Ever since my college days in Japan, spring to me has always been marked by the arrival of the delicate pink flowers of the cherry blossoms. The blossoms, or sakura, as they are known in the japanese language, are a Japanese national symbol that is ubiquitous and almost equivalent to the nation’s identity.
The trees themselves are mostly native to Japan and are cultivated mainly for their flowers, which bloom for two weeks in the beginning of spring. While the trees themselves do not produce any fruit, the flowers are sometimes used in Japanese cuisine.
It comes as no surprise then that sakura are also a favorite design motif for a lot of Japanese and non-japanese designers. There are an infinite amount of cherry blossom inspired designs out there, and I put together a collection of some particularly unique interpretations.
Sakura Cafe by Klein Dytham Architecture
Sakura cafe was a public space installation devised in 2008 by Klein Dytham Architects in the Tokyo Midtown development in the Ropponggi district of the Japanese Capital. Part outdoor cafe and part art installation, the concept featured large plastic sakura sculptures that were functional seating and table-like elements. Each of the blossoms varied in dimensions to adapt to several types of use. The large synthetic blossoms against the pure pink of the natural flowers makes an interesting picture!
Sakulight by Chihiro Tanaka
Sakulight by Chihiro Tanaka is a pendant light fixture inspired by the petal shapes of the cherry blossoms. The plastic fixtures are hand-sculpted into delicate folds that form the flowers, illuminated from a central light source. The design also evokes paper lanterns and traditional origami techniques.
Sakura Screen by Mount Fuji Architects Studio
Developed as part of a facade for a home office in the Meguro ward of Tokyo, the screen consists of two metal panels cut with a traditional pattern depicting cherry blossoms. When light sifts through the screens, the patterns are projected into the space, creating an abstracted, urban forest.
Meltdown by Tom Price
Last year a few of my friends had the opportunity to assist in the installation of this piece by Tom Price, a British designer who had a show at Industry Gallery here in Washington DC. This installation, which consisted of a forest of cherry trees completely comprised of reused plastic tubing, filled an entire room of the gallery, alongside pieces from his Meltdown collection.
The installation was an homage to DC’s iconic cherry trees. The show at Industry Gallery was Price’s first solo show in the United States, and the installation was a site-specific, immersive component of the exhibition.
This year, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the blossoms here in Washington, and a month-long celebration in honor of the gift of the trees and the friendship between the United States and Japan is already underway. Here’s to a festive and flowery start to the spring season!