Sydney-based designer Liam Mugavin was commissioned to create bespoke furniture for Australia House, Urada in Niigata Prefecture’s Tōkamachi city. As a symbol of recovery from the 2011 earthquake, the building focuses on environmental sustainability and protection from natural disaster. Since its construction, the house has primarily been a place for cultural exchange between Australia and Japan, where in-house artists produce and exhibit their work.
Each piece of Mugavin’s furniture works in relation to different aspects of the house, its architecture, location, community and the larger cultural context. Three unique designs — the Tangle Table, Echigo Sugi Table and the Gonbei Bench — pay homage to the local history as well as contemporary trends in Australian architecture.
Made from Tasmanian oak, the Tangle Table is an apt example of the merge between Japanese and Australian designs. Inspired by the triangular architectural shapes of the Australia House, the table complements the building’s unique structure, and can be found sitting harmoniously in an acute angle of the building.
With the use of local Japanese cedar from the nearby mountains, the Echigo Sugi Table is simple in design, but is ‘abstracted from the geometry of surrounding rice fields and provides an analogy of Urada as a community’, according to the designer. The timber finishings are done with sugi yaki, a traditional Japanese technique involving charring the timber. Coincidentally, this technique has seen increasing usage in Australian architecture.
The Gonbei Bench reflects the collaboration between the designer and the local people. Made from timber from neighbour Gonbei-san’s farmhouse, which fell after the earthquake, the outside bench pays homage not only to the farmhouse, but also to the local craftspeople and traditional Japanese carpentry.
Text / Kristy Kong