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Taking metalworks to the next level
Art panel displaying cherry blossoms decorating the restaurant walls at the Kyoto Century Hotel

The ordinary street view of Kozo Kawanami’s studio, just a short walk from Kyoto’s train station, belies the cutting edge of creativity that happens within. Kawanami Ironworks begins with the designer’s vision to produce custom pieces for interiors of hotels, boutiques, restaurants and residences as well as wall art and accents. Their exterior metalwork also offers mesmerizing possibilities for façades and metal relief. Kawanami’s diverse production testifies to the mobilization of his eye, hand and rare depth of experience to innovate in metal, all driven by collaboration with each client.

The Kawakami team’s patented engraving of metal panels form a decorative collection they name Kokuhan刻鈑, a neologism combining “etching” and “metal plate,” to capture its inventive technologies. Determined by the original artistic concept or image, they merge traditional Japanese metalwork techniques with advanced computer capabilities to enable high-precision die machining. Their signature technologies enable large-scale work, finessing heavy weights of aluminum, brass and alloys. The Kokuhan panels intricate with design simultaneously emit luster and shine to foster an extraordinary experience when in their presence.

Machine etching an art panel for a project for the subway station
Metal shapes resembling puzzle pieces to decorate the walls

Another collection, Puzzdeco is comprised of lightweight metal shapes resembling puzzle pieces and produced in various sizes, patterns and palettes of color. They afford interior walls endless arrangements with colors that can coordinate an entire space. Sophistication and whimsy are two sides of their appeal.

Kozo Kawanami comes from a family of metalworkers who first founded a Kyoto hardware store in 1904. They transitioned into blacksmithing and thereafter metalwork design from machines to fine art pieces. Their production encompasses the shinkansen’s high-speed train panels to motors, confectionary equipment and play structures.

In an era where a multitude of machines exist but few with the deep skills to maximize their capacities, Kawanami is unusual. He exploits both ends of his expertise, traditional machining and a host of CAD technologies. People still speak of a prizewinning design of Kawanami Ironwork from nearly two decades ago that many insist shouldn’t even be possible to make. At the time, he had no perspective to realize the impact, but viewers were moved, he reflects. Kawanami and his Ironworks are in the business of creating anything that affects excitement in people, piques their consciousness. Across the evolutions of his studio, Kawanami is on a mission to offer new ways of seeing, thinking and experiencing a space.

The walls of Ginza station outfitted with the collaged images of Ginza from 1920 to 2020 using Kawanami's art panels

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