In conversation with Naoto Fukasawa

How long have you been collaborating with the ltalian design manufacturer PLANK, on what values is this relationship built and how do your design philosophy and that of PLANK come together?

The collaboration with PLANK has started in 2012. I had already been working with Italian companies for many years when Michael Plank contacted me. I was fascinated by the history of the company and its design philosophy which impressed me. PLANK is built on trust and teamwork and indeed, the team I started working with has not changed ever since. We complement each other – when I come up with an idea, you can be sure that Michael Plank or the head of production Peter Gruber will instantly think of how to make it. The engineering approach to design, the way of tackling challenges and the solution-oriented attitude are the winning ingredients that make this partnership so exciting to me. The development of the BLOCCO chair is a very good example for the dynamics in the collaboration with PLANK. As a material I suggested to use aluminium in square tube extrusion to minimize bending and welding. PLANK historically started out as a wooden chair manufacture but had evolved into a material-neutral production company, being able to handle all kinds of materials.   Eventually, we agreed on the use of wood for this item. There are no limits to creativity when you have an openminded and capable partner. 

Can you tell us more about your 2022 design for PLANK?

During the pandemic PLANK asked me to do something simple and with a minimalistic approach. A simple table to match with LAND lounge chair. The material should be natural, down-to-earth and no advanced technologies should be used. The structure was meant to be traditional and clean and create impact by the simplicity of the design. The creation of TO was maybe the fastest project I have ever witnessed. We met up one day with Michael PLANK in Milan in April 2022, checking on the prototype. Eventually, we got together a few days later in Venice, saw the second prototype and finally went to see the finishing, all in one week. Amazing! 

What does the home of the future lock like according to you and how do your new designs for PLANK fit into that prospect?

The choice of the right material is crucial. As a designer one must carefully consider which material to fit in a certain environment. For me, nowadays we need to go back to basics and utilize sustainable solutions, simply and rapidly produced. Empathy as weil as flexibility are key elements of my design credo. My creativity focuses on the human being and his/her relationship to the world that keeps changing and on how to create objects that adapt to different locations while conveying a sense of stability.

 In your opinion, how should contemporary design interact with the current world?

Products should not impose but impress by their humility, friendliness and quite strength. lt is not about being cool designers but being kind and warm human beings who with their creativity contribute to making the world a more liveable place. Easy to say, not easy to put into practice.

What does the concept of “Made in Italy” mean to you? 

Italy is a very proud design country. Just recently I heard somewhere that apparently 60% of the population in Milan is somehow related to the design sector. That’s incredible. Italians are confident in their style and design, they never compromise. In fact, all designers aim at reaching Italian made quality, as it is an outstanding and unique, internationally renowned quality feature. 

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