Ikebana: the flower arrangement art coming from Japan

in Biophilic Design

Ikebana – from the Japanese ikeru (keep alive, arrange) and hana (flower) is the traditional Japanese art of arranging flowers.
Together with incense appreciation (opened in a new window/tab) and the tea ceremony (opened in a new window/tab) it is one of the traditional Japanese fine arts.

Initiated by Buddhist priests as a form of religious offering, Ikebana was for long time limited to a small elite of people. Today, it is much more widespread and is in fact one of the symbols of Japanese culture worldwide.

There exist a lot of Ikebana schools and each one of them follows different styles and principles ranging from the most formal rikka style to the freestyle Sogetsu school, which promotes the individuality of people in creating personal and creative arrangements.

 
But besides the differences in schools and principles, there are some features that are common to all Ikebana arrangements and make it such a distinctive way of arranging flowers.

Connection to nature

Ikebana is much more than just placing flowers in a vessel. Creating an Ikebana arrangement is a way to connect with nature, admire its beauty and appreciate its finest details. Which makes it a great fit with biophilic design!

Ikebana is usually done in silence and helps to clear the mind. It shouldn't then come as a surprise that in the past, all major Japanese generals were mastering this art and found it helpful to take more balanced decisions.

Woman arranging flowers in an Ikebana composition.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Jpn Info (opened in a new window/tab)

Preserving life

Keeping flowers alive is a primary objective of an Ikebana composition. Vessels are chosen with this in mind and filled with plenty of clear water.

Ikebana arrangement, perfect décor in a minimalist interior.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanamai (opened in a new window/tab)

Negative space

The main visual difference between Ikebana and a common Western-style floral arrangement is negative space.
In an Ikebana arrangement, you'll never see a vessel stuffed with flowers. The empty space between flowers is just as important as the flowers themselves and actually makes them stand out even more. Branches and flowers are often slanted in different directions and the overall composition creates a space alternating full and empty areas in a balanced way.

Ikebana arrangement making great use of negative space.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanakuma Ikebana (opened in a new window/tab)

Lines and shapes

Some Ikebana schools prefer to work with the natural shapes of flowers and branches while others also bend and cut them to create artificial curves and angles. Either way, Ikebana arrangements are all incredibly sculptural!

Ikebana abstract arrangement, perfect décor in a minimalist interior.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Ikebana Lab (opened in a new window/tab)

Harmony

Ikebana pursues harmony in all aspects.
Shapes, colours, materials and positions are carefully alternated to create balanced combinations. Which is part of the reason why Ikebana arrangements are universally striking and eye-catching!

Small Ikebana arrangement, perfect décor in a minimalist interior.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Ikebana International (opened in a new window/tab)

Asymmetry

Nature is most often asymmetric and so are Ikebana arrangements.
Creating harmonious asymmetric compositions is much more difficult than going for symmetry, but the result is a rewarding mix of movement and character.

Totally asymmetric Ikebana arrangement, perfect décor in a minimalist interior.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanakuma Ikebana (opened in a new window/tab)

Minimalism

Clean sculptural lines, negative space and overall harmony make Ikebana arrangements distinctively minimalist. In fact, their overall striking appearance makes them an ideal stand-alone décor piece for a minimalist space.

Minimal Ikebana arrangement.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Ikebana Lab (opened in a new window/tab)

Local belonging

Ikebana arrangements celebrate nature. As such, the elements of an arrangement are most often plants that could be found together in nature.

Similarly, biophilic design aims at creating authentic interiors rooted in their local surroundings.

Ikebana arrangement made of local leaves and flowers.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanamai (opened in a new window/tab)

Seasonality

Connecting a design with seasonal changes is yet another element that links Ikebana with biophilic design.
From branches' colours & shapes to the selection of vessels, all elements of an Ikebana arrangement can be chosen to match with a season.
 
Dry branches will be mostly used during autumn and winter.

Ikebana arrangement of dried branches, perfect décor in a minimalist interior.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Roadside Ikebana (opened in a new window/tab)

For a spring arrangement, stems will often be highly bent to represent strong winds.

Ikebana arrangement with highly bent stems.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanakuma Ikebana (opened in a new window/tab)

And for summer, vases will be mostly shallow, to benefit from the refreshing power of exposed water.

Summer Ikebana arrangement (Moribana).<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Thai Thomas MAI VAN (opened in a new window/tab)

 
Ikebana is a treat for both eyes and mind. It perfectly illustrates the fascinating essence of Japanese culture, rooted in respect, precision and zen.
It also gives a whole new meaning to flower arrangements, pursuing the same underlying objective of biophilic design: inviting people to connect to nature on a much deeper level.

Silvia's signature

Share this post

Comments

Don't be shy, let me know what you think!

On Leticia Tanoue said:
What an amazingly beautiful art is Ikebana! Thanks !
On Silvia - DforDesign said:
Hi Leticia, thanks for stopping by! :)

It really is! And what I find especially fascinating is the deep meaning it carries beyond the beauty of the arrangements! So inspiring!
On Samira said:
Hi Silvia. I recently started studying Sogetsu Ikebana and have discovered that my favorite arrangements are minimalist ones. I love the choices you made to illustrate concepts!
On Silvia - DforDesign said:
Hi Samira, thanks so much for stopping by! :)

I'm really happy you liked them too! Minimalist arrangements create beautiful negative-space shapes! And the meaning behind them is even more fascinating!

That such great news, enjoy your course!!! Would love to see what you create! :)

Newsletter

Join 100+ biophilic and sustainable design enthusiasts on the monthly newsletter.
I'll never share your email with third parties and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Powered by Mailchimp.

Sustainable Product Picks
Scroll