In 1981, just as Memphis was being launched, all the core designers in the group piled together for a photograph. It has since become the iconic portrait of the collective, capturing their playful spirit and camaraderie. It’s no accident, though, that the setting they chose was Umeda Masanori’s extraordinary Tawaraya. Gathered together behind the ropes, the group is also cast here in the role of combatants, albeit ones who are having a great time.
Tawaraya – named for a luxury hotel in Kyoto – is a quintessential fusion of east and west, combining the idea of the boxing ring with that of a Japanese bedroom. It has five standard tatami mats – the traditional flooring material of the Japanese home – and movable cushions, with adjustable lamps at each corner. Like the more well-known Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata, Umeda was only briefly involved with Memphis. Their involvement helped to substantiate the international ambitions of the group when it first started out.