During Milan Design Week, we visited the exhibition “You Are Here” by Japanese company Yamaha Corporation and sat with Mr. Toshihide Suzuki, chief designer of the exhibition, to discuss the 11 new furniture pieces the brand presented for the first time.
Japanese company Yamaha Corporation manufactures and sells musical instruments and audio equipment. Torakusu Yamaha began his company in 1887, after building his first reed organ at 36 years old. His professional background as a musical instrument repairman led him to found Yamaha; the time marker for this change points to a moment when the personnel of an elementary school asked him to repair a reed organ that had been imported from the US, where a suction-based reed organ was invented simultaneously with the pressure-winding one in France in 1840. One creation at a time, his brand has become a world-renowned symbol of excellence.
Ever since his passing in 1916, his legacy has prevailed with continuous inventions and established divisions. Torakusu Yamaha wasn’t involved with the brand’s motorcycle division, developed in 1955 which split off as Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. the same year, yet this has also brought the brand notoriety in the industrial scene. Still, music was and always will be the soul of Yamaha. In 1963, the company established the Yamaha Design Laboratory as its in-house design division. The laboratory oversees the design of a wide variety of products, ranging from acoustic and digital musical instruments to audio equipment, golf products and more.
Last year, the company earned Red Dot awards for its flagship wireless model headphones YH-L700A and its new saxophone-like wind instrument called Venova, created for beginners. In 2021, certain Red Dot awards went to the digital saxophone YDS-150 and the guitar amplifier THR-II for desktops. Throughout the years, Yamaha has accumulated many awards and recognitions. It has remained one of the most reputable brands in the world for the use of quality materials and impeccable design. This year marks the presentation of the brand’s first-ever furniture pieces, made to accompany and bring to life its musical instruments.
In our interview with Mr. Toshihide Suzuki, we learn more about the innovative craftsmanship behind the 11 new creations displayed at the “You Are Here” exhibition during Milan Design Week.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: It’s quite remarkable to see Yamaha’s first collection of furniture pieces. It’s quite an evolution from previous works by Yamaha in innovating musical instruments.
Mr. Toshihide Suzuki: Especially in parallel with the Salone del Mobile, the furniture fair. For us, though, it’s about living with musical instruments. It’s happy. Our message is: How about living together with instruments? The spirit of Torakusu, the founder, remains at the heart of the company. It’s maybe why we still try to expand not only small stereotype musical instruments. Now, many people think ‘I know a piano; it has this kind of shape’ or ‘I know a guitar’. These instruments have already been invented. They’ve become tradition, yet we try to expand the concept.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Can you tell us the story of the creation of this exhibition? The title “You Are Here” must have deep significance. How does the message connect with the soul of the Yamaha brand?
Mr. Toshihide Suzuki: For us, exhibiting in Milan is very important. It’s the best place to talk with guests and catch their reactions. The first priority, because we’re a laboratory, is research. We need to think about what a musical instrument is. In the future, we see the end product and that’s also good but this kind of project isn’t an order from the company. The laboratory begins reflecting, researching and designing ideas.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: So the design lab conceived these furniture pieces and presented them to the company?
Mr. Toshihide Suzuki: Usually, design is solving a problem that has been raised. In this case, we’ve raised the question through our research at the lab. For now, the furniture pieces on display in the exhibition aren’t on the market.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Can you tell us about the exhibition “You Are Here”, featuring 11 new works, you put together for this year’s Milan Design Week?
Mr. Toshihide Suzuki: We were supposed to exhibit this project in 2020 but Covid hit and the event got canceled. We made most of the pieces in 2020 but are only now presenting them for the first time. One of the newer pieces from this year, though, is the drumset Dress Me Up. Through this exhibition, we want to say that owning a musical instrument is an intimate relationship, it’s not just a tool. It’s like a friend or a pet, saying ‘I’m here’. The exhibition is a response to the instrument calling, reminding us it’s here. ‘Yes, you are here.”
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What can you tell us about the craftsmanship behind the manufacturing of the 11 new pieces?
Mr. Toshihide Suzuki: Yamaha factory has craftsmen that we work with on the manufacturing. Sometimes, we have conversations with them as we work on designs. Craftsmanship is thinking by hand, through the material, it’s a different kind of mentality from which we can learn a lot. Also, designing isn’t only about drawing. We create prototypes and also work with our hands, so our mindsets are quite superimposed.