The Art of the Utility Pole


I recently went to Yokohama for the opening of Akira Yamaguchi’s exhibition at the Sogo Museum of Art. “Yamaguchi’s painting style combines contemporary oil painting techniques with the traditional Japanese composition style known as Yamato-e.”



He’s an accomplished draftsman, so I was curious about some modest looking diagrams of utility poles that were hanging with some of his other drawings. It’s explained to me that Yamaguchi is depicting the initial designs created by masters of Ikebana (flower arrangement). The flower arrangers were asked to guide the engineers on the optimal placement of the poles from an aesthetic point of view. They also identified the most balanced proportions and angles for the crossarms and wires.



Decorative boxes were designed to cover electrical outlets.



This was a surprising revelation. Tokyo is filled with utility poles that line the streets like tangled webs. It’s a far cry from any kind of artistic design, but I was pleased to hear that the Japanese had carefully considered these mundane objects even though the desire for beauty and order eventually eluded them.


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