Location: Mccormick Gallery, Boston Architectural College (Boston, Massachusetts)
Exhibition duration: February 17 - April 20 2015

The exhibit was curated and designed collaboratively by: 

Karen Nelson, Dean of the BAC's School of Architecture
Michael Wolfson, Director of the BAC's Distance Master of Architecture Thesis
Deb Samuels, Japanese food specialist and cookbook author.
Junko Yamamoto, Designer (exhibit space & window design / Independent commission)

The exhibit and associated programming were funded by the United States-Japan Foundation.

(Photograph by Junko Yamamoto)


Obento and Built Space:

Japanese Boxed Lunch and Architecture

This exhibit examines the material and social cultures of bento boxes and how they inspire architects and designers to think about the potential of emptiness, craft, portability, and sustainability. Using miniature environments that individuals carry with them as a touchstone for good design, we explore formal and experiential principles common to the boxes and to the buildings. We share the story of one manufacturer of lacquered plastic bento boxes and the art of making a carefully crafted boxed lunch in relation to the recipient, to the season, and to the maker's intent.

Like good architecture, bento boxes are ordered, arranged, and set within a landscape, which for the boxes is a furoshiki, the cloth that serves as both bag and placemat. Bento boxes from the collection of Debra Samuels, Japanese food specialist and cookbook author, and the work of architects and artists Hiromi Fujii, Sou Fujimoto, KOKO Architecture + Design, Glenn Murcutt, Hiroshi Nakamura, Patkau Architects, and Aat and Makoto Yokomizo create a dialogue between two scales of work: micro (bento) and macro (architecture). Each scale has its own ways of coming into being through transaction, materiality, modularity, mobility, completeness, and compactness. Each work has an explicit function and an aspiration to hold cultural expression in its form.

This exhibit and associated programming are generously funded by the United States-Japan Foundation.

Additional expertise and guidance come from Liz Linder, Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer, Lucy Craft, Makiko Ueda, Chie Ehara, Elsa Tian, and the Consulate General of Japan in Boston.  We would like to thank Hakoya [Tatsumiya] of Kaga, Japan for allowing us to film the manufacturing process of their unique bento boxes.  This exhibit is curated and designed collaboratively by Karen Nelson, Debra Samuels, Michael Wolfson, and Junko Yamamoto.