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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tokyo Designers Week interview


Tokyo 09:
Tokyo Designers Week has started and ( Dezeen produced the official guide to the event. In this first in a series of short interviews commissioned for the guide. the iterview consits of architect, designers, furniture designers etc. the list consists of

Shigeru Ban
Matthew Hilton
Ilse Crawford
Arik Levy
Tom Dixon
Max lamb
Tokujin Yoshioka
Jaime Hayón
Gwenael Nicolas
Nigel Coates

Photography by Phil Fisk
Art direction by Micha Weidmann
Interview by Rose Etherington / Malaika Byng


Interview Details:

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Shigeru ban
November 2nd, 2009

architect Shigeru Ban responds to the festival’s theme, green design.

Shigeru Ban – Green design doesn’t mean anything to me

“Green design is just a fashion. It doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve been working with materials like paper since 1986, long before this fashionable movement arose. I’m just interested in using materials without wasting it. Nothing has changed. The shape is different but the idea behind a project is always the same – taking advantage of the material itself.

Paper is a very inexpensive material which you can obtain anywhere in the world. It’s lightweight, and even students can work with it without needing special techniques. I’ve made many projects with paper, including a tower installation in London and a number of disaster-relief structures.

I am based in Tokyo but I also have offices in Paris and New York, so I work everywhere in the world. Working in Japan is easy because contractors are very organised and the craftsmanship is excellent. There’s greater harmony between clients, contractors and architects in Japan than anywhere else in the world. We are really spoilt here. When I am working in France there are always fights – it’s a totally different environment in this country.”

Shigeru Ban is an architect with offices in Tokyo, New York and Paris.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Matthew Hilton
November 2nd, 2009

Tokyo 09: in this second in a series of short interviews commissioned for the official Tokyo Designers Week guide that Dezeen produced, furniture designer Matthew Hilton talks to Malaika Byng about working with wood and his first experience of Tokyo.

Matthew Hilton – I do what I can but I still jump on a plane every few weeks

“Green is a marketing word. A lot of designers are jumping on the bandwagon. I don’t think we’re seeing any real green innovations in furniture design. I do what I can – I use sustainably sourced wood and avoid acid catalyst lacquers – but then I jump on a plane every few weeks.

To me, being green is also about making things that last. I want my pieces to have a strong presence but you also need to be able to live with them. Big statements date.

Wood is a very warm, hard-wearing material. Working with De La Espada on my new collection has given me access to a thrilling mix of craftsmanship and expert wood manufacturing. I use very advanced cross-laminated timber for tabletops, which makes the furniture very strong but lightweight.

I love the freedom I have with De La Espada and the ability to create really personal and expressive pieces at the high-end of the market. But it’s fun to have the contrast of working with Case, a larger volume, mid-market brand. We sell in America and Japan is next in our sights.

The first time I went to Tokyo was in the late 1980s with Jasper Morrison. We shared a bottle of vodka on the plane and arrived in a haze of jetlag and alcohol. It heightened the already extraordinary experience of wandering the city for the first time.”

Matthew Hilton is a furniture designer and creative director of Case.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Ilse Crawford
November 3rd, 2009

Tokyo 09: designer Ilse Crawford describes her vision of design that brings people together in this third short interview commissioned for the Tokyo Designers Week guide, produced by Dezeen.

Ilse Crawford – I’m interested in making furniture and design that brings people together

“The design world has become a bit of a club recently. It needs to look beyond its boundaries and be aware of what’s going on around it economically, socially and politically. I created a design department in Holland about ten years ago based on the idea of man and well-being. I’m fascinated by the idea of coming up with a new design language that supports communities, embraces humanity and can grow and replenish the world around it. For me, that’s what green design is about.

Innovation is very important, but I think we need to take a step back to move forward sometimes. Creating novelty for novelty’s sake is just feeding the machine. Often the quickest wins are to use the knowledge we’ve got already. The fastest way to reduce CO2 emissions right now would be to encourage everybody to share the products they have. That’s design intelligence. You don’t need masses of new ideas, you just need to apply the ones you have with conviction and commitment.

My new furniture collection – Seating for Eating – is based around communities and sharing. It’s a family of solid chestnut benches, settles and stools. Having designed some restaurants and cafes, I realised there are plenty of chairs but very few products that draw people together. When you look at design, so much of it is based around being separate. I’m interested in making furniture and design that brings people together.”

Ilse Crawford is a furniture and interior designer and founder of StudioIlse.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Arik Levy
November 3rd, 2009

Tokyo 09: designer Arik Levy remembers living in Japan and dreams about making smaller chocolate wrappers in this short interview commissioned by Dezeen for the Tokyo Designers Week guide.

Arik Levy – We need to be transparent about what we achieve

“Nobody talks frankly about the environment. Working with green materials, collecting them by hand from Kathmandu, blah, blah, blah – I don’t believe in these things. There’s so much hypocrisy. What I believe in is self-responsibility. If I make packaging for a chocolate bar one millimetre smaller because I’ve been more intelligent about its architecture, I’ve made a huge difference. Why? Because there’ll be ten million of them. We need to be more transparent about what we achieve and what we don’t.

But it’s our kids who can really make a difference. They should be educated about the environment in primary schools. We can raise awareness but they need to be the innovators – we’re almost dead in that respect.

Right now, I’ve just launched a new perfume bottle for Issey Miyake. They only introduce a new bottle every ten years so for me it was a statement – a sculpture. It was about going beyond its physicality and building a bridge between Issey Miyake’s philosophy and mine. Crossing those kinds of bridges in design is always interesting. That moment of osmosis is thrilling.

It’s like arriving in Japan for the first time. I had to break a barrier to really discover the country. Luckily, I broke it on the first day because I was bold. I lived there for four months and it was the only time in my life I’ve ever written a diary. I wanted to remember and embrace the experiences I had every day. Japan is emotional, physical and it’s intellectual.”

Arik Levy is a multi-disciplinary designer, with a studio in Paris.

Tokyo Designers Week interview: Tom Dixon
November 4th, 2009

Tokyo 09: the next in our series of short interviews about green design for the Tokyo Designers Week guide features designer Tom Dixon, who wonders if we should make anything at else at all.

Tom Dixon – My stance is to continually experiment

“The word ‘green’ means a really tough challenge to anyone who’s involved in the encouragement of consumption, which is effectively what a designer’s job is. We’re faced with a constant dilemma: should we be making anything at all?

My stance is to continually experiment and encourage discussion. I’ve looked at things such as maintenance contracts rather than constantly selling ‘newness’. My latest green project in association with the Design Museum has been to convert my 1949 Bentley to run on electricity. But every time you do something you realise there are other factors that aren’t as eco-friendly as you’d hoped, like disposable batteries. It’s very difficult not to be hypocritical and part of the green-wash factor.

Right now, I’ve opened my first permanent showroom in Portobello Dock in west London. It used to be the Virgin recording studios and I’m now trying to create some furniture hits.

I’d love to live in Tokyo one day. The more I get to know it, the more engaged and hypnotised I am. The Japanese have developed a unique aesthetic, and I find the way they deal with space and objects fascinating. It’s very different to what I could do.

My most memorable night in the city was spent in a transvestite karaoke club. Nigel Coates tricked me into going and I ended up dressed as Marilyn Monroe.”

Tom Dixon runs a large design studio in London.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Max Lamb
November 4th, 2009

Tokyo 09: this next short interview commissioned for the Tokyo Designers Week guide features designer Max lamb talking about exhibiting in Tokyo and the importance of handmade work.

Max Lamb – I don’t follow fashion

“My furniture is very personal; people only buy it if they respond emotionally, so they’re unlikely to throw it away. Lifespan and the relationship between an item and its user are more important than so-called ecological materials. It’s the culture of disposal that I think we need to address. The materials and processes I use are very durable – you can be very rough with them. And I don’t follow fashion.

Another way I approach this is to turn the consumer into the creator. I’ve just designed a wooden flat-pack chair for E&Y based on a similar concept to the one I showed at last year’s 100% Design Tokyo. When someone assembles something they invest value in it. The handmade element is key, whoever’s hand it may be.

I’ve exhibited in Tokyo twice now and both experiences have been intense. I was so busy the last time that I couldn’t sleep. I saw the city by night and day. It’s so alive and the sounds, smells and noises are unique.

As a foreigner you never know what to expect, and I love putting myself in the same position with my work by exploring unfamiliar materials. I try to find out everything I can about something – whether it’s Japanese food or the Chinese granite I used for a recent collection. I love the thrill of the unknown.”

Max Lamb is a furniture designer who runs his own practice in London.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Tokujin Yoshioka
November 5th, 2009

Tokyo 09: designer Tokujin Yoshioka talks about being a pioneer in this short interview commissioned for the Tokyo Designers Week official guide, produced by Dezeen.

Tokujin Yoshioka – It’s my job as a designer to be a pioneer

“Recycling is not the solution – we need to find ways to stop consuming energy altogether. I’m experimenting with materials and production techniques that have never been seen before, which I hope to show in Milan next year. It’s my job as a designer to be a pioneer.

At the beginning of my career, form was most important to me, but now I care most about human emotions. I like to give people a sense of elation. I have just designed a Camper store in London, featuring a wall covered in folded artificial suede, like blossom. It’s a very positive space and each petal is different, which gives it an ever-changing expression. Senses and emotions are things that can be designed.

I don’t set out to mimic nature; it happens unconsciously. I have an exhibition coming up in Tokyo in 2010 where I’ll be addressing it more directly. I’m also experimenting with crystal again. It’s fascinating the way its facetted surface reflects the light, which creates very energetic and dynamic pieces.

I live and work in Daikanyama-cho, in Shibuya-ku. I created my studio – once my home – out of an old rice warehouse transported from outside Tokyo. I combined the wooden structure, which is 150 years old, with new materials because I like the contrast between old and new. Things with heritage are so interesting because I can’t design them. It’s fascinating to contrast these with new technologies, which make the impossible possible.”

Tokujin Yoshioka runs his own studio Tokujin Yoshioka Design.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Jaime Hayón
November 5th, 2009

Tokyo 09: designer Jaime Hayón describes his love of detail in this short interview commissioned for the Tokyo Designers Week guide.

Jaime Hayón  – The Japanese have a great respect for detail, and I live for detail.

“I love beautiful, old-school materials that come straight from the earth. I work a lot with ceramics, which people have using since Roman times. To me, being green is not about recycling or being ecological; it’s about making things that last. Some things claim to be green but you can only use them twice before you have to throw them away. My view is very straightforward. If we make things that last, they’ll go from generation to generation with a lot of strength and force. Materials like glass, crystal and ceramics have been around for millions of years and will continue to be, whether we make forms out of them or not.

In September I created a giant chessboard with ceramic chess pieces for the London Design Festival in Trafalgar Square. It was my first art installation that the public could actually play with. Now I’m working on a jewellery store in Kuwait, projects with Bacarrat and designing shoes for Camper. I’m test-driving a pair today!

Working on the new Camper store in Tokyo was a real thrill. I wanted to respect the cleanness of the city, so I created a tiled façade, and a very positive, circus-inspired interior with a lot of colour.

It was a joy to work with the Japanese as they are very precise. They have a great respect for detail, and I live for detail! They apply this to every area of life. To me, the most beautiful thing about Tokyo is the food. It’s about taking the time to do things right. And there’s always a sense of adventure.”

Jaime Hayón is an artist and designer.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Gwenael Nicolas
November 6th, 2009

Tokyo 09: in this short interview commissioned for the Tokyo Designers Week guide, designer Gwenael Nicolas asserts that anything is possible in Tokyo.

Gwenael Nicolas – The concept of ‘green’ is still unclear

“Design is all about exploring, and unless we look to the future nothing will be solved. In Japan, ecological concerns are more integrated into the design processes than elsewhere. I’ve worked with companies abroad that just consider the materials and have asked me to use specific recyclable ones that are just too expensive to be feasible. The concept of ‘green’ is still unclear – it means different things to different people.

Right now, I’m working on a large commercial space where the facade will be covered in solar panels so that the energy systems and technology become a design feature. I’m also experimenting with product packaging as it’s important to consider the entire process from production to delivery, otherwise your influence is purely cosmetic.

I moved to Japan 18 years ago and I live in central Tokyo in Tomigaya. Tokyo is not just a geographical and cultural shift from Europe; it’s a time shift. I feel like anything is possible here. Discussions involve ‘how’ not ‘why’. It really is a refreshing change coming from France where everyone likes to argue about everything. There’s also much more synergy between different disciplines here and everything is about collaboration.

At 100% Design Tokyo, I will show LIGHT-LIGHT – a performance of 100 lights floating freely in space, as if by magic, which people can interact with. It’s inspired by the beauty that can be found within the chaos of Tokyo .”

Gwenael Nicolas is president of Curiosity design studio.

Tokyo Designers Week interviews:
Nigel Coates
November 6th, 2009

Tokyo Designers Week 09: architect and designer Nigel Coates describes the “complete chaos” of Tokyo in this final installment in our series of short interviews commissioned for the Tokyo Desigers Week official guide, which was produced by Dezeen.

Nigel Coates – My work has a Baroque sensuality and a feeling of movement.

“I find products which foreground their greenness inherently boring. It should be part of the small print and something consumers expect. As architects, we have to take account of things like energy issues and thermal losses. These are part of what make buildings liveable in. I think more and more designers are taking that as a requirement; simply a given in the way that they work.

At the moment, I’m working on several architectural projects, as well as products for Italian names like Alessi and outdoor furniture companies. There are two extremes to my work. One is derived from the curvaceous forms of the human body. The other has narrative, and a Baroque sensuality and feeling of movement. I’ve also just opened my first London studio and showroom. But it was Tokyo that first discovered me and turned me from an academic into a real architect and furniture designer.

My first project was the Metropole restaurant. With Sy Chen of CIA Inc, we created three buildings and over twenty interiors in less than a decade. People in Tokyo have an amazing inventiveness, quirkiness and lack of fear. Unlike in European cities, they’re unconstrained by conformity – the need for a city to have a unified look. In fact, it’s complete chaos and that’s what I find so exciting. People live their lives like that too. You can be a punk in the morning, a rocker in the evening and get married the next day! It fitted all my tenets of what a city should be.”

Nigel Coates is an architect and product designer, based in London.

The interviews are taken from the official Tokyo Designers Week guide (cover shown below), produced by Dezeen and art directed by Micha Weidmann.


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