The perfect imperfection: Japan (part 1)

Diversity is beautiful, with so much to explore and discover. This is perhaps why Terence and I enjoy designing hotels in different destinations. It is a chance for us to experience a culture in a whole new perspective and depth. Enabling us to further reflect the elements that we discovered into our design for each different destination. Furthermore, allows us to see the unique qualities of each culture. 

In 1964, the last time Japan hosted the Summer Olympics, the first Olympics held in Asia, and showcased Japan to the world with their astonishing ability to create amazing technology and level of craftsmanship. Fifty-six years later, for the 2020 Olympics, Japan is ready to come back for more.

As one of the most influential cultures during the 80’s and 90’s, Japan has made a solid mark at our home base, Hong Kong, which influenced our perception in numerous aspects such as comics, TV Opera, and perhaps the distinct pop culture; until the last decade when the Korean pop cultures gains momentum and extended their influence to the region. Much of the modern visual art and culture pays tribute to such influence that is all over the place during the time. 

As a designer that grew up in Hong Kong, we always thought that we were rather familiar with Japanese culture, and designing a project in Japan would be like a dream for most of the designer. 

Japan is known to be one of the design capitals that stresses on details, precision and delicacy. Working with Japanese contractors and engineers is always a challenge yet a great pleasure for us. We might encounter a lot of challenges by the project team on every single detail; but when they nod their head in agreement, we know the outcome would simply be perfect. 

The experience is very noteworthy in a few different aspects. When we finished a beautiful design and proceed to work with the technical team. We were initially bombarded with questions and challenged on every single detail of our drawing. That was unexpected in the beginning, but soon we realised the reason to this happening is because every single line of our design, every detail and corner was studied and taken very seriously. All the details and possibility has been examined and studied by them for days before the meeting. All the challenges we received are in fact, out of respect to the design and to make sure that they can build and reach the expected standard within the time and cost constrain.

This was something totally different from some of the other contractors from many different countries. Contractors might never ask the designers any question about the design and everything is just fine. While we were impressed and thought “Wow, They must be really good!” at first; only to realize soon that they took the design drawing for a general idea. They would often become “creative” from time to time when problems arose, which in fact generates much more extensive work to be resolve or shifts the intended design unnecessarily.

For those who are looking for surpirse, Japan is definitely not a place you would expect to find. They are methodical and immutable when it comes to delivering construction projects. It will always be on time (if not finishing in advance of the schedule) and you will only see a nearly perfect project with minimal defects for you to nitpick.