George Nakashima Biography

George Nakashima

woodworker, architectural designer
Born: 1905
Birthplace: Spokane, Wash.

Nakashima developed his lifelong interest in woodworking and architectural design as a student at the University of Washington in the 1920s. He graduated from M.I.T. with a master's in Architecture in 1930. After his formal studies, he traveled to India and Japan to learn his craft from traditional woodworkers. In the early 1940s, his designs and writing began to be featured in Arts & Architecture. Detained in an internment camp during WWII, he used salvaged wood to train under a master Japanese carpenter. His style was influenced by the simplicity of the Shakers as well as the Arts and Crafts Movement, and in 1973, he received his largest single commission to create 200 pieces for Governor Rockefeller. Nakashima wrote a book describing his experiences and relationship with wood, The Soul of a Tree (1981). In 1983, he designed the impressive “Altar of Peace” installed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Died: 1990