A dialogue on design: Europe versus Japan


Contemporary Art

My recent visit to Japan led me to prompt a dialogue on design between Sam Baron, head of design at Fabrica, and Ryu Yamamoto, a Japanese designer and architect on his team. Yamamoto has just completed a workshop at the Lisbon triennial of architecture, creating furniture for 12 guest institutions, and a gueridon he designed was recently exhibited in a group show at the Granville gallery in Paris.

Europe versus Japan, 2 kinds of design?
Design differs according to where we come from. In my design process, as an architect, I start from a section of drawings and then I build a tri-dimensional object. For example my gueridon for the Granville Gallery is a frontal drawing that became functional thanks to the discs that rotate around the main structure/frame.
Europeans always develop a perspective view when they design an object, while in Japan we don’t have perspective drawings in our culture, we always work with frontal frames. If you see a Japanese garden, you can always expect a nice frame from any angle where you sit, instead in Europe the gardens are designed to walk and experiment their depth. You never see everything at once.

Design versus consuming?
The Japanese like European things that give us confidence. Of course we like our Japanese products, but for the young generation the traditional Japanese culture and products are too calm: they have the beauty of silence but the young generation want to express themselves, their personality, through more “voicy” brands that scream louder. It’s fake but it’s synonymous with how our culture is evolving.

Architecture versus design?
I don’t thing versus is the best word. Both practices should be connected with each other. It’s better to think of both approaches at the same time: I can think about a product that goes on a table that fits in a room that is part of a building. Having a scale effect from small to big, from detail to main structure, from intimate/inside to outside.

Drawing versus technology?
I think that design could be more strongly connected with electronics. It comes from my Japanese background: we have a lot of electronic companies where the designers are integrated. The interaction between a designer and a programmer can provide richer answers. I would like to create new values that emerge from this fusion of two different backgrounds. I would like to add new values to the traditional European design process, adding knowledge that does not belong to an only-esthetic design world.