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Born in Tokyo in 1934, Kuramata grew up during World War II and the American Occupation of Japan. In 1953 he graduated from Tokyo polytechnic high school, where he studied woodcraft and went to work for a furniture company. Soon afterwards he enrolled at the Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo.
Kuramata's approach to the composition of furniture and interiors revolutionized design in postwar Japan. Kuramata reassessed the relationship between form and function, imposing his own vision of surreal and minimalist ideals on everyday objects.
During the 1970s and 80s, Kuramata, alert to the numerous possibilities of new technologies and industrial materials, turned to acrylic, glass, aluminum, and steel mesh to create objects that appear to break free of gravity into airy realms of transparency and lightness. He was inspired by Ettore Sottsass's playful spirit and love of bright color and joined Sottsass's collective, the design group 'Memphis,' at its founding in 1981.
Kuramata’s furniture and interiors have been influential both in his native country and abroad; his works can be found in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Vitra Design Museum, Basel, Switzerland; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.