A Gem in Bucks County – World Monument Site + National Heritage Landmark
Did you know that right here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, we are blessed with many historical and cultural sites? While I lived in the area for 15 years, and knew the George Nakashima House, Studio and Workshop is here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I did not visit until this summer. Both Tom and I loved the gorgeous peaceful, creative, exquisite property, showrooms, and galleries. We visited the 12 buildings open to the public.
The Nakashima Woodworker property and working studios were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 2008. In April 2014 it was also designated a National Historic Landmark. The site was listed on the World Monument Fund‘s 2014 Endangered Sites Watchlist.
Who is George Nakashima?
Combining international styles and modern influences with Japanese craft traditions, his work was a significant force in the American craft movement of the mid-twentieth century. George Nakashima was born in 1905, in Spokane Washington, to Japanese immigrants, and although he was US-born, he and his wife were evacuated and moved to a relocation center for Japanese in the US during WW2.
Prior to that, Nakashima studied Art and Architecture in the US and around the world. He brought his knowledge and sensibilities of nature, art, architecture, wood and furniture together into his world renowned woodworking designs, still a working business today.
George Nakashima Woodworkers’ Property
Not only is it a naturally beautiful 12-acre property filled with Nakashima’s furniture and architecture, the visual arts of his friends and contemporaries are on display as well. He was friends with some of the great artists and architects of our times, and you can see some of their work on display in various buildings.
This peaceful site conjures up a yearning to meditate or do yoga, which makes sense since he had hoped the property would also serve as an ashram or retreat, although it was never used that way.
There are 21 buildings on the property built in the International Style with elements of traditional Japanese architecture by Nakashima. His buildings are south facing and take advantage of heating, cooling and light from nature. He designed and built every building on the property.
Nakashima was known for his Hyperbolic Paraboloid shell that forms the sweeping dramatic roof of the Arts building.
About the Man: From the Book – George Nakashima: At peace in nature
“George Nakashima was declared “A National Treasure” by the Japanese Emperor in 1983. He was a spiritual man who cared about the soul of a tree and believed that a woodworker owed a sacrificed tree a noble life as a useful, beautiful object. He believed that each plank cut from a tree had only one ideal use and it is the woodworker’s responsibility to find that use and shape the wood to realize its true potential.”
In the introduction to his book, The Soul Of A Tree: A Woodworker’s Reflections, he says, “We work with the boards from these trees, to fulfill their yearning for a second life, to release their richness and beauty. From these planks we fashion objects useful to man and, if nature wills, things of beauty. In any case, these objects harmonize the rhythms of nature to fulfill the tree’s destiny and ours.”
His work and legacy live on as the family, who he trained, continue to run the woodworking business and manufacture his designs and furniture according to his techniques in using the natural shape of wood.
I highly recommend taking a guided tour. Reservations are a must.
If you visit, check out my post on other things to do in Bucks County: