Atehaca is a project which started last summer by Toshiba and an architect design production called Intentionallies. They are going to introduce five new products (an IH rice cooker, an electric microwave oven, an electric oven, a coffe maker and an electric pot) in spring 2002. The project has been carrying on with a lot of energy in order to produce the electric home appliances which are able to express themselves as furniture with dignity in a dining room. The reason for using 'Atehaca' as a name of this project is that this word means elegant and beautiful in old Japanese.
The project has started with the three concepts: beautiful forms like plates, colours which make meals look delicious, an elegant dining space with the electric home appliances. Many ideas had been put into the products, such as using a pictogram as a switch sign and designing a package which can be used as furniture afterwards. This is a new challege to the new ability of the electric home appliances. The exhibition of this project had been held at Version Gallery in Harajuku during Tokyo Designers Week from the 11th and 31th of October. This is the interview with Mr Shuwa Tei, who took charge of producing, concept working and product design at Intentionallies.
How was the project founded?
I had got an offer from a young officer at Toshiba to persuade the company into starting this project. I first thought it was just his hope but he had a strong superior who was backing up this idea. LIke this we started to have a dream of making a new style electric home appliance. That young officer was interested in the acitivities of Intentionallies, that's why he came to me. I, personally, had been having a dream of designing a living space as a whole including an electric home appliance. I had been thinking that I would like to design things without sticking to something, such as buildings, interior and furniture. However, the situation is quite difficult for people, who are specialised for architecture like me, to produce an electric home appliance from a well known company, because many tasks are subdivided very much. It was last year when we started to build up the ideas and the means how to carry on this project specifically. The final plan had been decided this spring.
Was producing an appliance with functions as a machine and design a big challenge for you?
I was able to accept this project as a usual one, because I had been doing architecture and interior with thinking of functions and design. In the case of an electric home appliance, however, I needed to follow the different rule. In architecture, there is rule like caring about rain and others, but that rule is not acceptable for the electric home appliances which are used in daily life. The mold should be tapered on the process of producing materials for an electric home appliance. Moreover, it should be safe not only for babies but also for everybody. It should look nice for eldery people. The law and regulations are considerable points when the products are made, too. We have to think about the strength for heat or easiness for cleaning when it gets dirty as well. For example, I had had a image of using a transparent coating but there is none which is strong enough for heat at the moment. Also, we needed to pre-test the coating 20,000 times to know its strength, because the product should be strong enough to endure damage. As an option, it is possible to change the shape of poduct to curvey. If you see the coating of the electric pot, it stands out but I wanted to put it into the product. As this case shows, there are difficulities and limits in design, but I find it really enjoyable.
Would you like to expand your project to other electric home appliances?
Of course, I would. But only if after this project reaches success.
Nowadays, even the package for a box can be used as furniture. What do you think about ecology in general?
In the architecture world, it is really easy to make rubbish, of course. So, the question arose what I can do as an architect. If the box is just usual one, it is not beautiful enough. I have got loads of records at my place and I put them all into that box as they have been bought. I have always thought "this is really far from beauty". In terms of ecology, there is the movement which is against mass production and mass consuming. But I think it is better to back to the idea 'not to throw rubbish away' than calling at all times 'ecology, ecology'. The amount of rubbish would not increase if you did not throw it away, wouldn't it? When I thought that, I came to the idea that what to do about it in design. Then, I started to design the package as furniture because this project is for making furniture with an electric home appliance. On the other hand, I thought it would be interesting if this furniture comes with the electric home appliance. Usually, if I was asked to make a handrail, I would order 10,00 pieces of wood for mass production. However, it is different in this project. This time, I can do a various things because it is an individual box sold at life-style shops. I can use leather or material in a package, for example, and you can enjoy using this as furniture as well. This is nothing except an added value as I just want to put the records into it.
As it can be seen in Atehaca's website, were you conscious of Japanese beauty by using bamboo?
Yes, I was. I am conscious of 'a product from Japan'. For example, Japanese grandmothers tell children not to throw or waste things. This idea is not in the western thoughts. I had a chance to talk to German designers called Jam at the event Happening last year and they started to talk about politics. At that time, I just said "I am not sure because I am not a politician, but I would like to make products which people can take care of". Their reaction to my opinion was quite cool and that made me think that my viewpoint might be accurate. The meaning of Japanese should indicate that the quality of the product is Japanese taste. The reason for using bamboos is that the word 'Atehaca' has got the meaning which express the image of Kaguya-hime (a bamboo princess). And the staff of Tycoon Graphic which took charge of making the web site said "we can feel the image of bamboos in Atehaca as if it grows up dramatically". I found the common point as bamboo from them so that the word Atehaca was chosen. It is not only that the products are Japanese in taste but also they should be Japanese in thought.
Do you think about Japanese taste when you start a new project in architecture and others?
Japanese used to sit down on the floor rather than on the chair but it is opposite now. On the other hand, there is a question 'what is a Japanese taste thing?' in my creative thought, because I know the advantages of both Japan and western countries. This question came to me, because I am Japanese but it is not a Japanese taste like question. I use stuff and skills from western culture but I just absorb them with my thoughts. It is obviously not real if I say that Japanese taste means not to use things from western culture. This is a different thing from not using Internet or websites, for example. I do not use this sort of things and do not mean to.
What sort of ideas did you put in the appearence of Atehaca products?
The products have been designed with the image of dishes as the things which are placed on a dining table or near from living space. We have got traditional dishes such as a bento box. The relationship between 'dishes and a bento box' has changed to 'home appliances, meals and a package' in this project. It makes the relationship between home appliances, dishes and meals beautiful as a meaning.
Please tell us about the future projects of Intentionallies.
Interior would be the core project because we are doing that at the moment. As for this year, these electric home appliances and furniture (chairs which were exhibited on the first floor at YM Square) were the main thing. I would like to investigate how these products should be in a living place as one of the goals of the interior project. I am thinking that it might be possible to design everything which is used in everyday life with the theme of 'where is the most appropriate place for products we made?'. As a project for next year, it would be nice if I could present a house which is like a skyscraper in a commercial area and a one-storied house in the surburbs as two different life style houses.
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