Monday, March 9, 2009


Wabi-Sabi - for Artists, Designers, Poets, & Philosophers - By, Leonard Koren

It has come to my attention that the design world is silently and subconsciously preparing a drastic shift in popular theme.

Since the middle of the last century and onward, much of the design world has been defined by a concentration on modernism as a departure from 19th century classicism. A fascination on universal prototypical solutions and concepts that imply a logical and rational worldview have been concerns of the current design administration... that is, until now.

At the moment, what we are experiencing is a move toward personal, idiosyncratic solutions in design... a new appreciation for all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete... a worldview that is self-referential, intuitive, ambiguous, and based in a metaphysical understanding that all things are devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness. What is being discussed here is the Japanese concept of "imperfect beauty", Wabi-Sabi.

Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty. It occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.

Wabi-sabi is the undeclared beauty that waits to be discovered. It is the beauty of things as they embrace of the imperfections, pared down to its barest essence, at the border of nothingness.

Unlike Modernism which solicits the reduction of sensory information, this view solicits the expansion of sensory information. In Modernism, people are adapting to machines. In Wabi-Sabi, people are adapting to nature. Beyond the hype of all that is packaged as "eco" these days, is this new understanding of the relationship between design and nature.

Author Leonard Koren is a trained architect, but never built anything—except an eccentric Japanese tea house—because he found large, permanent objects too philosophically vexing to design. Instead he created WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, one of the premier avant-garde magazines of the 1970s. Subsequently Koren has produced unusual books about design- and aesthetics-related subjects. Koren resides in both America and Japan. For more information, visit

This book is an updated version of the enduring classic that first introduced the concept of “imperfect beauty” to the West. Text, images, and book design seamlessly meld into a wabi-sabi-like experience.


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