Art Behind Glass

Musashino, Tokyo (JP)

Some of the biggest names in design were once students here: Nissan’s Shiro Nakamura, Audi’s Satoshi Wada and Panasonic’s Toyoyuki Uematsu. Musashino Art University (MAU) is famous not only in Japan but throughout the world. Founded in 1929 as the Teikoku (Imperial) Art School, it has taught fine art and industrial design since its very beginning. In 1962, it became a university. Yoshinobu Ashihara was instrumental in the founding of the school of architecture at MAU. A Harvard graduate, he worked with Marcel Breuer in New York in the 1950s and went on to design the spectacular Sony building in Ginza, Tokyo’s business and entertainment district. In 1967, he built the university’s campus in the Tokyo metropolitan area of Kodaira. The 1974 expansion was the work of his famous student, Yoichiro Hosaka. The magnificent, ten-meter-high (33-foot-high) entrance hall, with its marble floor and white walls, was the perfect venue for a permanent exhibition. And, of course, it was inevitable that the professors and students at the art university would keep a close curatorial eye on the exhibit. The USM Haller glass showcases fulfilled the clearly defined requirements: They hold their own against the dominant character of the entry hall and bring together two elements that do not always coexist: aesthetics and functionality. (The photos shown here are from the “Masterpiece Product Collection” exhibition featur­ing design classics such as the Butterfly chair by Sori Yanagi, the Braun electric shaver and the Olivetti typewriter.)

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