Nakashima’s Shop Designated a National Historic Landmark

Nakashima Showroom - interior

The interior of the Nakashima showroom (all photo are courtesy of the National Parks Service).

The George Nakashima Woodworker Complex in Bucks County, Penn., has been designated as one of four new National Historic Landmarks.

“Internationally renowned furniture designer and woodworker George Nakashima is recognized as one of America’s most eminent furniture designer craftsmen. Nakashima’s work expresses a worldview that is based upon a unique set of circumstances, including his formal education in architecture, his exposure to European Modernism, Eastern religious philosophy, and traditional Japanese craft traditions, including instruction from Issei carpenter Gentaro Hikogawa while both were confined at the Minidoka Relocation Center, one of 10 internment camps established for Japanese Americans during World War II (and whose site is today administered by the National Park Service),” it says in the National Park Service press release.

The exterior of the George Nakashima Woodworker Complex National Historic Landmark.

The exterior of the George Nakashima Woodworker Complex National Historic Landmark.

“As a self-proclaimed ‘woodworker,’ Nakashima became an important voice for the artist craftsmen helping to create a new paradigm for studio furniture production in the postwar period. The George Nakashima Woodworker complex is significant for its innovative Japanese-influenced International Style structures designed by Nakashima and built under his direct supervision,” the press release continued.

While I wouldn’t normally quote whole-cloth from a  release, the above pretty well sums up Nakashima’s storied history, contribution to American woodworking and the inspiration his work continues to provide more than 20 years after his death. Every week, we get at least one query for a Nakashima-inspired piece (usually a live-edge table) and photos from readers who are justifiably proud of the pieces they’ve copied or created in his style.

Nakasima's Conoid chair.

Nakasima’s iconic Conoid chair, first designed circa 1960.

One of the first books on woodworking that I read was Nakashima’s “Soul of a Tree:” “Each flitch, each board, each plank can have only one ideal use. The woodworker, applying a thousand skills, must find that ideal use and then shape the wood to realize its true potential,” he wrote.

Those words inspired me to do better work, to do the right work, to celebrate the material as well as the end product. By no stretch do I think I achieve that every or even any day – but I think about his words when I design or build a piece, and I try as best I’m able.

And his work and words have inspired countless others – I’m delighted for the Nakashima family to see George Nakashima honored and recognized in this way.

You can read more about his significance in the summary PDF below.

Nakashima Woodworker Complex ES

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. The three other new National Historic Landmarks are the Adlai E. Stevenson II Farm, in Mettawa, Ill.; The Detroit Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, in Detroit, Mich.; and the 1956 Grand Canyon TWA-United Airlines Aviation Accident Site, in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

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