Known for its exquisite steel implements, Tadafusa is a third-generation maker of hand-forged knives. But while its methods are traditional, the company’s new showroom and retail shop in the Tsubame-Sanjo region of Niigata Prefecture – an area renowned for its 300-year-old blacksmithing history – takes a less-than-conventional approach to displaying wares.
Wanting to exhibit the knives on a more human level, Japanese designer Yusuke Seki created an open environment made of glass, steel and concrete — raw materials that are ideal complements to the stark beauty of the utensils. Forgoing the usual locked-case display, Seki instead installed a glass-enclosed room, one the customer can enter and experience the instruments up close. A raised threshold creates a moment of pause and awareness upon entering, asking the visitor to respect the space as one would a shrine or temple.
As important as its blade, the knife’s handle is crucial to its function. For this, Tadafusa has developed a carbonization method that adds an antibacterial quality to spruce, the wood of choice for handles and cutting boards. So it was also spruce that Seki used to create the enclosure’s slotted-lattice wall, which uses adjustable interlocking shelves to horizontally showcase the knives, an orientation that feels more intuitive. The pale quality of the wood softens the glass, steel and concrete interior, and provides a beautiful backdrop for the steel blades. A centrally located spruce-wood table serves as a site for experiencing the knives firsthand.
Built beside the company’s factory, the two buildings are merged by incorporating an external wall of the warehouse within the internal space of the showroom. The metal wall adds to the material palette of spruce, stone and glass, and its blue finish has an industrial elegance that works with the new showroom — one that seems to further highlight the beauty of the knives themselves. Just like his showroom for Japanese porcelain manufacturer Maruhiro, Seki has worked wonders with a strong central idea.