Friday Five with Takashi Yanai

Takashi Yanai, FAIA is the “Y” in EYRC Architects, representing one of four partners heading up the award-winning, Los Angeles and San Francisco-based architecture firm. He’s been the Residential Studio Director since 2004 spearheading their single-family residence projects with his keen eye and masterful way of bringing about the relationship between man and nature through architecture. He has an ability to effortlessly infuse elements of Japanese design into that indoor/outdoor, California modern aesthetic, resulting in dream-worthy homes you’ll wish you owned. Before practicing architecture, Yanai worked in Tokyo as an editor at GA Houses where he embraced the perk of interacting with some of the best residential architects in the world. Currently, along with lecturing around the world, he’s a visiting lecturer at the USC School of Architecture, is on the A+D Museum’s Board of Directors, and keeps active in the AIA Committee of Design. When he’s not designing houses, he travels, loves photography, and keeps up a visually stunning and extremely popular Instagram account – @t_yanai. Now it’s time to see what he’s chosen to share in this week’s Friday Five.

1. The tea ceremony
There is something to be a said for a slow deliberate ceremony that is all about human interaction. My grandmother practiced and taught the tea ceremony and so what I know began with her and her tea house in Chigasaki, not far from my hometown of Tokyo. What I love about the tea ceremony is that it brings together so many things that are of particular importance to me. There is a garden aspect, an architecture aspect, an art aspect. It is about food and drink. But most importantly it is about how the focused, deliberate concentration on these things together provides a vehicle for what it means to be human, amidst nature and among other humans.

2. Photobooks
Photography was actually an alternate career for me. Before practicing architecture I studied literature and was an editor for prominent design magazine. In the end, I’m a visual person and photography is visual poetry. Especially today, photography has become a medium that speaks so broadly to people. When I seek out other creative people, it is often photographers that I enjoy meeting the most. Photobooks bring my personal creative passions together in an under appreciated medium. A photograph can be such a powerful summary statement of so many things that can’t necessarily be put into words. And photos compiled and presented in a photobook, just like how a great recording album is a sum greater than the songs, expresses something greater than can be expressed in a single photograph. Some favorites include Robert Frank’s The Americans, Takashi Homma’s Tokyo Suburbia, and Daido Moriyama’s Farewell Photography.

3. Common Projects sneakers
When it comes to my wardrobe I’ve been accused of not liking color. This isn’t true at all. For instance, I love black. And dark black. White, is a very very light black. I like to keep things basic and simple. Or as I prefer to say, essential. For instance my favorite shoe is a basic black low-top sneaker by Common Projects. I’ve been wearing out pairs of their classic Achilles Low in black for the last ten years. It is part of my architect’s uniform. Beat up and casual on a weekend with my kids or clean and scuff free at a museum board meeting. Kudos to the designers for having created an essential sneaker that would make any minimalist proud.

4. Landscape design
The further I get in my architectural design career the more I appreciate how important landscape design is in the totality of the designed environment. My work is so much about the relationship between inside and outside, about blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior space. I also love collaborating with talented landscape architects and designers. I don’t see how a house in particular can be successful without beautiful and considerate landscaping. Ironically, on weekends I find myself preoccupied with my garden rather than the house.

Enoura Observatory

5. Hiroshi Sugimoto
Along with Donald Judd and Isamu Noguchi, I’m a superfan of the obsessive compulsive art of Hiroshi Sugimoto that is all about the metaphysical contemplation of time and space. Beginning with the contemplative stillness of his Seascapes to the distilled blurry essence of masterpieces in his Architecture series, his photographs are sublime. Sugimoto has expanded his genius way beyond photography and has taken on sculpture, interiors and most recently architecture. A year ago, I would have suggested Naoshima Island in Japan to be the perfect place to take in his art, but today I recommend people make a pilgrimage to his newly opened Enoura Observatory in Odawara. There, Sugimoto has managed to bring together all facets of his blue-chip creative genius. Best of all he does it all with a dash of irony and snarky humor.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.