Designing the Interactive Space, Part II

What is wabi-sabi and why is it difficult to define?

Wabi-sabi is a way of life and characteristic feature of what is perceived as traditional Japanese beauty. It is difficult to define because it is never used representationally and symbolically, and also because it is hyrbid model of the subjective and objective -- a blurry line, never fully realized. 

How is wabi-sabi different from modernism? How is it the same?

To start, both are a radical departure/response from previous modes of art, and non representational ideals and beauty consisting of manmade objects, spaces, and designs. What distinguishes the two are feelings, implication, location, orientation and so much else. Wabi-Wabi is warm, generally dark and dim, present-oriented and expressed in the private domain whereas modernism is cool, generally light and bright, future-oriented, and expressed in public domain.

What is the metaphysical basis of wabi-sabi? What are its spiritual values?

The metaphysical basis of wabi-wabi is that things are devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness; and, its spiritual values are: 1. Truth comes from the observation of nature, 2. Greatness exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details, and 3. Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. 

What is the wabi-sabi state of mind? What are its moral precepts?

A wabi-sabi state of mind is one that accepts the inevitable and appreciate the cosmic order. Its moral precepts are to focus on the intrinsic, ignore material hierarchy, and to get rid of all that is unnecessary. 

What are the material qualities of wabi-sabi?

The material qualities of wabi-sabi reflect natural processes and are: irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy, murky and simple. Simplicity is the core of wabi-sabi and its nothingness is what make it what it is. Karen writes, "The simplicity of wabi-sabi is probably best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence."


his photo captures and reflects the material qualities of wabi-sabi, and it captures its notion of anti-aesthetic. Earthy. Irregular. Simple. And Rustic.