Detective Note

Vol.025– Working your way up


Theme『Working your way up』

Interviewer: Masafumi Yamamoto


Yamamoto Masa:Today I would like to talk about working your way up the professional ladder As a student one is still in a position of have one’s ideas and opinions heard, now as a member of society, I feel I can’t completely listen to everyone’s ideas. I don`t think I am a very good listener when I comes to opinions.

Mende:That’s what you might think, but in college I think you probably were a better listener than you remember. You were the student leader of the Koizumi Studio, right. I think maybe you just don’t like to listen to other people. When listening to someone’s opinions you have to take in the ideas, interpret, and then react. It`s a very strenuous process.

Yamamoto Masa:Mr. Makoto Koizumi is my former college professor. On campus he is open and friendly, but during extra-curricular activities he was very strict. We got into a row once and I still remember it. One should always remember the names of those they are working with. Be genuine when complimenting good food. Know your surroundings, be considerate of those around you, and act accordingly. These are a few things I wasn’t able to do and learned the hard way.

Mende:You were not in my studio class at the university so I didn’t think you had an interest in light and lighting. But here you are at LPA. What changed your mind?

Yamamoto Masa:During spring break I built a scale model of the Villa Savoye. I went to the library and several old book stores in Jinbocho hunting for material on Le Corbusier . I gathered the plans and building materials and constructed a colored, 1:50 scale model. I think the experience of getting into an architect`s head while I was analyzing the written material and drawings was a big factor. I thought by working at LPA I would be able to experience a wide variety of architecture from a lighting design perspective and I could grow and develop myself at the same time. However, there is so much more I still need to learn. We work on several projects all at the same time. The projects are huge in scale and involve many other designers and people. And it all moves at a rapid pace.

Mende:Design is not a profession where one lives by themselves, hidden in the mountains sketching as they please It is necessary to choreograph many things with many people. A designer has to think about the frame of mind of the person who came to them with a project and understand what they are requesting. I think you are a nice person, so I think as a professional you will also be able to be considerate of others and have the integrity to work hard to fill those requests. It is now just a matter of brushing up your skills and techniques and gaining experience.

Yamamoto Masa:I talk very slow and I am reserved. I was once told that this is just who I am as an individual. But as a professional this seem to create many setbacks and I don`t think it is anything to be proud of. I am frustrated with myself since I haven’t been able to move forward.

Mende: Just recently, I heard something interesting.  I heard that you are not adapting well to life in the big city.

Yamamoto Masa: Yes. When going to meetings or construction sites the subway is so unfamiliar. My superiors always seem to know when and which stop lights to cross the streets or which train car is best for a smooth transfer and act accordingly.

Mende:When I am walking down Meiji Avenue towards Harajuku, I am looking about three stop lights ahead and when to cross is just an instinctive feeling. After all that, sometimes I don’t even cross at a crosswalk. There is a difference out of the blocks between those that have lived in the city for a long time and thoses that haven`t. But you will get used to it. The vocation of design will take you to many places and I think how you adjust yourself in those situations will be important. Just learn to enjoy the changes in your environment and have fun. What has changed since your days at college?

Yamamoto Masa: I was even more shy back then, but I had many friends at the university. Now that I have started working I am trying to do my own cooking and laundry. I even iron. I spend the weekends clean up my apartment.

I am 23 years old. Now as a working member of society, I feel that there are so many things I don`t know and can`t do. On the other hand, there are professional athletes my age who play ball relaxed and unrestricted. But I guess a designer and athlete do not grow and develop in the same ways.

Mende:Designers shouldn’t mature too early. It is better to progress year by year, project by project. When I was 30 years old I decided I was not going to be laughed at as a lighting designer. I became an independent lighting designer at 40, leaving the previous company I worked for to start LPA. Then 10 years later, at age 50, I started the office in Singapore. Looking back, things seemed to happen in 10 year spans. So at age 20, you shouldn`t think to seriously about how to live you life, but just trust yourself and go for it in one big burst of energy.

Yamamoto Masa:Yes. After completing a task well done, there are new perspectives to be had. I just have to believe in myself day after day and endeavor to transform and work my way up.