Edited by Wendy Chua
Published by The Rug Maker
Learning design through
The forgotten treasures of Singapore.
The power of continuous regeneration of the tropical plants without winter’s pause is exhilarating. The diversity of the plants has always been the true beauty of Singapore and it was for me, the greatest source of intellectual interests. As a Japanese who grew up in Tokyo, I know that the busy city dwellers are often unmindful of their own natural environment, believing that great nature exists somewhere else or only in their holiday destinations. But if you observe well, each plant you find in any corner of the busy city is a micro-cosmos, containing wonders as great as one planet.
The nature in the city is a great fortune common to all. I witnessed the participants of my workshop rediscover this richness by observing the nature in their own neighbourhood, gaining such inspiration that made their daily lives truly joyful. I hope more Singaporeans, especially children, can become aware of nature’s wondrous spirit gifted by their surroundings.
Nature and children, an innate bond.
Nature is the greatest teacher for children. It contains the wonder which all the greatest scientists and scholars have been investigating. Once the child has learned how to observe details of leaves or buds around him with a magnifying glass, and how to play with its color, its shape, its structure with all the senses, then even a single flower or some dried leaves on the pavement can satisfy their insatiable curiosity.
A decade of investigating sensorial design methods for young children in Europe, Japan and Singapore.
Design is not merely a technical subject to style products. Instead, I believe that it is a multidisciplinary subject for all and possibly one to learn from a very young age. Learning the fundamentals of design is to get a comprehensive understanding of one’s own living environment through a perceptive eye with the skills to evaluate its quality.
Today, nice styling and perfect function are not enough to define the good quality of a product or space. Haptic comfort, quietness without noise or harshness, right tone of a ‘click’ sound and the scent of a space; sensory experiences are becoming the key criteria that defines the ultimate quality of a product or a living space.
By learning the basics of sensory experience design, the child gains the skill to determine the intrinsic worth of a product or space by their sense-perception, they will not have to buy a wrong product or an ill-suited apartment by blindly believing commercial advertisements. Children can grow to be more sensitive, more perceptive and more aware of their living environment. This is the great potential of design education and it is the greatest motivation behind my work.
I see the future in a continuous change, upheaval and uncertainty across the world. I believe that cultivating an instinctive curiosity in all of us, being sensitive and perceptive enough to listen to our own intuition, and being poetic enough to explore the power of imagination will be a key to survive such uncertain times with the serenity of mind.
Sensorial memories live forever
Memories based on a perceptive insight will never disappear.
When I received the book “1001 Garden Plants of Singapore” on my third trip to Singapore, I was amazed that most of the plants in the book were already so familiar to me and I could even point out the exact location within Fort Canning Park where you can find the very plant. The strong perfume of flowers released in the humid air, the diverse haptic surfaces, the tropical and musical notes of birds echoing in the garden: these are my memories of Singapore through all my senses. These perceptive memories will stay with me forever as a source of great curiosity about Singapore.
p.9-15 Fieldwork, 2016
Masayo Ave is certainly one of Japan's most intriguing design luminaries whose work spans various disciplines and cultural fields, stretching her expertise beyond innovative design work into the educational field. Her illustrious design career began in Milan in the 1990s where her focus on material explorations brought her critical fame from Europe to New York. Despite her success as a designer, she saw the importance of sensory-based design in the field of education. Thus, with the founding of the experimental institute of Haptic Interface Design in Berlin, she began her next decade of research in the realm of sensory experience design pedagogy.
She has taught in the University of Arts in Berlin, headed the department of product design in the Estonian Academy of Arts and conducted design workshops in Japan and Europe. Yet, it was her prominent work in designing discovery processes for young children that led her to Singapore. Taking a sensorial and imaginative approach to basic design principles, she develops and conducts workshops that cultivate a sense of wonder in children and early childhood educators. Always, she begins with a close observation of the neighbourhood nature in the midst of the busy city. After three years, she has gathered an intimate knowledge of our tropical flora and found some of the best grounds for field research in the historic Fort Canning Park and Sentosa Nature Discovery. Here, she shares her thoughts from her adventures on our island city.
by Wendy Chua, Forest & Whale