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3. How KOPPA began /
The story of the Traveling KOPPA

 

KOPPA began in April 2019. Tamotsu was thinking about a plan for an exhibition in Osaka (*) for autumn of that year. At that time, he was based in Switzerland and was wondering how to create display furniture with a limited budget remotely. Moreover, he did not want to make something that wouldn't be needed after an exhibition was over. "I wanted to make something that can be used again and again," says Tamotsu. Together with Moe and Shokichi, the three of them were on the same page and KOPPA was born.
*"Under 35 Young Architects Exhibition"


Tamotsu:
When I asked a friend if he knew anyone who could help my exhibition in Osaka, he introduced me to Moe. I vaguely described my idea over dinner at an Italian bar in Osaka. Later on, Moe introduced me to Shokichi, saying that it would be fun to work together with him. At that time, neither the name "KOPPA" nor the idea of using scrap wood had yet existed.

Moe:
Tamotsu’s initial idea was that he wanted to make effective use of the display shelves even after the exhibition was over, while using the leftover materials instead of buying new ones. Since I have visited Maeda Bunka (the base of Shokichi) many times, I thought that their materials could be used. Tamotsu really aims to have fun while working and I thought that we could make it happen together with Shokichi.

Shokichi:
I am a carpenter, and I also work on a lot of projects producing display furniture and event stages. I was feeling conflicted about using lots of wood for events that would only last a few days and then be thrown away afterwards. Moe felt the same. She introduced me to Tamotsu, and then it just flowed from there: we started making display furniture together. KOPPA was created using the leftover wood from our daily carpentry work. We were trying to figure out a way to solve our own conflicts in the carpentry work by ourselves, rather than thinking too much about something good for the environment. That was the beginning of KOPPA.

Nobu:
I didn’t know that the display furniture was the origin of KOPPA. When Rita and I saw it, it was in the form of a bookshelf. I actually thought it was a piece of home furniture. It also had something that reminded me of Wacom’s exhibitions. We also make stages with display furniture then take them apart in the end, which I also have felt a conflict somehow. I noticed that our starting points were strangely connected.

Tamotsu:
My heart hurts when I see buildings being demolished. Since I saw many structure and finishes being dismantled altogether and thrown away, I often wondered if there was a better way. Maeda Bunka made deconstructing the work fun and they try to dismantle the pieces carefully to reuse the different materials again. When I was studying in the US, I learned that there are people who actually do such activities. Knowing this helped me envision the possibilities even more clearly and create a project based on these principles.


KOPPA uses wood usually for hidden bases or substructure in architecture, which we hardly see when the construction is done. Shokichi told us that KOPPA is designed on the basis of materials which are calculated to be standard sizes in the market.

 

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Shokichi:
We use two types of materials on site – one for finish and the other for the base. For KOPPA, we are using the wood that’s not usually seen since the wood was originally used inside a wall or under a floor. In economic sense, we’re required to use the standardized sizes of materials in the Japanese construction industry. Tamotsu designs KOPPA pieces based on the sizes of our leftover materials that were intended to be thrown away.

Moe:
We first made a list of the stocked leftover materials. After visiting Maeda Bunka, we counted how many wood pieces of the same thickness we have and noted all the details. Tamotsu created designs to yield the best possible results by utilizing these materials.

Tamotsu:
That was why our first bookshelves were 90 cm wide.

Nobu:
Does the Traveling KOPPA use the same materials as well?

Shokichi:
Yes, exactly the same materials. They are made with the materials I stocked. We rarely buy new materials, except for the metal parts to connect wooden pieces. These wood pieces are normally inside the walls.

Nobu:
Interesting! Travelling KOPPA was planning to visit San Francisco, Milano, and Beijing, but unfortunately, they were all cancelled. (*As of April 2020)

Shokichi:
It was out of our hands.

Nobu:
Now our Travelling KOPPA is taking a break in Shinjuku. Once things settle down, we will travel together again.

Shokichi:
I will stock as much material as possible by then.


Tomatsu says that one of the best things about the KOPPA team is that each member loosely shares the same vision while bringing different ideas to the table. We like it this way. Each one of us respects the others’ ideas, while still being connected to KOPPA as a whole. The story of the Traveling KOPPA continues...

 

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KOPPA Team Profile

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Tamotsu Ito

Architect/Principal of "tamotsu ito architecture office". While devoting himself to architectural design, Tamotsu was also engaged in teaching architectural design in the US and at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). He started KOPPA with the aim to work seamlessly in various scales, such as urban projects, architecture, furniture and interior design.

 

Moe Donaka

She’s the KOPPA team’s organizational lead and belongs to the "Arts & Crafts" design office. As the manager at R real Osaka Estate, she also works as a broker, plans renovations, and handles public relations. A lot of the KOPPA team members have met through Moe's wide network.

 

Shota Nozaki

Carpenter/Artist. From interior design to art events, he has a knack for creating. He’s in charge of production at KOPPA. Shota is also a representative of the architectural group "noma”. As a member of "Maeda Bunka (*), he has performance activities while demolishing buildings. He met Tamotsu through Moe.
*Proposes and practices various ways to utilize "Bunkajutaku” (old semi-western style houses) in Ibaraki city, Osaka.


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Kazuaki Uemura

Carpenter in the daytime / bartender at night. While working on construction sites with Shokichi, he learned how to cut and connect wood and is now a member of KOPPA. One of Moe's previous colleagues was a regular at his bar “inspire” at Ohatsu Tenjin, which is how they met.

 

Syu Ohki

Representative of the Institute of Life Engineering Design and is both a researcher of livelihood and carpenter. He became a member of KOPPA through his connection with Shokichi. He wasn’t able to be at this interview because he had to work on site that day.

 

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