Hidden within the gridded timber walls of Atsushi Kitagawara Architects' Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, is a quiet all-white dining space conceived by the country's champion of design, Oki Sato's studio Nendo. Titled 'Colourful Shadows,' the work comprises a sloping black dining table, surrounded by a set of 24 matching chairs and laid with an array of black tableware, spanning the length of the 11m x 3m space. As visitors enter, the furniture gradually increases in height, creating a warped sense of perspective and encouraging guests to use the chairs as stepladders to get a closer look at the objects on display.
Correlating with the Expo's underlying theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, each of the 16 pieces of tableware were designed by the studio and produced via a different traditional Japanese craft or local industry. The exhibition has been deliberately designed in a monochrome palette so as to not distract from the intricacies of the craftsmens' work.
'In the novelist Junichiro Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadows', says Nendo, explaining the thinking behind the show's title, 'there is a passage about eating a yokan [a traditional sweet made from black bean paste] in the dark in order to develop a keener palette. Just as in this exhibition, all information pertaining to colour has been removed to encourage the spectator to focus on other more essential aspects of the exhibited pieces.'