Yasuhiko Itoh

Jan 2018
Saadaki Anmi
Yasuhiko Itoh

Born in 1933 in Tokyo, Yasuhiko Itoh was brought up by his grandmother, who ran the MIKAWA-YA tobacco shop opposite the famous “Red Gate” of Tokyo University.
At the age of 13, just after the Second World War, Itoh successfully finished his elementary education at the Tokyo Seisi school. He went on to attend the Tokyo Koishaikawa high school, taking his final school exams in 1952. In the same year, he enrolled at the engineering and architecture faculty of the prestigious Waseda University. He was a meticulous man and it took him over three years to prepare his degree dissertation on the design of a prison. In 1958, Itoh graduated and enrolled in a master’s degree course – again at Waseda University. He was then given an apprenticeship in the studio of Kanetsugo Ito, an important architect who was the first to introduce Antonì Gaudi to Japan. It was at that time that Itoh heard about the Selettiva di Cantù design competition, for which Japan chose three candidates. Itoh was selected for his design of a chaise longue and a bookcase that used curved wood – an innovative technique at the time. To make the prototype, Itoh spent several months in Giussano, working alongside the craftsmen of the firm then known as “Industria Mobili Molteni Angelo”.

Although Itoh won a prize for his bookcase, coming third in the category for a single piece of furniture, neither the bookcase nor the chaise longue were produced on an industrial scale at the time. The prototype of the former was presented in editions of the Selettiva, in 1959, 1963 and 1964 respectively. Finally, as part of the Molteni&C Heritage Collection, in 2016 the bookcase was produced in a limited series of 100, with the reference number MHC.2. Itoh returned to Italy in April 1960 and stayed until May 1961, during which time he worked in Gio Ponti’s studio. From Cant , Itoh returned to Japan and completed his master’s in construction engineering. He began working with Toshiro Yamashita, known in his country for having designed and built the first skyscraper on Japanese soil, the Kasumigaseki Building in Tokyo (1960-1964). Temporarily putting design to one side, Itoh was in the team of project engineers and played an active role.

Sadly, Itoh was never to see the Kasumigaseki completed: on 9 November 1963 he fell victim to a railway accident between Tokyo and Zushi-Hayama, a seaside location where Itoh loved to sail at the local yacht club. He thus died unexpectedly at the age of just 30, one of modern Japan’s most promising architect designers.

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