As I wrote about yesterday, the Lexus Design Award and Event is a hub of creative ideas. The contest itself garners hundreds of entries from around the globe which are curated down to twelve, and then to four lucky prototype finalists. Those four are the lucky finalists who get to showcase their prototypes in Milan, one of which is Hiroto Yoshizo.
Hiroto lives and works in Tokyo as an art director, working as a spatial designer for commercial facilities. And as it turns out, he’s the winner of this year’s Lexus Design Award. I had a chance to speak with Hiroto and his mentors on the project, Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham of Snarkitecture, who themselves are brilliant and one of my current favorite creative teams. We spoke about inspiration, vision, working with Lexus and the future.
The interview below was lightly edited for clarity and length.
TFIB: Your project Pixel, is a way to facilitate a melding between light and shadow, and it’s modular, so you can form it in many different ways – what inspired you to make this structure and shape?
HY: I began by testing with just a piece of paper and some light, and seeing how the light reflected against the piece of paper. And then testing so many different shapes, so many different forms, to see which was the best method for reflecting the light. I even used clay, creating 3D curved shapes to see worked, but I ended up with this one.
Alex: I think it’s important to talk about the original inspiration, the reference of tradition and shoji, as really the earliest starting points in some ways.
HY: Yes, another big inspiration for me was shoji, which is a Japanese traditional fitting used in architecture. It’s created with paper and it can cover the view from outside, but then it can also take in the light, very softly, and transition that into the inside environments. And the fact that shoji can translate two different elements, light and shadow, in a very visible way, was a big inspiration for my work.
TFIB: With that being the inspiration, the starting point, where did Snarkitecture come into this process, and how did you work together as mentors and the mentee?
AM: This is the second year that Snarkitcture has worked as mentor with Lexus Design Award, and the process starts in November, we look at something like 1200 designed which are paired down to the 12 in the room, including four prototype winners. Out of all of those we selected Hiroto’s project to mentor. There’s something about the simplicity and reduction of it, and kind of, the poetic quality. As soon as you see the interaction, your movement, your interaction effects the outcome of the piece, I think that was something that was really appealing to us, that it was engaging.
Through a series of Skype calls, emails, and an in-person meeting, Hiroto visited us at our studio in New York, we worked with him over three to four months to refine the design. In some ways the final result, these pieces are quite similar to the pieces he presented in November. It was much more about guiding and steering his vision and helping him to present it here at Milan Design Week, Lexus, and also as a commercial opportunity. Which was it going to be? A consumer product, or an installation, or an architectural material, which I think was really the direction he’s interested in pursuing.
TFIB: Horito, do you think of this as more of an art or an architecture piece? I know that this is something referenced in what Snarkitecture does, do you think it to be one or the other or somewhere in-between?
HY: This is a very difficult question, but using Pixel in very large scale is very key to the whole message, and to how people interact with the work. So in the end, it might be architectural, by having people walk behind it or walk past it, it will end up being like an installation as well, so it’s a play on both.
TFIB: With that point on scale, can the size of the Pixel elements change? Would you make them bigger? Or is this is the set scale and the Pixels get more numerous?
HY: The original, the standard size, is what you see on the wall. But of course you can scale it down, you can scale it up, but what’s very important is having that same form, the same dimensions.
TFIB: And with the form itself, is there anything special about it? Is it the way the light is refracting, is that why the form is the way it is?
HY: That’s exactly right (laughs).
TFIB: If you could have the Pixels show up anywhere in the world, where would you like to see them exhibited?
HY: (laughs) I’d want to see it in big scale and with natural light as well. sS places where there’s lots of people there, where there’s trees outside. Maybe art museums or facilities like shopping centers where they’ll be lots of people walking past the work.
TFIB: For you Daniel and Alex, there was something that drew you to Hiroto’s work, and you’ve done this for two years now, is there any advice you’d give to other designers for creating work that you think would be interesting?
DA: I think there’s an economy about this work, or an effieceny, the idea is conveyed very simply. And I think that we try to make things that have a purpose, and need to exist. Try not to make things that are superfluous or make things that need to be here.
AM: I’d say my general advice to most designers is to always be making things. To put your ideas out in the world and actually set them in a tangible, tactile way. I would really encourage, having worked on this project for two years, I’d really encourage young designers to consider applying for next years Lexus Design Award. I think the benefit as an emerging designer is incredible. If you win, if you’re one of the prototype designers, Lexus basically funds a functional prototype and brings you and the design here – We’re in the Triennale in Milan, and the designers are getting their work showcased in front of tens of thousands of people so it’s a really incredible opportunity for up-and-coming designers.
TFIB: Any other thoughts Hiroto?
HY: I’m just really excited to be able to showcase my work here and to see people interact with Pixel, hand to hand, and other ideas or possibilities on how they can utilize Pixel in everyday life.