Nendo designs dining room as optical illusion for Japan’s Expo pavilion

Japanese studio Nendo has designed an optical illusion concept for Japan’s Milan Expo pavilion, playing with the perspective of a dining table and chairs to present a range of tableware.

Following the Expo theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, Nendo- led by Oki Sato- turned the assigned space into a dining room, inside the Kengo Kuma-designed pavilion.

The dining room consists of a long black table that runs down the centre of a white room, surrounded by 21 black chairs with various sets of tableware laid out on top, angled from front to back to allow visitors to view the arrangement from the entrance. The tableware is also designed by Nendo and made by Japanese artisans.


Optical illusion is created when viewing the arrangement from the front, where chairs along either side of the table are extended to match the ascending height of the tabletop.

At the back of the space, stretched chairs are arranged to be used as stepladders in order to view the products better.

“The table and chairs gradually increase in height the further into the room one goes, playing with the spectator’s sense of perspective as well as allowing him/her to look over all the items on display from the gallery entrance,” said Nendo.

“Although resembling an ordinary dinner table, by experimenting with the functional relationship between tables and chairs, the end result is a uniquely conceptual exhibition space that enables the spectator to view all of the products from various angles and distances.”

The 16 sets of tableware have been specifically designed for Colourful Shadows exhibition, all black in colour. This is for the details (shapes and finishes) to be better appreciated by the viewers, the studio explained.

“In the novelist Junichiro Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadows, there is a passage about eating a yokan (a traditional sweet made from black bean paste) in the dark in order to develop a keener palette,” said Nendo.

“Just as in this exhibition, all information pertaining to colour has been removed to encourage the spectator to focus on other more essential aspects of the exhibited pieces.”

Displayed pieces include a set of minimal cutlery, a collection of intricately carved chopsticks as well as a range of ceramic cups and bowls in variously patterned finishes.

Nendo has also recently unveiled a collection using Alcantra wood for an exhibition running parallel to the Milan Expo. 

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