Exchanging form and culture

Sook Yin developed a set of three canisters with lids that was inspired by the lush Uji tea fields

Nine students, staff and alumni from the Division of Industrial Design (DID) at NUS Design and Environment collaborated with design students from the Kyoto Institute of Technology to produce 17 functional items infused with the culture of Kyoto, Japan and Singapore. The inaugural exhibition, titled “Exchanged Forms”, was held at Ventura Project Università in Milan, Italy from 17 to 22 April and was co-organised by the Design Incubation Centre (DIC) at NUS and the Kyoto Design Lab at the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

The participants took photographs of objects and landscapes that are typical in their own country. Each participant then designed a product based on a photograph received from his or her foreign counterpart. “In this project, we both hope to discover and rethink our identity through each other’s lenses and interpretations,” said DIC Director Mr Patrick Chia of the collaboration.

Year 4 student Fong Sook Yin developed a set of three containers with lids that pays homage to the verdant Uji tea fields. Sook Yin elaborated on her design, saying, “A lot of my work pays homage to the beauty of nature and landscapes. I was captivated by the sinuous, tubular contours of the Uji tea fields which are unlike the angular, stepped, terraced fields of Southeast Asia. After being inspired by the reference image, I went on to study the tea fields in greater detail using Google Earth. I then designed these 3D lids that would allow users to intimately experience the Uji tea fields in its visceral, lush entirety through 3D-printed nylon.”

In this project, we both hope to discover and rethink our identity through each other’s lenses and interpretations.

A cabinet that evokes images of the torii gate — which in Shinto separates the mundane from the divine — was envisioned by Aaron Chooi, the only Year 1 DID student exhibiting his product at the event. Explaining the rationale for his design, he said, “I think out of all the forms that were presented, the rawness and geometry of the torii gate was what really drew me in.” He was also intrigued by the gate’s functional form combined with a spiritual purpose. “This is unique in everyday items, at least in the context of Kyoto and Singapore,” he added. This is the first time that Aaron’s work has been showcased overseas.


Aaron drew on the form and geometry of the torii gate to produce a cabinet

Inspired by images of Japan including lattice patterns on windows, walls of traditional houses, Kyoto’s Zen rock gardens and uchiwa fans, the DID contingent produced tables, a vase, lamps and plates, among other items.

The Japanese students from the Kyoto Design Lab, presented with visuals of common items in Singapore such as colourful railings, a supermarket shelf, the ubiquitous tiled table and stools at public housing void decks and MRT seats, created items such as benches, candle stands and a flower pot.


The dual-toned flowerpot was created after Aika Nishiyama saw a photograph of the seats in an MRT carriage

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