The Ikebana practice of Japanese floral arrangement is a serious art—one that was popularized by Buddhist tea masters in the 16th century, and is now taught in over 1,000 different schools in Japan and abroad. One such school, the international Sogetsu, is celebrating its 90th anniversary with an expansive Ikebana installation in its Tokyo location, complete with 2,000 mirrors arranged to look like draping ivy.
The site-specific exhibition, designed by the Japanese design firm Nendo, is located in the school’s indoor Sogetsu Plaza in Tokyo, designed by the Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Linked mirrors cascade down the tiered stone plaza; each is cut from a 0.5-mm-thick stainless steel sheet with a mirror finish into the shape of a rhombus. Together, the mirrors reflect the gray stone of the plaza—both literally and figuratively—and cover the ground like dense ivy. When Ikebana flower arrangements are added to the mix, the mirrors fragment and disperse the image of the carefully composed arrangements throughout the space.
In a press release, Nendo notes that the mirror creates a layer between two works of art: Noguchi’s stone tiers and the Ikebana arrangement. But the most striking aspect of the work is the kaleidoscopic effect it produces. Ikebana floral design is a disciplined practice that puts emphasis on shape, line, and form over flower colors. Celebrated for their minimalism, Ikebana arrangements have a sculptural quality that often relies on the elegant shapes of stems and leaves, rather than blooms or petals. The spare, statuesque bouquets are meant to make viewers slow down, observe, and appreciate nature.
Splintered and sprawled in fragmented pieces across Noguchi’s heaven, the Ikebana arrangements surrender their order, but have an even more stunning effect. See the piece with and without flowers in the slide show above.