Founded in 1958. UNION is a Japanese manufacturer of architectural hardware specializing in door handles, with headquarters in Osaka. Its products incorporate a wide range of materials and techniques that fuse cutting-edge methods with traditional Japanese craftsmanship. UNION's rich and extensive existing portfolio is combined with the ability to produce original, on-of-a-kind products from scratch. In the field of designer door handles, UNION commands more than 80% of the Japanese market in architectural works across Japan. It has also received international recognition for its designs and exeptional quality, and its hardware has been used on renowned buildings and structures worldwide, including New York City's One World Trade Center
UNION got its start as a small hardware store in Osaka right after World War II. In 1958, it began making a name for itself as an architectural hardware manufacturer of door handles, lever handles, and door knobs. With the construction rush of the 1960's that followed, UNION started working with renowned architects and designers to craft handles for a variety of buildings and spaces. Many of UNION's handles were originally custom-designed as single pieces by architects with a specific site in mind. The designs were later passed on and produced for use in other architectural works. Examples of this include the door handle designed by Togo Murano for the entrance to the coffee shop Printemps in Shinsaibashi, Osaka, as well as Shinichi Okada's custom-made handle installed at Japan's Supreme Court upon its completion in 1974. Through this 60 year process of creating and transmitting specialized door handle expertise, UNION today commands more than 80% of the domestic high-end market as Japan's leading figure in the industry. Over the past 60 years, UNION's work has primarily been popular in Japan. In the years to come, UNION is committed to crossing borders and taking on new challenges in global cultures and spaces. The door to the world, and to the next 60 years, is opening in Milan.
UNION produces over three thousand different types of door handles. Its products are made from a range of materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, iron, brass, natural wood, glass, ceramics, and leather. Designs incorporate a rich variety of techniques, shapes, and sizes. UNION's production setup allows for manufacturing both single items and mass orders, but the spirit of expert craftsmanship is the same across all designs. UNION promises to continue fostering the communication of ideas between hardware designers and the artisans to support architects and spatial designers the world over with superb handles beyond anything ever before imagined. For this collaborative effort, the architect Tsuyoshi Tane has analyzed the processes, materials, techniques, manufacturing traditions, and history behind UNION's handles and conceptualized how best to communicate the unbroken spirit that continues to inspire UNION's craftsmanship. To do this, he has employed the technique of sand mold casting, one of the most ancient casting processes known to human civilization. UNION has used this technique since its inception, and still applies it today in trial productions and small-batch handle manufacturing. In this exhibit, "One Design - One Handle," Tsuyoshi focuses on the unique artistry of sand mold casting and its application in creating exactly one handle per mold. Set at the site of a former factory, the installation will make use of an enormous collection of resources and materials to highlight handles and the processes that form them.