For Naoko Takenouchi and Marc Webb, it is care – for the experience and details of a space, and for professional responsibility – that defines a designer’s duties. Here we present a glimpse of Yvonne Xu’s Cubes #85 feature on the studio.
26 April, 2017
I first saw Naoko Takenouchi in 2010, at the then-newly opened cafe-bar-emporium A Curious Teepee. Nodding in her direction and in an excited whisper, my colleague had said to me, “That’s the designer.” I was surprised to see Takenouchi’s slight figure – tiny, in fact, bent double against the oversized backdrop of the bar counter. She seemed absorbed in going through a very detailed checklist – the countertop, its edges, the undersides of fixtures. Although we were not introduced that day, Takenouchi left an impression.
It is therefore not a surprise when, seven years later as I sit with Takenouchi and her partner Marc Webb in their studio for this interview, concerns such as “that five-centimeter difference in the table height” and “the corner is a little bit sharp” pepper Takenouchi’s responses.
Webb credits Takenouchi’s meticulousness for the standard of detailing in their projects, and in return, Takenouchi praises her partner for his big-picture strategy and British diplomacy – half in earnest, half in jest, as they relate the rewards and challenges in their design practice.
The studio of Takenouchi Webb is at Portsdown Road in a top-floor unit within one of the late-1930s three-storey tropical deco-style walk-up apartments with circular windows and projecting flat concrete sunshades. When we arrive, one of the first things Takenouchi shows us is a mahogany pod with cocoa winged seeds, held clustered in her cupped hands like it was a delicate bird. They had found this in the forested area behind the block.
Six people, including Takenouchi and Webb, work together in one area surrounded by a fascinating material collection that reflects a curiosity for design both human-made and natural. A large board near the discussion table displays their inspirations and interests – art, graphics, science, a browned fern leaf. Pictures of their children, and of themselves as children, are pinned in the mix. Obviously, life and work are close. They live five minutes away from the studio.
For the full story, grab a copy of Cubes issue 85 (Apr/May) – on sale now!
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