Sori Yanagi

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Sōri Yanagi'
Yanagi Sori.jpg
Yanagi in 1952
Born1915 (1915)
Died2011(2011-00-00) (aged 95–96)
Tokyo, Japan.
Alma materTokyo Art School
Notable workButterfly Stool (1954),
Elephant Stool (1954)

Sōri Yanagi (柳 宗理, Yanagi Sōri, 1915–2011)[1] was a Japanese industrial designer.[2] He played a role in Japanese modern design developed after World War II to the high-growth period in the Japanese economy. He is both a representative of the wholly Japanese modern designer and a full-blown modernist who merged simplicity and practicality with elements of traditional Japanese crafts.

Early life[edit]

Yanagi was born in 1915 in Tokyo, Japan. His father is Yanagi Sōetsu, founder of the Japanese folk crafts mingei movement, which celebrated the beauty of everyday objects, and the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum (Nihon Mingeikan). Sōri entered Tokyo Art School[3] (now, Tokyo University of the Arts) in 1934, where he studied both art and architecture.


Butterfly Stool (1954)

He was influenced by Le Corbusier as well as by Charlotte Perriand, whom he translated for when she was in Tokyo during the early 1940s. Perriand introduced him to product design, and his interests later moved from painting to buildings to design and objects.[2][4] Most of Yanagi's designs are very simple and beautiful. His products illustrate his thinking: true beauty is not made, it is born naturally. When he created a new product, he made the first versions over and over by hand, seeking new forms that took shape from both new and old ideas.[citation needed]

After World War II, he designed many products: furniture, three-wheeled vehicles, Olympic cauldrons, pedestrian overpasses, etc. One of the most famous pieces of furniture is his Butterfly Stool[5] which won a gold prize at the Milan Triennial XI.[6] Announced in 1956, its 2-piece form has been compared to a butterfly's open wings. Alternately, the shape can be seen as the gateway of a Shinto shrine or even an antique samurai helmet. In effect, it is a form that is both modern and timeless, that has won critical acclaim and prizes, and is included in major collections such as the Museum of Modern Art New York and the Ruble Museum.

Yanagi designed the official torch for the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.[2]

Sōri Yanagi died in 2011 at the age of 96.[1]

Key Designs[edit]

  • Elephant Stool, 1954
  • Butterfly Stool, 1956


  • Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (UK), 2008[7]


  1. ^ a b AP obituary via the Philadelphia Inquirer of December 27, 2011
  2. ^ a b c Rawsthorn, Alice (2018). Design as an Attitude. Zurich, Switzerland: JRP | Ringier. ISBN 3037645210.
  3. ^ Sori Yanagi Industrial Designer / DESIGN ARCHIVE
  4. ^ Japanese Design by The Museum of Modern Art, pg 23
  5. ^ 'Made in Japan' (Without the Inferiority Complex) by RITA REIF, Published in The New York Times on October 9, 1994
  6. ^ "Japanese Designers 101 | Spoon & Tamago". Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  7. ^ Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Sori Yanagi Archived 2012-05-23 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-5-27.

External links[edit]