy, but in one article published in the magazine Shotenkenchiku (May 1983), Kuramata explained that the idea arose in 1982, while he was installing traditional terrazzo floors in the interiors he designed for Tokyo’s Roppongi Axis building. At the same time, he was experimenting with glass for another, unrelated project, which was generating a great deal of wasted scraps. When the notion to combine the two materials hit him, he loaded the pile of glass pieces into a truck and delivered it to some fabricator friends willing to transform his inspiration into reality.

Kuramata was so taken with the results that, through the course of 1983, he developed multiple terrazzo-centric furniture and interior designs. He even mounted an entire exhibition dedicated to the material at Design Gallery 1953 in Tokyo. He would give over entire spaces to the material, treating the floors, walls, and furnishings so that the glittering, bespeckled visual experience dissolved the appearance of three-dimensionality. Star Piece, which Karamata once said represented “the debris of memory,” eventually evolved into a graphic pattern that he applied to the surfaces of other products in different materials. It came to be seen as his signature motif.

Kuramata debuted his Star Piece terrazzo to the Western world in 1983 in a series of tables—Nara, Tokyo, and Kyoto—produced for postmodern pioneers Memphis Design Group. —Wava Carpenter

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