Reinventing Texture

A pavilion of friendship, 'Reinventing Texture' pays homage to the ancient Japanese art of Washi paper-making and papier-mâché through a sensory experience that connects Tokyo and London.

'Reinventing Texture' is an experimental immersive installation that resonates with traditional and modern urban textures, objects and sounds in the cities of Tokyo and London, in response to COVID-19. It is also a pavilion of friendship, connection and shared innovation between Japan and the UK, at a time when travel has been restricted and physical barriers reinforced. A homage to the ancient Japanese art of Washi paper-making and papier-mâché, “Reinventing Texture” celebrates texture without touch, and is a poem to the two cities and the spirit of invention in Japan that still resonates with its history.The project began at a London café in 2019. Through his role as Assistant Professor in the experimental Kuma Lab at The University of Tokyo, architectural designer Toshiki Hirano had worked closely with interdisciplinary curator Clare Farrow on developing “Bamboo Ring” by Kengo Kuma for London Design Festival at the V&A Museum.

Amongst the sounds and smells of a bustling café, their discussion turned to material traditions and innovations, and Hirano shared photographs of his own work – playful, unexpected juxtapositions of materials, colours and textures, layered with philosophical thought. The images stayed in Farrow’s mind and resulted in the Biennale invitation, to reinvent texture through sensory experience. A few months later, the pandemic changed everything, including Hirano’s plans.

Inspired by German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s writings on urban space, and Japanese artist Tomoharu Makabe’s 1970s work “Urban Frottage”, Hirano became a collector walking in the streets of Tokyo, photographing textures and objects that could be transformed using innovative digital scanning and fabrication technology, into moulds for a hand-crafted, papier-mâché wall relief.

At the same time in 2020, Hirano was also running virtual Photogrammetry workshops at the Royal College of Art in London for MA Interior Design students, who donned their masks and become collectors of urban textures too. They also made field recordings for the immersive and interactive sound collage created by MSCTY Studio in Tokyo and designed by KP Acoustics.

Find out more about 'Reinventing Texture'.

There is a haunting quality to the soft-layered, creamy-white Washi relief, which plays with multiple scales, myriad textures and projections like illuminated watercolours. Created by technology, but also by Hirano’s meticulous layering of paper by hand, “Reinventing Texture” is a journey without touch, yet still a meeting of people and cities.



Toshiki Hirano, Architectural Designer and Project Assistant Professor, The University of Tokyo


Clare Farrow, Interdisciplinary Curator and Writer, Clare Farrow Studio, London


MA Interior Design at the Royal College of Art and MSCTY Studio. With special thanks to Professor Graeme Brooker, Vicky Richardson, and MA Interior Design students at the Royal College of Art, London: Caroline Bang; Rita Louis; Lu Yan; Vanda Hajizadeh; Zhengxiao Wang; Liuxi Lin; Lisa Breschi; Yajing Ding, Ken Man and Xihe Chen

Sound Collage

Nick Luscombe and James Greer

Interactive and Sound Design

Panos Tsagkarakis, KP Acoustics

Supporting body

Sekisui House – Kuma Lab, The University of Tokyo

Main Sponsor

KP Acoustics


Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England; Arts Council Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture); Awagami Factory; Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation; Japan Airlines (JAL); Japan Foundation; POLA Art Foundation; Nomura Foundation; The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation; The Japan Society; UNION Foundation For Ergodesign Culture

2021 Exhibitors