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Sori Yanagi

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Sōri Yanagi
Yanagi in 1952
BornJune 29, 1915 (1915-06-29)
DiedDecember 25, 2011(2011-12-25) (aged 96)
Tokyo, Japan.
Alma materTokyo Art School
Notable workButterfly Stool (1954),
Elephant Stool (1954)

Sōri Yanagi (柳 宗理, Yanagi Sōri, 29 June 1915 – 25 December 2011)[1][2][3] was a Japanese industrial designer.[4] 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


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[5] (now, Tokyo University of the Arts) in 1934, where he studied both art and architecture.


Butterfly Stool (1954)

Yanagi 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.[4][6]

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, Yanagi designed a wide range of products: furniture, three-wheeled vehicles, Olympic cauldrons, pedestrian overpasses, etc. One of the most famous pieces of furniture is his Butterfly Stool[7] which won a gold prize at the Milan Triennial XI.[8] 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.

In 1958 Yanagi assisted in the founding of the Japan Interior Architects/Designers' Association. He led the organization together with Isamu Kenmochi and Riki Watanabe.[9]

Yanagi designed the official torch for the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.[4]

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

Key designs

  • Elephant Stool, 1954
  • Butterfly Stool, 1956


  • Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (UK), 2008[10]


  1. ^ a b AP obituary via the Philadelphia Inquirer of December 27, 2011
  2. ^ 6月29日はプロダクトデザイナーの柳宗理の誕生日です
  3. ^ 柳宗理さん死去、工業デザインの草分け
  4. ^ a b c Rawsthorn, Alice (2018). Design as an Attitude. Zurich, Switzerland: JRP | Ringier. ISBN 978-3037645215.
  5. ^ Sori Yanagi Industrial Designer / DESIGN ARCHIVE
  6. ^ Japanese Design by The Museum of Modern Art, pg 23
  7. ^ 'Made in Japan' (Without the Inferiority Complex) by RITA REIF, Published in The New York Times on October 9, 1994
  8. ^ "Japanese Designers 101". Spoon & Tamago. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  9. ^ Megha Rajguru; Yunah Lee, eds. (2022). Design and Modernity in Asia: National Identity and Transnational Exchange 1945-1990. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 9781350091474.
  10. ^ 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.