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A cup of tea with... Fumihiko Sano Studio

Fumihiko Sano
© Kenta Matsusaka

We've with us Fumihiko Sano, born in 1981, trained first as Sukiya's apprentice carpenter at Nakamura Souji Komuten in Kyoto, then as an architect in a design studio, and finally as an independent designer with his studio.

His design approach fascinates us a lot: he develops the dichotomy between architectural conservation and the needs of contemporary living starting from the conception of space, construction methods and materials linked to tradition. In his works he reinterprets traditional Japanese culture in a contemporary key, mixing architecture, design and art to make them suitable for modern needs.

Furthermore, he has an eye on issues that are dear to us and very current, including: sustainability, decarbonisation and the responsible use of resources. He opposes the idea of ​​globalization linked to the decontextualization of places, of the homologation of architecture regardless of where you are. He argues that "digging" and "rediscovering" the culture and history of places helps to become actively involved in the well-being in the environment in which one lives.


Let's start with the first question to break the ice: How do you get your tea?

I often drink green tea while working. While I only drink Matcha on special occasions, it is my favorite type of tea as it is connected to cultural tradition such as tea ceremonies and religion.

To this day, what do you think is your most significant and representative work of your design approach? Is there a project that you consider emblematic to tell who are you?

I would consider MIWA as a work representative of my design approach. A client introduced to me by a friend said that they wanted to introduce Paris to the “culture of wrapping” perhaps best represented by “noshi” (long strips of paper wrapped around gifts), which is said to be a form of origata. Noshi is a form of wrapping originally used when making offerings of noshi abalone to the gods, but Japan also has 2,000 other time-honored styles of wrapping objects like dried seaweed or flowers. My client’s idea was to introduce origata wrapping to different cultures abroad and in doing so perhaps keep the Japanese custom alive in an French interpretation. They reached out to me as an architect familiar with Japanese industrial arts and Japanese cypress; a material used for building Shinto spaces. Since my approach to design focuses on the cultural aspects of design, MIWA serves as a great representative of my firm.

Tiny House in Kobe

© Shizuka Kurokawa _ FumihikoSano Studio_MIWA

What do you think is a decisive project (of others) for your professional career? Who do you consider your teacher or an important reference for your work?

In regards to design, I often found inspiration from Olafur Eliasson's. In terms of architectural design, the works of Herzog & de Meuron have been a great inspiration for my work.

What will be the direction for the future of Japanese home architecture? Climate change, the aging of the population, the evolution of our daily habits due to the pandemic, which changes can affect the living spaces of tomorrow and how?

I believe that architecture will develop with a focus on sustainable materials derived from nature and construction methods that allows for resources to be reused. Old folk houses which are prominent in rural parts of Japan, will be re-valued due to the desire for traditional design. Japan is a slow-changing country, but as politics, global trends, laws and tax systems are affected due to the current events around the world, architecture will also develop to fit the needs of modern society.


Fumihiko Sano Studio 

1981 (Nara, Japan)

2011 start Fumihiko Sano Studio

add: 106-0047

東京都港区南麻布1‐5‐9 オンリーワン麻布ビル4階

4F,F-OnlyOneAzabu bldg,1‐5‐9,Minamiazabu,Minato-ku,Tokyo,

106-0047,JAPAN mail: URL:


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