Shofuso House and Garden: a corner of Japan in Philadelphia

shofuso house

“A Japanese house resembles the evolution of a natural form, it is the very key to existence”. Designed by architect Junzo Yoshimura, the historic Shofuso House hosts an exhibition that chronicles the influence of Japanese culture in the United States.

Not even World War II managed to interrupt the fruitful and continuous collaboration between the Japanese modernist architect Junzo Yoshimura, the American woodworker George Nakashima, the French-born artist Noemi Pernessin Raymond and her husband, the Czech architect Antonin Raymond.

The exhibition “Shofuso and Modernism: Mid-Century Collaboration between Japan and Philadelphia”, curated by Yuka Yokoyama and open until November 29, 2020 in West Fairmount Park (Philadelphia) at the Shofuso House and is dedicated to their friendship and their transcultural projects. Garden, a Japanese pagoda with splendid residential gardens that still bears witness to the influence of Japanese culture in Philadelphia.

Conceived as part of an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Shofuso was designed in Nahoya by Yoshimura in the middle of the last century, using traditional materials and techniques, and is a wonderful example of the creative relationships that have shaped and influenced the life of Yoshimura, Nakashima and the Raymonds. Inside are the fabrics that characterize the style of Noémi Pernessin Raymond – with subjects inspired by Japanese and American landscapes and culture – a chest that Nakashima made in the 1940s for his daughter in the internment camp in Idaho and other valuable pieces, as chairs and lamps, designed and manufactured in collaboration.

“A Japanese house resembles the evolution of a natural form, it is the very key to existence” underline Antonin and Noemi Raymond. The latter, before the construction of Shofuso, worked for a long time in Tokyo and returned to the United States in 1938, followed by Yoshimura. In 1942, Nakashima’s family was deported from Seattle Washington to the Hunt Idaho Internment Camp. With the help of Noemi and Antonin, Nakashima moved to the Raymond farm in New Hope, where the Japanese architect opened his studio and workshop. As the curator states, «this exhibition allows us to explore, also online, the extraordinary story of Yoshimura, Nakashima, Noemi and Antonin Raymond. Their lives have been crossed by difficult challenges. Today it appears stimulating to consider how their respective philosophies of life reflect on the creative form and on the community in which they lived ».