BACK ISSUE #407

Interiors: Launch Pad
A clearinghouse for cutting-edge interior designs from across the universe, Sputnik Pad puts the finishing touches on a lifelong lifestyle obsession. Stuart Braun reclines in this latest manifestation of the Sputnik Empire.

If your world, or more particularly, your apartment, is getting a little mundane, it might be time to inject it with some interplanetary design from the Sputnik Pad, a space-age furniture and housewares emporium just opened in Jingumae. Far-out, funky and avowedly postmodern, Sputnik's labyrinth of furniture invention is a monument to the spirit of adventure, says it's founder, and inspiration, Teruo Kurosaki. "More adventure awaits in the modern city than in the depths of the jungle. We will change our point of view, and with some courage and the Sputnik way, we will find beauty in the snakes and poisonous things. Truly comfortable urban life should be filled with adventure." Dubbed "The Conran of Japan" for his long-established and widely accessible Ideé furniture range, Kurosaki has capped an impressive career as interior stylist and lifestyle consultant with this testament to free-form design.

 

Intergalactic design
With a global collective of designers, including the best names from Italy, Scandinavia and Japan, contributing to the range, Sputnik's unique brand of furniture design has been doing the rounds at international furniture shows in Milan, London, Berlin and New York before being unveiled in Japan. Over 300 Sputnik prototypes, designed both for the home and the office, are currently on the drawing board and 40 are currently in production. Meanwhile, plans are underway to open a store in Venice Beach and thus take advantage of Sputnik's emerging reputation in the US. But while Kurosaki is committed to making this a truly international release, the current Tokyo space station will remain the Sputnik mother ship. A stunningly designed structure in its own right, the Pad embodies the future, and artistry, of Tokyo design. From the basement level Rice Bar to the sun-drenched exhibition spaces on the third floor, each of the three levels of the Sputnik Pad contain elements both profound and practical.

Yukari Iki, spokeswoman for Sputnik, says the concept is threefold: affordable, moveable and adorable. Of these, mobility seems often to be the key, with the Sputnik pod chair the ultimate in mobile, earthy and practical seating. Staying true to the Japanese aesthetic of "living on the floor," the embryo-shaped,woven rattan floor pod is a unique blend of future and tradition. Other mobile creations include the Marc Newson-designed Super Guppy lamp, an aluminum street lamp on wheels that extends 2m in height (¥180,000) and allows you to incorporate aspects of the stark, urban streetscape into your lounge room. More mobile still is the remote-controlled Free Wheel'n Franklin coffee table that can be moved around your apartment with the toggle of a joystick. As one of the hottest names in interior design of late, Newson has transposed his long-running relationship with Kurosaki at Ideé into a Sputnik format better suited to his offbeat style. Newson's Embryo chair, designed in 1988 and by now a timeless classic of modular living (¥170,000), is another feature of the range and provides the perfect complement to the sleek, angular Hook Sofa range from up-and-coming Japanese designer Takuhiro Shinomoto.

Free fall
Sputnik does not tell its designers what to do. While there's a tendency to the avant-garde—and a heavy reliance on metal and plastics—designers are given free play to do "whatever inspires them," says Iki. If there were a unifying theme, it would be best described as creative license. Sputnik, in fact, started life as a beach house, bar and DJ venue on Tsujido Beach, Kanagawa, south of Tokyo. Created by Kurosaki as a place to contemplate new designs outside of Ideé, Sputnik beach house was conceived as a free space in which people can meet, relax and get out of the city.
While lying under his dome tent on the beach, Kurosaki got the idea to publish Sputnik magazine, which was more about art and lifestyle than a particular design ethos. Featuring interviews with artists, architects, designers and filmmakers from around the globe—from Sputnik's own design superstar Newson to the radical French film auteur Jean Rouche—the magazine is self-described as a "whole life catalogue" and aims to portray the "diverse elements of the human character," says Iki.
As the third and as yet final stage in the evolution of Sputnik, the opening of the interstellar Sputnik Pad embodies Kurosaki's wish to take his project beyond the limits of interior design. The Rice Bar, for example, while a fine example of Japanese minimalist interior aesthetic, gives a holistic, wholesome edge to the Pad, featuring 22 types of rice and a highly inventive menu. Elsewhere, the landscaped bamboo grove circling the rear of the building and the bonsai display out front provide a stark, yet harmonious, contrast to the futuristic creations that fill the vast windows of the main building.

 

Much of the inspiration for the Sputnik home was conceived during their first exhibition at the International Furniture Trade Show in Milan in 2000, the world's biggest. There, Sputnik items were displayed in a white air dome, while images of the earth and the ocean were beamed onto the back of it, serving as symbols of perspective and, in turn, of possibilities. "Sputnik was the first satellite to orbit the earth. If things are seen from Sputnik's point of view, all might seem so different from its usual circumstance. What if such a point of view is applied to designing?" asks Kurosaki. It's a theme that captures the bold designs, and the global mix of design talent, from Karim Rashid's fungi-like and funky Shroom Stool (¥43,000) to the sensual lines of the Jan Tesar Caress ceiling lamp (¥26,000), featured at Sputnik. But more than a theme, it's a universe that deserves to be explored next time you're in the back lanes of Aoyama.

5-46-14 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku.
Tel: 03-6418-1330. Open 11am-7pm daily. www.gosputnik.com
Nearest stn: Omotesando
(directly across from Las Chicas).

Photo credit: Courtesy of Sputnik