'I want to awaken people to the reality of design'

'I want to awaken people to the reality of design'

Japanese designer Kenya Hara, who designs both objects and experiences through his concepts, was recently in town to give a talk on the future of design. Metrolife caught up with the man to find out what is currently keeping him busy. 

Kenya has accomplished a lot in the 54 years of his life — from designing the opening and closing ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998 to writing a book called ‘Designing Design’, which has influenced countless designers who came after him.

But it was his exhibition ‘Re-Design: The Daily Products of the 20th Century’ in 2000 that removed any clouds that were blocking his vision.

“That exhibition happened when a new century was beginning. As the art director of that exhibition, I asked many talented artists to redesign ordinary things like matchsticks, toilet paper and even diapers. Those objects actually became art pieces in my eyes,” recalls Kenya. “It was then that I posed the question to myself and society — what is design?”

After that, his next big step took place in 2004, when he designed the logo for the Haptic exhibition. “I designed it using human hair, which shocked some and impressed others. I believe that the human body has a great possibility to fill the walls of one’s home.

I want people to use their entire body to create a fantastic world of art,” explains the visionary.

Interestingly, the notion of using one’s senses to their full capacity is a recurring notion in his life’s vision, as much as in his work. “Everything is design — a pen, a cup, the coaster the cup is placed on, each tile on the floor, the city.

I want to awaken people to the reality of design and make them aware of the difference between re-inventing a design and creating a new one. That’s what interests me most — to understand the challenges in changing something from the old to the new,” shares Kenya.

His latest project has been designing a house for the future. “Like in India, the Japanese also take off our shoes when we enter a house. If the floor is more intelligent and can capture information about the human body like blood pressure, temperature and weight, we can imagine a new dialogue between a house and the inhabitant. A house can be a high-tech art form that combines various technologies,” he explains.

While he is impressed by contemporary designers like Shigeru Ban and Masahiko Sato, he feels that many take the wrong approach. “Don’t think of the future as the next five years but instead as a 40 to 50-year time frame. Similarly, when you go into the past, go back a 100 years and from that viewpoint, look at what you can do today,” advises Kenya.

This was his first trip to the City and he hopes to come back here with more time to explore. “It feels like a fantastic place — the whole City is green and it has a good combination of the old English culture and the Indian culture together. It’s a very sophisticated, yet there is a calm feeling here,” he wraps up.

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