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Golconde Exhibit opens at Nakashima Foundation

by Lisa DeAngelis

The Nakashima Foundation hosted a reception and exhibit, “Golconde, The Introduction of Modernism in India” at the Nakashima Arts Building on Aquetong Road in New Hope on June 12th to celebrate the life and work of George Nakashima. The day started out overcast but luckily the rain held off and the day was spectacular. 

Miriam Belov led a meditation on Peace and Beauty followed by Gordon Korstange’s World Premiere of Sundarandanda Namo Namaha, with original poetry and Indian flute. Jonathan Yarnall remarked on how the spirit of building Goleconde continues today in the Nakashima workshop, and how similar many features of the Arts Building are to those in Golconde. Julian Lines, who brought some delicious Indian sweets from Woodstock, vividly recalled how otherworldly his first visit to Golconde was, and how meaningful his first visit to Nakashima’s with Udar Pinto in the 1970s. Architect and builder Lara Davis concluded by pointing out the importance of wood craftsmanship and precision in using the often nameless, formless concrete of modern-day architecture, and how through the crafting of human hands, Spirit is born within a space. 

Pankaj and Christine Gupta, architects from Delhi, wrote the book, “Golconde, The Introduction of Modernism in India,” and conceived the idea of having a show of full-scale color photographs in order to give visitors a sense of being in the building in Pondicherry, India. Although they were unable to attend, they plan to come later in the fall to give a walk-through presentation. 

The Nakashima staff spent many hours hanging banners from the Hyperbolic Paraboloid roof of the Nakashima Arts Building, and the effect was dazzling. They incorporated the story of how Mother Mirra and Sri Aurobindo guided their principles in the construction of the very first reinforced concrete built in 20th century India, along with Nakashima’s adventures as an employee of the Antonin Raymond Tokyo Office, who was so moved by that process that he was given the disciple’s name “Sundarananda” (He who delights in beauty) which changed the course of his life forever.

George Nakashima was born in 1905 to parents who immigrated from Japan. In 1934, he joined Antonin Raymond’s architecture firm in Tokyo which integrated Western technology with Japanese architectural forms. As a representative of Raymond’s office, George went to Pondicherry, India. There, he had a life altering experience when he shepherded the construction of a building called Golconde. Working on Golconde, he was awakened to a higher consciousness, enabling him to manifest Karma Yoga, the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection. Thereafter, he manifested this concept in both his architecture and furniture making. 

George returned to the U.S. in 1941, married, and decided to make furniture. His wife and he had a baby daughter and opened a Seattle furniture workshop, but it was forced to close when they reported for internment camp in Hunt, Idaho, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans. 

In 1943, Antonin Raymond managed to secure the family’s release by ensuring George’s employment on his chicken farm in New Hope. George began to design furniture in his workshop in the garage of a cottage and in 1946, he bartered for the property on Aquetong Road where he officially began his furniture business.

In 1984, the Nakashima Foundation for Peace was started based on Nakashima’s inspiration to create Altars of Peace for every continent.  In 2014, the property on Aquetong Road was designated a National Historic Landmark and became a World Monument.

Nakashima died in 1990, but his philosophy still echoes: “Instead of a long running and bloody battle with nature to dominate her, we can walk in step with a tree to release the joy in her grains, to join with her to realize her potentials, to enhance the environments of man.”

The Golconde Exhibit is on view at the Nakashima Foundation for Peace Arts Building through October 2022.

Exhibit hours are by advance appointment only. Reservations can be made on the website, https://nakashimafoundation.org/.

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