interview with yoshinobu miyamoto



Back in June when visiting Tokyo, Matt and I were lucky enough to spend some time with our friends Yoshinobu and his wife Waka. They were so generous with their time and took us to many awesome places and when I think back to that trip, the days spent with them were by far the most memorable.

I’m sure most of you are already familiar with the work of Yoshinobu Miyamoto. I blogged about his amazing models here earlier this year. Since then he has made many more models and I’m continually checking his Flickr site to see what new piece of brilliance has popped up since I last checked. He is a man on a model mission and I’m convinced there is no model Yoshinobu can’t make!


Yoshinobu Miyamoto is an architect and also a teacher of architecture at the Aichi Institute of Technology (AIT) in Japan. So what led him on the path to designing and building things? I had to find out and lucky for me Yoshinobu was happy to answer all my questions. Thanks Yoshinobu for allowing us this little look into your creative and somewhat mathematical world.


Growing up in Japan, was paper craft a common activity amongst kids?
Origami has been widely taught at both pre-schools and grade schools for more than 100 years in Japan. Myself, I was not that good at it. I preferred making paper craft models from children’s magazines. My mentor was a teacher I had for 6 years at grade school who taught arts and crafts. He had a studio space next to our art class studios full of paintings, prints, objects and models made by himself. I learnt how to design and create by studying his works. I don’t remember there ever being a ‘how-to’ lesson.


When did you start playing with paper and what sort of things did you make?
I remember once this same teacher showed us a soccer ball made of 20 hexagons. At the time I was too shy to ask how to make it, so I sketched it in my notebook and at home set out to create it. It was a struggle, but a few days later I brought in my model to show him. There was no praise and actually I was not so proud of the fact I had just produced an imitation of his but we had a short chat about it and discussed how it could be improved. I’ve been making paper models ever since.


Did you always want to be an architect and what work are you most proud of?
I draw well and have enjoyed drawing from an early age. So becoming a painter or a designer was my first choice. After that I wanted to become an aircraft designer but realised it was extremely difficult to find work, even for graduates from good aviation engineering colleges. So I shifted my focus to industrial design that seemed less competitive and less technical too. Architecture was a good compromise for my ambiguous passion for many things.

I am most proud of whatever I create, regardless of scale or commercial value.
Below: Bank of China building, Shanghai designed by Miyamoto.



Has becoming a teacher encouraged more experimentation with paper?
Yes, absolutely. I could not have done as much experimentation in an architectural practice as I have done teaching. Also social media platforms like Flickr provide a great audience of like-minded people that I find both inspiring and encouraging.



What’s the single most important lesson you try and teach your students?
Learn how your favourite creators think and conceptualise, rather than just discovering the works they make.
Above: Miyamoto’s students with their impressive giant domes.


You have made hundreds of paper models. Where do they all live?
I dissemble most of my works after documenting them and store the parts in boxes. Efficient use of materials and ease of assembly are both significant factors when I’m designing. Most of my models are kept small for a more rapid cutting time and reduced material consumption. My finger size is usually a good guide for determining the smallest size I can go.

(Hi guys, Justine here! You must look at this video Miyamoto did showing how easy it is to assemble one of his nested nests. It’s a beautiful thing to watch!)



What are you working on now?
I am applying torus geometry to furniture design as shown in the picture below. This is a stepping stone to a full-scale version. It does not use paper but I could not have reached this stage in the development without experimenting with my paper model prototypes first.


Ok, I’m back. The two works below were a gift from Yoshinobu. I know, I know – how lucky am I! I almost fainted when he gave them to me. My very own Miyamoto models! On the trip back to Sydney, I carried them in a box all the way home. Now in my studio, they are a lovely reminder of time spent with good friends in an amazing city, discovering new places and talking about all things paper. Heaven!




Next I’ll show you the amazing tea and sweet shop that Yoshinobu and Waka took us to. I know many of you are traveling to Tokyo soon, so you best get ready to add another gorgeous shop to your list of must-see places.

Back soon xx


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