Perfecting the Imperfect

PHOTOS FROM WABI-SABI: FURTHER THOUGHTS BY LEONARD KOREN

The ancient Japanese design philosophy of Wabi-Sabi turns “the not-beautiful into the beautiful.”

What happens when a new design trend highlights the beauty of imperfections?

The aesthetic of wabi-sabi was originally related to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, but has since been developed into a design style, highlighting all things “opposite of perfect.” Unique and striking by nature, this style derives from a deep understanding and respect for time and recognizing the beauty in the understated.

Author Leonard Koren describes this distinctive philosophy in multiple ways, from the “antithesis of the Classic Western aesthetic notion of beauty,” to the “beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete; of things modest and humble; of things unconventional.” Before writing two books on wabi-sabi, Koren first learned the term during his youth in the 1960s. As he describes in his book Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, to him the term initially seemed to be “a nature-based aesthetic paradigm … a perfect antidote to the pervasively slick … corporate style of beauty that I felt was desensitizing American society.”

Koren notes that when physically manifested, wabi-sabi is related to the “entropic processes that all living things are subject to,” meaning that it embraces the method of showing objects that are worn or time-weathered. Antiques, for example, are generally imbued with qualities of wabi-sabi, Koren says. “An 18th century Italian desk, for instance will have evidence of hundreds of years of human use and misuse — along with the discoloration and natural deterioration that comes with age.” Further, he reminds us that despite its appearance, the character and merit of the desk “is not diminished by these ‘imperfections.’”

Another aspect that Koren stresses is that wabi-sabi art or design pieces are often initially perceived as ugly. “It is the transmutation of the not-beautiful into the beautiful that is part of the magic of wabi-sabi,” he affirms. He adds that every person perceives this aesthetic in different ways and applies it where they think it best. Though not as well known as styles like Modern or Contemporary just yet, designers and artists are appreciating the freedom and creative liberties of wabi-sabi and are finding ways to apply it in various ways.

Passionate about Japanese culture for over 10 years, Ukranian designer Sergey Makhno calls himself a devotee of minimalism and wabi-sabi, calling it a “manifesto of nature and tradition, simplicity [and] tranquility.” Makhno, like Koren, relates the philosophy to the impermanence and imperfections of man, asking that if man is imperfect, why should the place he calls home be perfect? As the founder of Makhno Studio, Makhno works on a multitude of projects, but his first venture in applying wabi-sabi principles into a physical space was in his own home.

“I had to make sure that the design philosophy was practical,” he says, and from its first installation it was a success. The project, titled Wabi-Sabi Apartment, has won multiple interior design competitions and showcases qualities that Makhno chose to highlight: honoring nature, remembering history, loving art and showing courage.

From the moment you walk in, the Wabi-Sabi Apartment boasts a carefully designed interior that is in stark contrast with the concrete cityscape outside. The walls are finished with clay, in a technique seen in older Ukrainian homes, while the wooden beams that support the ceiling and doorways are left looking rough and rustic. Nature is also represented in bonsai trees and a small roof garden.

PHOTO FROM WABI-SABI: FOR ARTISTS, DESIGNERS, POETS & PHILOSOPHERS BY LEONARD KOREN

Much of the furniture and art also display the aesthetic in simple yet functional ways. For example, the metal lampshades hanging in the home help integrate a contemporary element to the overall earthy, natural interior. “Their own imperfections also demonstrate how the ancient philosophy of wabi-sabi can find new applications in contemporary design, making us appreciate the beauty of handmade objects through the use of natural materials,” according to Makhno Studio.

Makhno says wabi-sabi provides simple principles that anyone can follow. From the use of natural materials that show signs of wear, as well as colors that tie closely to the earth, to incorporating nature itself, Makhno stresses that “things live with and for the person; a person does not live for the sake of things.”

Another design choice Makhno mentions is the incorporation of kintsugi pieces, or kintsukuroi, which roughly translates into “golden joinery.” These pieces are created through the traditional Japanese practice that joins broken fragments of ceramics together with gold, which according to ceramic artist Tomomi Kamoshita is viewed almost as a reincarnation of the original object. “When cherished pieces are broken, we save them and transform them into keshiki (the restored piece),” she says, giving the ceramic a “new life.”

PHOTOS BY ANDREY AVDEENKO

Kamoshita agrees that kintsugi is similar to wabi-sabi, as both practices aesthetically represent imperfect beauty that prevails despite wear and time. “All things continue to change. Even ceramics,” she says. “Anything can break for any kind of reason. It’s sad, but you can revive it with your own hands,” giving it back a sense of adoration and cherishment. This new life further continues an object’s story and embodies beauty in simple things, which encompasses wabi-sabi. As Makhno himself notes, “the story is that things can be repaired, not thrown away.”

PHOTO BY ANDREY AVDEENKO

     

This editorial originally appeared in The High End Winter 2020.

All photos courtesy Tourradar.com

Now that the holidays are over and business is back to usual, it’s time to get excited about where you’re traveling in 2020.

Unique Homes and Tourradar.com have rounded up all the buzziest destinations for the year ahead so you can start planning your next great adventure!

Costa Rica

If you’re hoping to reconnect with nature this year, Costa Rica is the answer. It’s where tropical backgrounds are the norm, as is exotic wildlife, robust coffee flavours and the relaxing wellness retreats waiting for travellers beachside.

Stroll across suspension bridges up in the forest canopy and find yourself completely and utterly face-to-face with Mother Nature while in the dreamy cloud forest region of the country in Monteverde. 90% of Costa Rica’s energy is created by renewable sources, and they’re on track to become one of the first carbon-neutral countries this year. Play your part by choosing to spend vacation time in a country that’s going above and beyond to make a difference to our global climate crisis.

Just in case activities like hiking volcanoes, surfing and zip-lining through lush hilltops isn’t your thing, Costa Rica is also home to cities tailor-made for an escape, from San Jose to Puerto Viego. While there’s something for everyone in Costa Rica, the natural beauty and jungle life definitely come first place.

Bhutan

It’s been a couple of years now that people have been talking about Bhutan and for good reason. The country proudly boasts a nearly untouched natural landscape that will stun even the most well-travelled among us. Already the world’s only carbon-negative country, taking a breath of fresh air means something entirely different in Bhutan.

Nestled tightly in the Himalayas, you’ll find plenty of mountain trails capable of delivering you some awe-inspiring views in Bhutan, like those of Paro Taktsang – also known as Tiger Nest – it’s an iconic sacred Buddhist monastery that sits cliffside. There’s also the chance to see ornate palaces from as far back as the 17th century and national parks that are home to rare and exotic wildlife like the Himalayan black bear and red panda.

If you’re hoping to make 2020 the year for some spiritual respite, a visit to the world’s real-life Shangri-La is in order. 

Ireland

Easily enjoyed in under a week, the Emerald Isle is full of pursuits that balance adventure, nature and history with ease. 

The only road trip you’ll need for 2020 is along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500-kilometer route that you can tackle in parts during your first visit. Embrace the elements along this sprawling route and enjoy discovering small-town life, coastal landscapes and secluded beaches across the country.

The sooner you visit, the faster you can start conquering your resolutions. Just make sure your trip itinerary includes a stop at the Blarney Castle where the famed Blarney Stone is located. As the legend goes, those who hang upside down and lay their lips on the stone is bestowed the gift of gab, which will help to ensure you get everything you want and more out of 2020.

Argentina

Home to one of the world’s most impressive networks of waterfalls, Argentina is teeming with extraordinary natural wonders that put travellers in the centre of it all. For example, visitors to the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls can enjoy kilometres of trails that will take you in and out of lush forests and within arm’s reach of the waterfalls themselves. If you’re in search of something a little cooler, then Glaciar Perito Moreno will not disappoint. You can witness the soaring beauty of this glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. And thanks to the park’s extended network of steel catwalks and platforms, Perito Moreno is one of the world’s most impressive and accessible glaciers.

You want a city escape with fiery music, and experimental takes on classic dishes, Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, is an essential stop on your 2020 adventures. Argentinians know their way around beef, and their steaks will wow your tastebuds. You can end your night in Buenos Aires by visiting a tango bar and working off your dinner in a flurry of dance moves taught to you by local experts.

Looking to include world-class wine? Just head to Mendoza (Argentina’s wine country). You can learn how the grapes are grown and cared for in the thick of it all. We promise once you’re walking alongside the farmers, hearing their stories firsthand, a glass of Malbec will taste all the more satisfying.

 

 

Want to learn about other potential travel destinations? Visit Tourradar.com for more opportunities!

 

All photos courtesy Balcon Media Group.

No matter the destination, travel can often leave lasting impressions on visitors who want to experience new things. For those inclined to travel coast-to-coast, Trails of Indochina has become one of the most pioneering boutique tour operators in Southeast and East Asian countries. Having just marked its 20th anniversary, the firm continues to stay true to founder John Tue Nguyen’s approach to tourism by highlighting immersive experiences for a high-end audience. 

Hang En cave, Quang Binh province.

When Nguyen was a young boy growing up in Hue, Southeast Asia barely had a tourism industry. These days, the region ranks among the world’s most sought-after vacation destinations with travellers flocking from all corners of the globe to sample its diverse array of experiences: a compendium of offerings spanning everything from culinary-themed discoveries and rip-roaring adventure to idyllic honeymoons at bucket-list resorts.

“Since the start we’ve been focused on delivering unique tailored tours in Asia,” Nguyen says. “What sets us apart from other tour operators is that we really believe in developing exclusive products and aim to deliver those to our customers in the most personalized way possible.”

Nguyen has been widely credited for popularising unique trips and selecting endeavors that are unforgettable, from watching a master artisan weave kimonos in Kyoto and private lessons in Shodo, an ancient Japanese calligraphy style exemplifying his innovative approach.

Experiences — many of which are exclusive to Trails of Indochina — might include a master class on Hue’s imperial gastronomy with a recognized authority on the cuisine. Or an audience in Hanoi’s backstreets with one of the few remaining practitioners of Hang Trong, a traditional genre of Vietnamese woodblock printing.

Trails is the anchor to an organization that also includes Heritage Line (river cruises on Mekong, Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers), Indotrek (adventure travel) and Ancient Hue (a collection of beautifully realised traditional-style garden homes in Vietnam’s imperial capital Hue).

Heritage Line cruise to Myanmar.

Over the course of the past two decades, Trails of Indochina has notched several prestigious industry accolades at awards events such as the World Travel Awards and the Luxury Lifestyle Awards, and has expanded its destination portfolio to cover most of Asia.

“Today, travellers are more willing to explore and they have certain expectations. That’s why it’s just as important for us today as it was in the beginning to really learn, understand and to innovate with the ultimate goal of delivering unforgettable experiences to our travellers,” Nguyen says.

Architectural Adventures, the official travel program of the American Institute of Architects, is home to several immersive tours and travel excursions to many extraordinary architectural structures across the globe. These are a few off of Architectural Adventures’ upcoming lineup, with fascinating tours in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Along the Rhine River
7/4/18 – 7/12/18, starting at $3,195
This cruise sails through the heart of Europe to Germany, France and the Netherlands on an eight-day journey with Architectural Adventures. This tour combines old and new architectural movements by traveling through historical towns, like Breisach and Speyer, to lively cities, like Strasbourg and Amsterdam.
Highlights of this tour include ageless illustrations of European architecture, such as the Freiburg’s Münster (a Gothic cathedral), historical Römerberg in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, alongside modernities such as the urban design of Amsterdam, also known as the, “Venice of the North.”

Photo courtesy of Sergey Ashmarin / Wiki Commons

Scandinavia
7/27/18- 8/6/18, starting at $3,995
On this 11-day intensive tour, discover the astounding architecture of three Nordic countries: Sweden, Denmark and Norway. This journey tours the streets of Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo to explore how past architecture meets the present and uncover the rich history of Scandinavia. The tour includes behind-the-scenes access to award-winning opera houses, cultural centers and public spaces to truly delve into the region’s architectural innovations.
Highlights of the tour include the Turning Torso, the tallest building in Scandinavia, National Aquarium Denmark, Northern Europe’s largest aquarium, the Oslo Opera House, and Snøhetta, one of Norway’s largest architectural firms.

Photo courtesy of Benoit Derrier / Wiki Commons

Detroit
9/25/18- 9/29/18, starting at $2,995

Detroit, Michigan, is a major player in architectural innovation for the United States, and has been since the 20th century. History is captured in the architecture of the cityscape, with beautiful 20th-century mansions, Art-Deco skyscrapers, alongside some mid-century modern innovations. This tour follows the Motor City’s architectural revival as well as discuss the works of famous architects like Eliel Saarinen, Daniel Burnham, and Cass Gilbert.

Highlights of this adventure include a private tour of Eero Saarinen’s General Motors Technical Center, the recently restored Fox Theatre and Detroit Opera House, and discusses community renewal with Stephen Vogel, FAIA, distinguished professor of architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Photo courtesy of Corbis

Japan
10/27/18 – 11/8/18, starting at $5,995
Discover the wide range of tradition and modernity within Japanese architecture on this incredible 13-day tour. Move effortlessly from the contemporary innovations of Tokyo to the fascinating traditional culture of Kyoto throughout this tour in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Highlights of this tour include the incredible Nomura Family Residence, a 16th-century castle in Takayama, the famous Meiji Jingu Shrine, the Tokyo National Museum, and Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the prime place to capture beautiful shots of Mt. Fuji.

Photo courtesy of Franciso Diez / Wiki Commons

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