George Nakashima (1905 - 90)

American woodworker, architect and designer; born Spokane, Washington, active New Hope, Pennsylvania.


Although Nakashima is best remembered as a craftsman, he was trained as an architect ¬ó first at the University of Washington, and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His professional career began with a position in the India office of American architect Antonin Raymond. In 1937, he transferred to the Tokyo office, where he first became acquainted with traditional Japanese carpentry techniques.

Nakashima returned to the United States in 1941, where he established a workshop in Seattle. At the outbreak of World War II, he was confined to an internment camp in Idaho. He passed the time in captivity by perfecting his carpentry techniques, studying with an elderly Japanese artisan. Eventually, after the intervention of Raymond, he was released, and he relocated to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where his workshop would remain for the rest of his life. It would serve as a showcase for his furniture ¬ó and, as the facility expanded over the years into a full-fledged compound ¬ó his architecture.

Nakashima rarely designed for mass production; he created the majority of his furniture for specific places and clients. Among these were Nelson Rockefeller, Columbia University, and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. His work draws upon a variety of styles and forms, such as Scandinavian Modern, the Windsor chair, and Shaker and traditional Japanese furniture. He always strove to reveal what he called "the soul of a tree" - coaxing pieces of exquisite refinement from rough-hewn slabs of wood, but often leaving the bark and knots intact. His work has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. Today, his daughter, the architect Mira Nakashima, runs the workshop from the family compound.

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