Sadly, last night designer Sori Yanagi passed away. The Japanese industrial design pioneer was 96 years of age.
After founding the Yanagi Industrial Design Institute in Japan in 1952, Yanagi and his work started gaining international notice in the mid-1950s. His Butterfly Stool, above, combined the cutting-edge bentwood technology of the time with a Japanese aesthetic (as anyone who has seen the gate to a Japanese shrine can attest), providing a decidedly Eastern counterpoint to the Western work of the Eameses. The stool gained notoriety after winning an award in the 1957 Milan Trienniale and now resides in both the MoMA and the Louvre.
His stackable, fiberglass Elephant Stool, from 1954, was another early international hit. In the 2000s Vitra brought it back in injection-molded form, and the then-88-year-old Yanagi--who was still working in the same humble backyard studio from the 1950s--developed a new color range for it.
Over the years the prolific Yanagi designed, well, just about everything: Furniture, lighting, kitchenware, toys, motorcycles, cars, subway stations, working right into his 90s. But it's likely he saw his decades' worth of design labor as bringing these objects into the world rather than creating them; he was quoted to have said
True beauty is not made; it is born naturally.