Design: The Just So of the Swerve and Line

Architecture and design combine traditional skill with inventive daring

The Chinese invented paper lanterns.

The Japanese redesigned them so that they could be folded flat to save space, and enable the candles inside to be lighted easily and safely. The pleats also add beauty.

This combination of cleverness, skill and shibusa, rather than originality, accounts for the excellence of Japanese design. Its continuity extends from the 17th century Katsura Imperial Villa, whose sparse, shoji-screened rooms influenced modern architecture, to the just completed Keio University library; from tatami mats to Sony's new Flamingo record players....

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