SHIZUKA SASAKI – teamLab

Shizuka_Sasaki.jpg

Japanese collective teamLab's immersive installations and artworks blend technology and creativity bringing together ‘ultratechnologists’ from diverse digital fields. The Fizz chatted to director Shizuka Sasaki at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, host to exhibition ‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park’.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
Throughout our artworks and spatial design we try to make other people’s existence a positive thing. With conventional art, like the Mona Lisa, you want to look at it by yourself and not be distracted by others, but in our artworks there’s always interaction. If someone’s touching it, or sharing the space, it changes around that person and makes the artwork beautiful. So those viewing it appreciate other people’s existence. We create a positive relationship between yourself and others.

How does the collective work?
It was started by our founder Toshiyuki Inoko with five people in 2001, but has grown to over 500. Most of us are permanent, but some work on a contract basis. I’m a catalyst for teamLab. A catalyst creates a team of people to make each project happen, drawn from different technologies. Sometimes we need mathematicians, sometimes special sensor engineers, or artists, designers or architects. So we gather specific teams and liaise through meetings.

TOP: teamLab director and catalyst Shizuka Sasaki. ABOVE: Interactive digital installations at Sydney exhibition 'Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park' at Ultimo's Powerhouse Museum, including 'Light Ball Orchestra', 'Hopscotch for Geniuses' and 'Graffiti Nature – Mountains and Valleys'

What inspired your touring show ‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park’?
We began as an IT company. When one of the co-founder's sons was little, he noticed kids were just playing by themselves on phones and tablets, not playing together. He was shocked, so took away the child’s phone. But then he thought, ‘I’m in the IT industry, why am I taking technology away from my son? Technology should be able to bring people in, and let them play together or be more creative with each other.’ So that’s how we started developing the idea of bringing kids together to interact and play through technology in this Future Park. Even though we use technology it’s not just for one person, it’s for a lot of people. Everything is interactive, so if you’re playing by yourself – as with our coloured 'Light Ball Orchestra' exhibit – it’s fun, but if there were more people it would be a lot more fun. There would be more sounds, interactions and colour, so it gets better.

In Future Park's 'Sketch Town' zone kids can scan their coloured-in drawings into a digital artwork and then move them around by touch. How does it work?
There are around 12 different things you can draw and put into 'Sketch Town'’s world. You can touch the pictures and move them around, and they will jump and dance. There’s a limitation to the artwork’s screen size, so once around 300 to 350 drawings appear on it, then your spaceship, say, or truck will start fading away, but they will last for a few hours.

ABOVE: Powerhouse Museum exhibition 'Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park' in Sydney, including interactive digital installations 'Sketch Town', 'Sketch People' and 'A Table where Little People Live'

How important is interactivity to your work?
Everything is interactive. We don’t want to create artworks that you just watch. We want people to be involved and actually to affect the artwork itself.

Why did you choose art as your medium?
It could have been any medium because our aim is to change people’s perspective. We wanted to create something that isn’t just a Japanese thing, but a universal concept. That’s why art is good to work with.

Where do you get inspiration?
We get inspiration from everything – art and architecture – but often from nature. We always blur the boundaries between science and art, and realistic things and virtual things. When you look at flowers, distant mountains or waves you think, ‘why are they so beautiful?’ We break down why they’re beautiful and create something from that concept.

ABOVE: Recent 'NGV Triennial' installation 'Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement' for Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria. Visitors' movement is tracked by sensors that communicate via computer with projectors, creating a visual vortex expressed as a continuum of digital particles

Tell us about your recent digital installation for Melbourne’s ‘NGV Triennial’ exhibition?
The 'NGV Triennial' piece was a vortex on the floor, which responds to people’s movement like water. The faster the person moves, the stronger the force is applied in that direction. If a person is not moving, no flow will occur.

Australian gallery Martin Browne Contemporary also shows your digital artworks. Tell us more…
Our artworks keep changing, synchronising with nature, weather or real places. We can’t give away exactly how we connect them to the outside world, but there's something like a GPS always talking to the system, and we create an algorithm. Perhaps the weather outside will affect the weather inside the artwork, or alters the behaviour of its inhabitants. Artworks change with the seasons or time of day. One client bought this ever-changing floral artwork, went on holiday and came back to find the flowers were totally different. They called us to say they liked it better before, but we told them they would have to wait a year to see their favourite July flower again!

ABOVE: Two teamLab digital artworks exhibited by Sydney gallery Martin Browne Contemporary, including six-channel 'Four Seasons, a 1000 Years, Terraced Rice Fields – Tashibunosho' and endless 9-channel work 'Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity'

What’s your social media of choice?
We have Facebook, Twitter and our favourite Instagram. Instagram works well for us because our artwork is very photogenic, so people like taking pictures at our exhibitions and posting them online.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
We do a lot of projects all over the world, so I travel all the time. After this I go to China. We get inspiration from everywhere, with shows like ‘Future Park’ touring from Asia to the US and Europe.

What’s next for teamLab?
On 21 June we have a huge permanent exhibition coming up called 'teamLab Borderless' about transcending borders. It’s at the MORI Building in Odaiba, Tokyo, and involves 520 computers, 470 projectors, 40 artworks and 10,000 square metres of three-dimensional space. We’re exploring the idea of connecting all the artworks together so there will be no borders between them. Everything is linked in some way, so for instance those little guys you’re looking at will go out of the artwork and go into another world or appear over there. We also have a Paris exhibition starting in May called ‘teamLab Au-delà des limites’.

ABOVE: Upcoming temporary Paris show 'teamLab Au-delà des limites'; and permanent Tokyo exhibition 'teamLab Borderless', in which 'artworks leave rooms and move, artworks communicate with other artworks, and artworks fuse with other artworks', breaking down the boundaries between art, the viewer and other people

teamlab.art
‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park presented by Toyota’ is at the Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney, Australia, until 30 April 2018. It will also open at Yang Art Museum, 3rd Floor, Building 14, Solana, No 6 Chaoyang Park Road, Chaoyang, Beijing, China from 25 June to 7 October 2018.

Catch ‘teamLab Au-delà des limites’ at Grande Halle de La Villette, Parc de la Villette, 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, Paris, France, from 15 May to 9 September 2018. ‘Epson teamLab Borderless’ will be on show permanently at Mori Building Digital Art Museum at Palette Town, Odaiba, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan, from 21 June 2018. See teamLab exhibitions for other current and future installations.

SHIGERU BAN

Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is a champion of disaster relief, pioneering the use of temporary paperchip and shipping container shelters, and balancing pro bono projects with commercial work. As an inspiring show at Sydney's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) explores his humanitarian structures, we met this maverick talent.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What's your design philosophy?
Problem-solving. Problems solved by design.

What inspired you to get involved with disaster relief?
I was tired of working for privileged people who had money and power. I like to design monuments, but I was quite disappointed that I was mainly working for privileged people, not the general public. Earthquakes don't kill people, but building materials do. I saw the very poor condition of temporary housing after natural and man-made disasters, and I thought I could improve the condition of these facilities. For me there is no difference between my pro bono and commercial work because I have the same interest and energy for both, and I get the same satisfaction. 

What materials intrigue you?
I use any materials available locally, such as paperchip – not paper by itself – which exists anywhere in the world, and is cheap, strong and lightweight. Even when I was working in Rwanda I found a paperchip factory in the capital Kigali. I'm especially interested in humble materials. If say I used steel, it's a wonderful material, you can do anything with it, but wood and paper have many more limitations. I'm interested in designing with the limitations of the material. Paper is interesting because it's lighter and weaker. I like to take advantage of the weakness of this material to make something different. 

TOP: Japanese architect Shigeru Ban
ABOVE: Ban's Cardboard Cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, was built as a community gathering space after the 2011 earthquake devastated the city's historic stone cathedral (see our earlier post). An interactive model of it forms part of Sydney exhibition 'The Inventive Work of Shigeru Ban, SCAF Projects 34 & 35'

What's next for you in terms of disaster relief?
I don't know, I hope I won't be busy! My goal is to make buildings that will be demolished. Shelters that will be dismantled after six months, with materials that can be recycled and reused after, with no waste. The problem is people don't want to move out of my temporary houses, so many of them are becoming permanent!

So is the line blurring between permanent and temporary buildings?
Concrete can be very temporary if developers get rid of it, whereas paper structures can be permanent as long as people love them, like my emergency cathedral for Christchurch. I would like to continue building monuments to be loved by people. Besides, beauty doesn’t come from the kind of material you use, it comes from the proportions. Creating light, shadow, natural ventilation and space between inside and outside are what make living conditions beautiful. 

ABOVE: Two original-scale reproductions of Ban's emergency structures occupy SCAF's Courtyard Garden. His paper log houses for Kobe, Japan (1995), and Ecuador (2016-ongoing) were designed in response to earthquakes and cost around US$2,000 a unit to build. Note the care taken to match the sandbag-filled, donated beer crate bases to the huts

After designing France's Centre Pompidou-Metz in 2010, your Paris concert hall La Scene Musicale was unveiled in April. Tell us more.
It was a former factory site on the Île Seguin. They wanted the design to be a symbol for the western gateway of Paris. I'm not the kind of person to develop unusual shapes. For me it's very challenging to design something iconic and monumental. I made a sail of solar panels, which rotates around a curved timber-clad auditorium, following the sun. Mosaic tiles inside the concert hall change colour from green to red.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
Nothing new comes out anymore. Generally speaking, architects don't like inventing. People are afraid to be sued. If you do something innovative or experimental you can be sued very easily, especially in the United States. Now everyone's competing with different, funny shapes, which can be created by computer easily. They're interesting, but it's not innovative technology.

Any ideas for a solution to affordable urban housing?
I don't know why this is a problem because there are so many ideas to make affordable housing – as long as developers don't mind making less profit! It's not about creating tiny houses, it's about the construction method. Even with the same space we can make a comfortable house inexpensively. But cities are no longer being designed by urban planners or the government, now commercial developers are leading the way.

ABOVE: Installation details of SCAF's Kobe shelter, which features thick paper tubes for walls, lined with insulation and topped off with tent material; The Ecuador house teams paper tube walls with green-hued bamboo sheets, plus a thatched roof. Both eco-friendly units include toilets, and are easy to dismantle or recycle

Where or how do you find inspiration?
I don't suddenly get inspired by other things. I just continue developing my original ideas to the next stage, little by little. Rather than keeping an eye on cutting-edge trends or magazines, I'm just busy developing my own stuff, as I don't want to be influenced by others.

Who are your design heroes?
Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto. I like architects who invent their own material or structural system, because I hate to be influenced by the fashionable styles of the day. They both invented their own systems to design things according to the material. I was lucky to collaborate with Otto on my Japan Pavilion for Hanover's Expo 2000 and I learned a lot from him. He always tried to use the minimum material and minimum energy to make maximum space. My favourite architect though is Alvar Aalto. I designed an Aalto exhibition in Tokyo in 1986, but didn't want to waste precious wood for a temporary space. That's when I discovered that paperchip, made of recycled paper which I turned into a tube, was much stronger that I'd expected and inexpensive.

ABOVE: Inside, the SCAF exhibition features scale models, videos, and examples of building joints and partition systems developed by Ban for his temporary shelters; A model details the interior of the emergency cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, including bespoke furniture; Another showcases the sinuous roof of Ban's Japan Pavilion for Hanover's Expo 2000, a collaboration with late German architect Frei Otto

Where's on your travel wish list?
I love travelling... to enjoy the local food and wine. That's why I love coming to Australia! I commute every week between Tokyo and Paris, where I have offices. Usually I travel at weekends, so as not to waste the week days.

What should a design fan see in Tokyo?
I would recommend going to Kyoto instead. In Tokyo most of the buildings are designed by big firms, who aren't usually very good architects, so they're boring. It's the same for most major cities, whereas Kyoto has many interesting innovations. It's a more traditional town, and making buildings was so difficult in the past that you needed great ideas and craftsmanship.

What's your social media of choice?
I don't do it at all. Does my office use Instagram? I don't know!
shigerubanarchitects.com  sherman-scaf.org.au

'The Inventive Work of Shigeru Ban' is at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 16-20 Goodhope Street, Paddington, Sydney until 1 July 2017 (open 11am-5pm, Wednesday to Saturday)

Pictures: Brett Boardman (SCAF)

LAVA

Chris Bosse is one third of architecture firm LAVA, an innovative practice based in Sydney, Berlin and Stuttgart. The trio’s global, multi-disciplinary portfolio ranges from a sports hostel in Germany to a UAE eco city and a sinuous exhibition space for 2016’s Sydney Design Festival.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your Sydney Design Festival exhibition design?
We designed the Powerhouse Museum exhibition ‘Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital’ (on until 25 June 2017), which was a digital dream come true. As a practice deeply entrenched in digital fabrication technologies, it was exciting to create an immersive space that provides room for storytelling and objects while being part of the story itself. Inspired by the exhibition content, our design explores the idea of a continuous line as a means to create a spatial continuum in a digital world, and to express the infinite possibilities of emerging digital data collection and manufacture. We used the latest technologies and CNC for fabrication, which were both time- and cost-effective.

ABOVE RIGHT: LAVA's Asia Pacific Director Chris Bosse
ABOVE: Futuristic exhibition design for 'Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital', part of the Sydney Design Festival at the Powerhouse Museum

ABOVE: LAVA co-founders Chris Bosse (Sydney), Alexander Rieck (Stuttgart) and Tobias Wallisser (Berlin)

What do the three of you bring to the party?
When LAVA was founded in 2007 the goal was to learn from the expertise of the three directors. Stuttgart-based Alexander Rieck brings knowledge of the working environments and building processes of the future, while Berlin-based Tobias Wallisser researches and teaches cutting-edge, digital planning technologies at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. I moved to Sydney in 2002 and my work is based on the computerised study of organic structure and resulting spatial conceptions. We offer a mobile, highly flexible network of specialist designers and collaborators across continents.

What's LAVA's design philosophy?
LAVA stands for Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, a laboratory for ideas tested and approved. The common thread is sustainable design – beautiful, efficient and contemporary, whether for an exhibition, a hotel or a whole city.

Our creative process incorporates mankind, nature and technology. Humans are at the centre, and we merge future technologies with the patterns of organisation found in nature to build a smarter, friendlier, more socially and environmentally responsible future. We use naturally evolving structural systems, such as snowflakes, spider’s webs and soap bubbles, for new building typologies – the geometries in nature generate both efficiency and beauty. By combining digital workflow, nature’s structural principles and the latest digital fabrication technologies we build more (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost).

ABOVE: Bosse contributed to PTW Architects' startling Beijing Olympics Watercube; LAVA's winning design for the UAE's future eco-friendly Masdar city centre; KACST Headquarters in Riyadh, and verdant Berlin mixed-used development THE:SQUARE, are both under construction; A 2012 bid to build the Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund in Bonn

Which projects are you most proud of? And what's up next? 
The National Swimming Centre in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. I was a key design member at PTW for the Watercube, which won the Atmosphere Award at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale. Another was winning the international competition to design the centre of the world’s first eco city Masdar in the UAE.

LAVA designs currently under construction include a new university master plan and headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; a youth sports hostel in Bayreuth, Germany; mixed-use developments in Berlin and Hangzhou, China; and a residential tower in Hanoi, plus 88 houses in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

ABOVE: LAVA's design for the new Philips Lighting Headquarters in Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Sydney International Airport's sandstone-influenced regional duty free area, another 2016-completed project

We’ve also just completed a company headquarters and lighting showroom for Philips in The Netherlands, a regional duty free zone at Sydney International Airport inspired by the sandstone rock caves of Sydney Harbour, and a Japanese restaurant fit-out.

BELOW: Chris Bosse renovated his own sleekly organic Tivoli Terrace home in Sydney's inner-city Paddington in 2015

What drove the design of your own Sydney home?
Bringing the outside in was the priority in the 2015 renovation of Tivoli Terrace, a four-metre-wide terrace house, which links Victorian Sydney with the future of modern architecture. Every surface is a design element making a statement, and has more than one function like containing storage. New timber floors streamline the living areas, while sliding windows and timber screens open up to a courtyard and extend the space. Materiality was kept pale with natural wood and neutral colours, juxtaposed with iconic mid-century furniture and contemporary designer lighting which add 21st century cool.

ABOVE: A feasibility study for a Bionic Tower in Abu Dhabi, with an intelligent skin that responds to its environment; Featuring a shimmering façade of fins, Hangzhou's Zhejiang Gate Towers are under construction

Where do you get inspiration?
I start by going for a walk or swimming in the morning or at sunset – not only is it relaxing but that's also where I find ideas. You need oxygen running through your veins and you are completely enlightened. Going to work and sitting in front of a white sheet of paper is still the best moment, even if the sheet is a screen. A lot can get lost from idea to project and then realisation, and we try to diminish the gap.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
‘Intelligent’ architecture. It is not about the shape but about the intelligence of the system. The intelligence of the smallest unit results in the intelligence of the overall system. I envision a world where buildings are responsive to external influences such as air pressure, temperature, humidity, and solar radiation; of networked building systems, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the architecture of the future new materials and technologies enable an adaptability, responsiveness, environmental awareness and strength not seen in conventional architecture. I practice these principles in projects from exhibition design in Sydney to villas in Vietnam.

ABOVE: Also under way is the Y-shaped Bayreuth Youth Hostel in Germany, sporting innovative forms and sustainable credentials

Who are your design heroes?
German architect Frei Otto’s soap bubble experiments for the Munich Olympic Stadium in the early Seventies are a great inspiration. Verner Panton’s iconic 'Panton Chair' anticipated the digital revolution by decades. And Antoni Gaudi, who designed buildings of unspeakable beauty and innovation, inspired by nature.

Where's on your travel wish list?
Snorkelling – being underwater – anywhere, from the Great Barrier Reef to Vanuatu and Malaysia. The coral reefs are the cities of the future where species coexist and thrive together. The light refractions of the sunlight create endless patterns and artwork together with the sand. I would love to see Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands too, although not for work!

What's your social media of choice?
Anything visual, Facebook or Instagram.
www.l-a-v-a.net

Pictures: Jayne Ion and Marinco Kojdanovski (Out of Hand exhibition)

LAB DE STU

Cutting-edge Melbourne design collective LAB DE STU has a knack for creating furniture and lights in graphic contemporary shapes and interesting colours. The trio – including Adam Lynch and Dale Hardiman (of Dowel Jones) and André Hnatojko – is also involved with limited edition, design-art platform 1-OK Club and unveils new collection's this week at 2016's Maison&Objet Asia, where they're exhibiting as Rising Asian Talents.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s with your name?
The name LAB DE STU is short for Laboratory Design Studio. It originally explained the vision of the studio, but was shortened soon after for ease because one of the designers had a stutter. This shortened name also reflected the change from studio to collective. 2016 sees LAB DE STU evolve into a brand.

How did you three hook up and what do you each bring to the party?
We met studying Furniture Design at Melbourne's RMIT together in 2011. We were quite young when we first founded the studio, so we really banded together as we were all friends. We each have very different focuses so the most important thing is that we all bring diverse perspectives and opinions.

ABOVE FROM LEFT: LAB DE STU trio Adam Lynch and Dale Hardiman (of Dowel Jones) and André Hnatojko
ABOVE RIGHT: The flat-packed 'Mr. Dowel Jones' tripod light by Dowel Jones. Made of Tasmanian oak and rubber, it comes in desk or floor sizes
BELOW: Launching at 2016's Maison&Objet Asia is Dowel Jones's first wire product, the 'Bradley Hooper' side table, coffee table and stool available in various colours and tops

What do you like to design and what’s your style?
We don’t strive to have a specific style, we are informed by market research and conversations with our manufacturers. Our style may be representative of who we work with.

Tell us about your Maison&Objet Asia exhibition?
As we all produce different work under the name LAB DE STU, we’ve decided to unify the designs through the use of colour. All but two works in the exhibition will be from new collections never seen before. Maison&Objet Asia will see the presentation of three new collections: André Hnatojko will be releasing his latest range of lighting, and Dale Hardiman and Adam Lynch’s brand Dowel Jones will release two furniture collections, including the steel 'Bradley Hooper' side tables, inspired by basketball hoops, which come in two frame sizes with tops in cork, walnut or ash.

How do you feel about being showcased as part of Asia’s design scene?
We’ve been recognised through various awards programmes and exhibitions within Australia since our founding in 2011, but we’ve never been labelled as rising talent internationally, so it’s greatly appreciated and quite amazing to be representing Australia and Australian design at Maison&Objet Asia. We’ve been lucky enough to present work in Europe over the years, but never in Asia, so the ability to exhibit in Singapore is fantastic. 

BELOW FROM LEFT: Dale Hardiman and Ash Allen's limited-edition 'Factory Works' vessel for 1-OK Club in extruded rubber coil, set on a found glass object that was then smashed; Dowel Jones's graphic 'Mr Merger' pendant light, in brass and rubber, with rotatable heads

Where or how do you get inspiration?
Inspiration comes from problem solving and usually from the most uncommon of places. Our practices involve looking at preexisting product typologies or problems and exploring them with the aid of manufacturers. We find the most interesting projects can come from visiting the strangest factories!

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
We get excited by process and materials, so finding new methods or experimental materials influences our work and aesthetic. Bold colour has always been something we like to use, whether in products, styling or displays.

Who are your design heroes?
There is an endless list of people and eras who have influenced the three of us. We generally focus on experimental designers such as Max Lamb and Formafantasma, but also respect brands which make common products in a special way, for example Copenhagen's Wrong For Hay and New York's Good Thing.

BELOW: LAB DE STU's 'Hurdle Family' by Dowel Jones, including the 'Full Hurdle' and 'Half Hurdle' chairs

ABOVE: The 'Hurdle Tray' side table comes in covetable colours

Is Melbourne a big influence on you? And where’s on your travel wish list?
Our focus is predominantly on collaborating with local manufacturers, so living in a country with manufacturing forever moving away is difficult and influences all aspects of our design work. Asia is on our travel wish list as we’re always looking to Europe, America and Scandinavian countries for design, yet we are so close to Asia and there is such growth and opportunity in the design discipline there.

What’s your social media of choice?
We predominantly use Instagram as a quick and responsive way to introduce work and display interior projects. It's also a great way to get instant feedback from the public.
labdestu.com.au

LAB DE STU is exhibiting from 8-11 March 2016 as part of the Rising Asian Talents showcase at Maison&Objet Asia at Sands Expo and Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. For past Fizz coverage of Dowel Jones, see their contribution to The Broadsheet Restaurant.

Pictures: Cricket Studio cricket-studio.com.au