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Two new rooms designed by POSTALCO designer Mike Abelson will be joining CLASKA by the end of July this year. Construction has started on the 7th floor of CLASKA, to create the 2 semi-double rooms.
The second update of our "Rooms in Progress" is an interview with Mike Abelson - about "In Praise of Shadows", an essay by Junichiro Tanizaki which he was inspired by, about the room's design features, and about his views on hotels and travels, and more. With his words and sketches, some photos from the construction site, we will share the story in 2 parts.
> You can check "Rooms in Progress" Vol.1 here.
--- How did this project begin?
M: When POSTALCO's new shop opened in Kyobashi last year, Mr. Okuma (CLASKA Gallery & Shop "DO" Director) came to visit. Seeing that I had designed all the furniture in the shop, he came to the idea, "If you can design furniture and create a space like this, you could design a hotel room for us!", and there it began.
©2018 Postalco / Kyobashi Shop
--- POSTALCO has been one of "DO"s important partners since the start of the shop. What were your impressions on CLASKA itself?
M: I had been personally visiting CLASKA since it`s renewal in 2008, and though I live in Tokyo I have stayed at the hotel once too. CLASKA has a nice mixture of the new and the old, and the location is exquisite - nothing touristy, but in midst of the very real streets of Japan. It seemed like a very comfortable place for both foreigners and locals.
Hotel CLASKA Front desk
--- In the first "Rooms in Progress", you mentioned Junichiro Tanizaki's essay "In Praise of Shadows" as a design inspiration. Which parts inspired your ideas?
M: I had this book, "In Praise of Shadows" since 1998 when I graduated university. Tanizaki writes about the beauty of shadows of traditional Japanese interiors, and the good thing about the book is that he doesn't lecture about trend and techniques, but expresses his agonies and challenges. The comparison he makes between Japanese and Western housing and approaches to technology are very interesting, even nowadays, and many people studying design in America were influenced by the book.
Tanizaki's afflictions go on in the book, and the process is somewhat humorous. He wants the benefits of modern technology - the toilets, lights, and stoves - but it contradicts with the Japanese sense of elegance. He goes through many thoughts, exploring ideas like "What if the Japanese created the first electric light?", sometimes getting off track, and finally gives up at the end. The book doesn't give us an answer, and that is why it makes us think. Balance between technology and warmth is an important issue we still face today.
Also, as a foreigner, this book makes me realize the essences of traditional Japanese beauty. For instance, I used to think wide windows were obviously best, but Tanizaki makes a good case for the beauty of darkness.
--- And how did you sublimate your findings into the room design?
M: First, the lighting. When I stay at a hotel, I always have trouble with lights - sometimes it's way too bright, sometimes it's too dark to draw, or having a hard time finding the right dimness going to bed. I always wanted to control the light, so the new rooms will have an exceptional range of lighting.
--- Tell us about the lighting plan.
©2018 Mike Abelson / Postalco
M: I designed 3 types of lighting for the room. Near the ceiling will be white gentle lights that reflect the white ceiling effectively, among the wall will be lights spreading the beam downwards, and iconically, the wooden posts will have lights built in.
This is the sketch for the post light. You can't see the light bulb, but you can feel the light source - which is the balance I paid attention to.
Guests staying in this room can play with the lights, control the 3 types with dimmers, and find the perfect light. I wanted to make the light experience something special, so I made the switches special too.
--- So you were inspired by Tanizaki's words and praise of shadows, but the rooms is not going to be just dark.
M: That's right. Not just following his words, I developed my own thoughts and trials after reading the book. Against Tanizaki's love of dark bathrooms, the room I designed has a white bright bathroom - for my convenience (so I can shave!)
--- You mentioned "the balance between technology and warmth". In POSTALCO's products, I feel the materials you use seem to contribute to the warmth they carry. What kind of materials will be used in the new rooms?
M: I intend to use materials with warmth, especially if it is something you touch everyday, but functionality can't be ignored. But when function becomes the only priority, the room will turn out to be like a hospital room.
For the rooms, a large rock will be placed in the entrance space. Like the ones seen in Japanese shrines. Compared to thin hollow floors or hollow station platforms, rocks are strong and solid, which gives your feet a sense of stability. Also touching rocks makes me feel relaxed, it is probably because they have existed in nature for ages. We got great stones for the entrance, I hope the guests will enjoy them with their feet.
©2018 Mike Abelson / Postalco
CLASKA is a 8 story concrete building, and harmony with the facility itself is very important. The common areas have a mixed taste of both Japanese and Western, so I didn't want the room to be too Japanese. Aging is another perspective too, as hotel rooms are used by different people everyday. With those points in mind, I carefully chose the flooring wood, fabrics, tiles, and more.
*The sketches are images of the new rooms.
*Interview taken place at POSTALCO office.
In part 2 of the interview, we will introduce two other characteristics of the room that Mike derived from his own experiences of traveling. Check here.
POSTALCO & CLASKA's SNS accounts (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter) will be sharing the newest updates with "#claska_roomsinprogress". Keep a look out.
［For press inquiries］
CLASKA Press: Misa Ushida
Tel：03-5773-9667 Fax：03-5773-9668 E-mail：firstname.lastname@example.org
Founded in Brooklyn, New York we are now based in Tokyo. Postalco has a passion for everyday objects and our relationships with them. Our logo is the carrier pigeon inspired by communication on paper. We began with document holders and notebooks but since then have applied our point of view to many other items; including leather wallets, rainwear, pens, key holders and bags. Based in Tokyo for over 15 years, we are dedicated to finding new ways to apply Japanese craft in daily life. Postalco's products are created to be used by anyone - male or female, young or old, people from all walks of life worldwide. What sets Postalco's designs apart are their supreme utility and ineffable warmth blended with the beauty of understatement.
Born in Los Angeles, California. Studied product design at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Moved to New York in 1997 to design the Jack Spade product collection and brand concept. He is based in Tokyo for over sixteen years. In addition to designing Postalco products he has worked with other clients including Calder Foundation, Sunspel, The Conran Shop, Issey Miyake, and Maison Hermès.