tokonoma (床の間, toko-no-ma) – The Wing, 3

tokonoma with a hanging scroll and ikebana flower arrangement

In the previous posts I introduced The Wing as a structural form and an organic shape. Those thoughts were contained within the thing itself but it’s natural to question how it will relate to its space. Several years ago, in the kind of brilliant thing he’d think, Matthieu introduced me to a “tokonoma”. We didn’t need to be talking about model railways and yet I kept thinking how we could apply what it represents to our model railway. Until The Wing, I couldn’t imagine a layout we would present this way.

  • not attached the wall
  • connected to the floor by a base that is furniture and finished that well
  • as beautiful as a tree (the tree like the ones its members are crafted from)

It could drift out into the centre of the room but it need not. In considering its form I still see it against a wall or in front of a window. It doesn’t need a backdrop because it’s form should be the focal point for consideration. In reference to our design objectives of elegant form and a satisfactory layout things like staging or backdrops suggest there is not enough within what is here–so I am looking for something that is. It need not be connected or reach beyond because all we need is right here with us.

The heading image from Wikipedia: Tokonoma – Wikipedia

My favourite writing on the tokonoma form is this article by Garr Reynolds: Presentation Zen: Tokonoma and the art of the focal point

I am not done exploring this form but really grateful to finally have at least one example of something that feels right.

Categories: How I think, model railway design, My Favourite Prince Street, the wing

2 replies

  1. One aspect I like from the Reynolds article is “ contrast, the art work in the tokonoma changes throughout the year based on the season or the occasion”.

    This lends itself to consider the Wing or similar layout as re-dressable depending on season. This could go as far as swapping out a deciduous tree or adding a blanket of snow, to as simple as running season appropriate rolling stock.

    If the Wing is a long central core with landscaping either side, perhaps the entire landscaping could be swapped out each season.

    • I really like that. When I first read your comment I defaulted to the classic model railroader thinking of replacing the layout but I like your more detailed, iterative suggestion. Indeed you could make this a study of change. In day-to-day life it’s a change of trains on the layout either by their position as evidence of the last operating session or intentional change (new models or just changing things for the sake of change). That could be amplified by replacing elements of the scene. A tree replaced with another to represent a change of season or an evolution of skill.

      Wouldn’t it be cool to document that change in a series of still photographs that could be combined into a film by year-end to show how the layout changed over time? I think so.


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