Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Hajime Tsuruta ("HT") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.
HT : I was born and raised in Japan. When I was a junior high school student, I lived in Thailand for a while, and I earned my Bachelor's degree in the United States. Being exposed to multicultural influences has influenced my designs to this day.
HT : I became a designer in order to blend different cultural influences in innovative ways, and that remains my motivation to this day.
HT : I neither chose, nor was I forced. I think that my path to design was a natural progression.
HT : I mainly deal with commercial facilities, but in the future I hope to work on more public museums, schools, and libraries.
HT : The most important advice I can give is to study abroad and establish connections to other cultures and peoples.
HT : A good designer works with the individual's needs in mind, while a great designer thinks of their community and nation.
HT : The quality of a design is found in its concept, rather than its immediate appearance.
HT : Good design must be sustainable both in terms of environment and culture—in other words, the value of good design is its long-term contribution to the community. When we invest in sustainable design, we invest in our future.
HT : I would like to design facilities to serve people and regions that have been affected by natural disasters, such as earthquakes or typhoons.
HT : I would like to design a fully Integrated resort including a hotel, shopping facilities, restaurants, MICE, and so forth.
HT : My "secret ingredient" is to slip in some functional element that the client only finds after they have begun using the space. This is particularly important to my philosophy of housing design: the home should be a continual space of delight.
HT : I'm most inspired by Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect who emphasizes simplicity and Zen in his designs.
HT : I would have to say that my favorite design is the OCULUS shopping mall in New York City, which was built in 2016 by architect Santiago Calatrava. The structure represents the region's triumph over the dark past of 9/11.
HT : My team and I designed an amusement facility called TENGOKU built in the suburbs of Japan in 2016. The client company’s logo is wings, so we modified it to show those wings flying away.
HT : It's important to make connections with people in other industries. If you are only surrounded by other designers, it becomes harder to innovate. Having relationships with people from different professions helps you think about their perspectives and gain new inspiration.
HT : I sometimes imagine that I might have had a technology-related job, similar to Steve Jobs.
HT : To me, design is a force that makes people change not only their life but their way of thinking.
HT : Our valued clients have been our biggest supporters! I'm always learning new things frmo my clients.
HT : I think the key factor in becoming a good designer was my international upbringing. I'm very grateful to my parents for the opportunities they gave me.
HT : When I went to college in the United States to study architecture, I often found language comprehension a barrier. My English was not very good for the first year I lived there, so I sometimes struggled in class.
HT : Modern designers should be able to use technology to express our ideas visually and help clients picture how their designs will turn out.
HT : We are planning and designing a huge shopping mall in Tokyo, where we plan to install an innovative new technology interface.
HT : I'd like to donate a design to the public.
HT : The most important expectation placed on me, and the one I always keep in mind, is that I must respect and value the opinions of other designers—not just those who came before me, but the young designers who will carry on the profession after I have retired.
HT : Design can be used to promote sustainable principles that promote a higher standard of living for the public. For instance, by renovating or converting empty buildings, we can conserve resources.
HT : I am excited to renovate some old, empty buildings rather than building new ones. It's always challenging and exciting to think about and solve problems presented by the existing building.
HT : A couple of years ago I had the privilege of designing a commercial facility, and since then the operating company has been able to expand considerably. I'm very satisfied by how my work was able to help them prosper.
HT : I expect that due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the design industry will change in some unpredictable ways in the next few years. My priority now is to make myself as flexible as possible and keep an open mind so that I can respond to the new demands that will be placed on my work.
HT : I believe that designers' dependence on IT and CAD software will only increase, so it's important for designers to stay abreast of new technology.
HT : A small project takes about six months, while a large one may take up to three years.
HT : We always start from a kick-off meeting with the clients to establish our understanding of their needs and desires.
HT : Listen not only to the client's words, but to their heart.
HT : I believe design sets the trends.
HT : Due to recent innovations in IT, I often transfer my designs to digital imaging programs to help the clients better envision the completed project. Technology has also enabled faster communication with our clients.
HT : I mainly use CAD software, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop.
HT : It depends entirely on the design itself. When I design a natural atmosphere, I attempt to imitate the natural world, but when I'm working on a project with an inorganic atmosphere I will opt for muted colors and manmade materials.
HT : I want them to ask me any question they have about my work! It's important to me to remain open to questions, especially from other designers or laypeople.
HT : Seeing something great inspires me to create as well! I immediately start thinking about what I can design next.
HT : I think co-design is an excellent way to work, if you have the right partner. I'm very lucky; my wife is also an architect and designer, and she is truly my ideal design partner! She always approaches our projects with enthusiasm.
HT : When I was a college student in the United States, my studio mates were a tremendous influence on my design because we worked together every day.
HT : I was strongly influenced by the biography of Frank Lloyd Wright. It not only gave me insight into his legacy, but also his process, and how he was perceived by his contemporaries.
HT : I always try to learn from others. I can't declare myself a master and decide that I have nothing left to learn; the field is always changing.
HT : I would like to meet some African designers and architects. I haven't had many opportunities to interact with African cultures, and I'm interested in learning about their philosophy and values.
HT : I don't particularly think of myself as famous. When I receive publicity or awards, I tend to view it as a reflection of the project, rather than of myself.
HT : I tend to fall into a routine so that I'm not distracted by my work. I tend to dress in monochromes, eat the same foods, and buy the same brands over and over.
HT : I found it a little funny that in various competitions, the same team (including my firm) was selected three times in a row. We discovered that the concepts behind the projects selected were mostly the same, and we all knew the client involved!
HT : I like to watch TED Talks on YouTube to hear about different perspectives. TED Talks are interesting to me because so many people from diverse professions share what motivates them.
HT : I was such a shy child that my parents were worried about me. They gave me a paper and pen to encourage me to communicate. I don't know if it was obvious that I would become a designer, but I drew constantly, so I can see the logical progression. Then again, I also could have become a comic artist.
HT : I think that a thousand years from now, everything will be commodified, even buildings and housing. Changes in available materials will affect the ways in which we use buildings as status symbols.
HT : I often try to use natural materials; however, nature materials are often cost-prohibitive due to both upfront expenses and maintenance costs. Therefore, I sometimes use elaborate imitation techniques inspired by Japan's long history of mortar and lacquer craft.
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