"KOPPA" means “pieces of woods” or “scrap wood” in Japanese, which was taken as a name of the designed furniture series and the team in this story. KOPPA started out as a challenge: Tamotsu Ito, an architect from Japan, wanted to utilize leftover building materials that would otherwise have been thrown away.
The meeting between KOPPA and Wacom was pure happenstance. In July 2019, Nobu Ide, Wacom’s president & CEO and Rita Chen, Wacom’s technical marketing manager, visited the new office of mui Lab, Inc. in Kyoto which was designed by Tamotsu. He created a design concept that was based on the historical planning and module of the Kyoto Machiya building types, a feature that fascinated them.
After we met Tamotsu at the mui office, we visited an exhibition (*) that he was part of.
*"Under 35 Young Architects Exhibition"
I noticed a bookshelf placed inconspicuously in the corner among the works of the various architects exhibited.
I wasn’t even sure if the shelf was one of his designed pieces to be honest at first glance, but I thought that either way, it would be great for our next exhibition after we read its caption. Our exhibitions not only display our technologies, but also the stories behind them. I was intrigued and felt that their concept would fit perfectly with ours. Since we didn't have much time until our next exhibition, I asked if we could buy the shelf on the spot.
Tamotsu, Moe (planner), and Shokichi (carpenter) were all at the venue. It was KOPPA’s first exhibition – and also the beginning of much more to come. The result was that "Traveling KOPPA" – a new type of display furniture developed from the original KOPPA concept – was created.
It was impressive when I met Shokichi. When I asked if we could buy it, his answer was "I’m a carpenter!". I talked to Tamotsu and his first word was "Yes!". He was already one step ahead and kindly added that he can even optimize it for Wacom.
I had wanted to buy KOPPA as it was. But when I heard him say that, I asked him a lot of questions to see if it would fit our exhibition concept. We talked about using more depth and making it lighter to carry around in a suitcase.
The biggest challenge was the weight. It was also difficult to make the size fit in a suitcase. The timeline was also really tight. But I knew we could do it because we were motivated by how much we would enjoy a new creative challenge, rather than doing it purely for business reasons. The whole project really depended on whether we could interpret limits and conditions in a positive way and just have fun with it. I had a feeling that the Traveling KOPPA gave us interesting conditions, such as Wacom’s short delivery and mobility requirements for the exhibition.
Moe: I was happy to know that Wacom was able to get on board with our interpretation of fun. We were just talking about how great it would be to continue working together on a small scale after the exhibition. That’s when we realized that we were already taking the next step.
The initial idea behind KOPPA was to have fun, while eliminating construction wastes and our mixed feelings towards them. The simple fact is that we converted scrap wood into a product. But the more exciting part is that we – an architect, real estate agent, carpenter and bartender – were able to bring it all together. And that we developed a new project together with Wacom, a company that we never dreamed we’d be working with!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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