A few short impressions of my trips to Isreal, London, New York and Amsterdam .
To see the studio of Tal Gur we crossed the desert to the Jordan valley, “mudded” in the Dead Sea and talked about design concepts in his kibbuz workshop on 46 degrees C, surrounded by mesh chairs, various urea materials, converted plastic bags, bamboo sticks, handmade rotation moulds and a noisy compressor who made a new design object “breathing”.
In front of all the recent political circumstances, visualizing the threatening concrete wall, driving through corridors, passing check points, we enjoyed the open communication and the mutual appreciation.
The work of Tal Gur will enrich the exhibition concept.
After a lovely weekend in Hong Kong and visiting an island outside of the city, we spent our second day at the studio of Michael Young. Michael himself would describe his studio as a place of a different timezone in comparison to the city outside and it certainly is. It is peaceful and quiet here, although the quietness last friday and this monday might have been the consequence of a party art fair weekend … However, when you leave the hot and humid city and climb the stairs, better take the elevator into the 11th floor and arrive at the bright white corridor, you are in a different place.
And even so you will read England in big silver letters, you are most certainly not in good old Europe. A place inbetween and at the same time so connected to Asia, a studio with around 8 people including the interns, speaking English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese or Swedish. A place ful of respect and clear rules to protect the creativness of it, like the one rule - no business meeting before 2.30.
In almost all the studios we visited so far, the mutual respect of the people working there, as much as the personality of the main designers, both have an impact on the way of working and the special spirit of the studio. So maybe one could describe the spirit at the Campanas colorful, maybe it was more serious at Konstantins, maybe it was “the most laid back studio in Hong Kong” (MY) but the loyalty and dedication was special in all of these places. Maybe, because of a different setting and a little different way of working it was more corporate at Haldanes or at Adityas place. It certainly had a pragmatic team oriented democratic feeling at Lunars.
As mentioned above Michael Youngs studio here in Hong Kong is said to be very relaxed in comparison to others around, very laid back and yet there is this special energy of Michael himself, his dynamics and way of approaching things, in my opinion much more wary than one would think at the first impression. What is interesting, at least that is my impression, the more personal and respectful the relations in the studio get, which includes trust and a certain freedom in having ones own speed in developing a project, the more loyal and devoted the input of each of the team becomes. Michael Youngs studio was a good example of that, a very well organized working place, fueled by him, his energy, his creativity and at the same time doesn’t seem to need him to funktion just as well.
But of course we found some stereotypes of Hong Kong China as well, adjectives like efficient, fast, energetic, industrial - words used by Andrew one of the industrial designers at MY, born and raised in Hong Kong, to describe this city and it’s working ethic. He confirmed, that Michael Youngs studio is very special, relaxed, so you do have full concentrated days, but unlike other places, you dont work too much overtime, which is normal in Hong Kong - and not healthy as he would add. If you consider the output of this studio, then it seems like working overtime is no guarantee for the qualitity and amount of work to get done.
After leaving Hong Kong, as swift and easy as arriving, we flew to Tokyo. Even so we found our way into the city, the right neighbourhod and hotel al right, things are much more confusing than Hong Kong. What a crazy contrast, if we reflect on the last ten days, almost two weeks now - Delhi, flat, hot, humid, dirty, intense and still wonderful, the moment you get used to all the crazyness; Hong Kong, dense, steep hills, packed, less dirty, good to get out, no green, english language, well organized, no fan of chinese food, but still in awe of the density architecture wise; and now Tokyo, endless in size, abrupt changes in scale, flower pots everywere, wonderful little gardens, amazing parks, no english, difficulties to buy a metro ticket, friendly helpful patient people, very clean, refined, wonderful food, so many people!
Yesterday we almost went nuts while trying to find the right exit of Shibuya Station - I swear, that everytime we came over ground it looked exactly the same, a bus station, some high buildings, endless flashing advertisement on the buldings…
Today we are going to meet our last designer of this trip and project, Ichiro Iwasaki at the university he is teaching at. Tomorrow we will go to his studio and hopefully spent more time there than planned so far.
A personal experience while constantly moving through different time zones and this time only going east: on every flight farther east we lost time, many hours, a couple of hours, ine hour, had to preset our watches, but the feeling became certaine, that it is impossible to catch up with the lost hours. They are lost forwever and your body has a very hard time overcoming that loss. Actually, in each new city we want to sleep even longer, in a senseless hope or search of regaining time.
Yesterday we arrived in Hong Kong. Our most amazing experience after Delhi, but actually after all the other cities we had visited so far, was the smooth and perfect ride into the city. From the moment we left the airplane to the moment we arrived in our hotel room, probably none of us never experienced such a well organised system of connecting transport media. In no time we arrived in the middle of this exciting city, and after another second (so it felt after Delhi) we were standing in the 30th floor of the hotel, in amazement of the view, speechless. Needless to say, this city feels cool after Delhi.
After a good rest, we went out to see the installation and opening of Michael Youngs at the Pawn, a beautiful piece of industrial art, as he would put it. A wonderful precise extrusion piece of aluminum, with two perfectly controlled bents, one element growing exuberantly.
I will write more about our first day at the studio of Michael’s later, which was fun and interesting, but need some time to reflect and even more time to be able to converse my thoughts on this city, where you can walk through markets full of wonderful things, smell the intensive smell of the chinese medicine and have a dense financial high riser world at the same time. First impression: I love it. The combination of a highly organized system with a distinctive culture is fascinating. International, local, European, Asian, Chinese.
And yes, this is the entrance to Michael Youngs studio in Sheung Wan. There is a surprise, when you reach the 11th floor!
While Tulga is heading further East, I’m going North.
I’m taking the Adirondack train from New York to Montreal, which covers the 613km that separate the two cities in just over 10h. A high-speed train it is not, but this is the United States and the Obama Administration’s rail stimulus package is just getting started.
I’m going to Montreal next week not only for the scenic journey along the Hudson Valley, or to discover North America’s most European city, but to attend the opening of the “Speed Limits” exhibition, which takes place on May 19th at the CCA - Canadian Centre for Architecture.
I heard about “Speed Limits” from Cathy Leff, director of the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach, who was a guest speaker in one of our D-crit classes this semester. The Wolfsonian co-organised the exhibition with CCA in Montreal, and will be hosting it in 2010.
According to CCA, this exhibition, curated by Jeffrey T. Schnapp (Stanford Humanities Lab), “addresses the pivotal role played by speed in modern life: from art to architecture and urbanism to graphics and design to economics to the material culture of the eras of industry and information. It also marks the centenary of the foundation of the Italian Futurist movement”.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what seems like a scholarly, historical approach to our overarching topic of discovery and discussion.
Actually I love Delhi, even so it took us a while to arrive here and find our way through this hot chaos, this madness, which is so special. Can you imagine a city, where the traffic is absolutely crazy, but it always moves? The centimeters between the different carriages (and there are many different kinds) freak you out at the beginning, but after a while you can’t stop but wonder, that there is always a smooth and almost elegant way of constant movement - in a city of 14 million!
Staying at cks was also a peaceful retreat, a place of safety and sanity. cks in Delhi is a team of about eleven people, including Aditya Dev Sood, founder and CEO. There is another office in Bangalore, and a newly founded one in Mumbai.
This office here is located in a rather good neighbourhood, in a residential area, the office is in the ground floor of the private house of Aditya. It has two entrances, tow different sides to one piece.
cks is a consulting company in design research. Their clients can be mobile phone companies, who need to understand more about their future market. The three offices are based in three different areas of india very much on purpose, to be able to cover this big country in the north west and south. The main work is based on field research, but the creative work is to analyse and evaluate the data taken from the field trips and not only to come up with interesting information, but conclusions and maybe proposals of how to take the right steps and maybe develop new business ideas. The people working in field research are usually a mix of designers and ethnologists - in our special case Rahul, in charge for research and originally trained in communication design took the driver of cks with him for this short field trip.
We joined them to a town at the edge of Delhi, trying to “haunt” shop owners, who are willig to spend some time to talk with him about the topic of the specific research he is working on. In all the other studios we never left the office, but in this case we thought it is important to do so, to understand the way of working better. It lead us to another part of the city, very interesting, but believe me, we loved the aircondition even more.
Aditya Dev Sood is a highly intellectual man and it is a thrill to talk to him. His argument about the rapid and explosive changes in this country over the last two decades gave me an idea of the speed of change this place is going through. So many possibilities, so many new options. And it will be different again in ten years from now. The impact for example mobile telephones will have on the development of the country is one of the things cks has been carefully looking at in the last years.
Then again there are many more things we aboserved at cks, that make this place very different from the others, but I will need some time to reflect and present the information in the exhibition Pace of Design.
Next stop is Hong Kong visiting Michael Young.
The first of April we came back from Cape Town, the 8th and 9th of April we visited Konstantin Grcic in Munich and the 9th of May we left for Delhi, visiting cks, centre for knowledge societies amd it’s founder Aditya dev Sood. Next stops are Michael Young in Hong Kong and Ichiro Iwasaki in Tokyo.
Time is fleeting, as usual, and like we all do, I was fighting time in Vienna trying to get things done. Suddenly you are at a very different place like India, after a short trip, experiencing a very different sensation of time, a new understanding between time and heat. Delhi was incredibly hot and humid almost all day of yesterday (until a relieving thunderstorm came) around 40°C, a condition in which speed has a very different meaning. And yet again, everybody is moving, moving in an elegant slow motion, a constant motion I would rather film than take pictures of, to capture this special pace.
In Munich there was something about time and order we took with us. The fact, that a very organized city like Munich also gives you time, time to spend, but also more time to work. More time equals pressure? Difficult to say. Because at the same time all the studios I visited so far, even if the city seemed chaotic, anarchic in a way, were very organized and efficient in using time, no matter if in the USA, Brazil or South Africa. Still - organization and this heat here seem to be two contradicting matters.
Our visit at Konstantins Grcis’s place was a lovely experience as well, a peaceful concentrated place again, very structured and very sympathetic. A clear set up of the day sets a very controlled pace, a frame in which work is being done, has to be done and keeps people from working crazy hours.A special moment to us is the 11′o’clock tea with Brezel, everyday on the terrace, all year round.
One of my favorite presentations at the Design and Film symposium I attended at the Cooper Hewitt Museum last March was Stuart Kendall’s talk on the film Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time. The documentary, directed by German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer, focuses on Goldsworthy’s site-specific sculptural work.
I was particularly interested in Kendall’s reading of this film, which he says it is not about making, but about modifying things. To Kendall, Goldsworthy’s work challenges an anthropocentric view of the world (as vindicated from Descartes to the multiculturalist agenda), the fetishism of the heroic creator or the question of artistic and environmental appropriateness. Kendall’s lecture explored the concepts of modification vs. creation, of art – but also design – as disciplines that are part of a historical and material continuum he called long now.
“Speed is the rate of motion, or equivalently the rate of change of dintance. Speed is a scalar quantity with dimensions length/time (…)” (source: Wikipedia)
Fish and chips, kebabs or bifanas no pão.
Or just McDonalds and Burger King.
Our fast branded meals when moving fast from one place to another.
Or even with time enough to enjoy a slower one.
We call it fast food, as if it wasn’t our fault.
Konstantin Grcic is confirmed as one of the 8 lecturers that will come to EXD09 for the Lisbon Conferences. www.konstantin-grcic.com