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Home > Shogo Kawata: Creating Experiential Artworks Using Digital Technology

Shogo Kawata: Creating Experiential Artworks Using Digital Technology

The President of teamLab Architects Inc., Shogo Kawata talks to us about how his firm pioneers architectural building in the “phygital” era

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TeamLab, an innovative art collective, specialises in crafting digital artworks rooted in the concept of “borderless” by leveraging advanced technologies. Their extraordinary exhibitions across the world strive to illuminate the intricate relationship between nature and artificial creations. Through immersive experiences, they invite audiences to engage and interact within their captivating digital realms. teamLab comprise of an interdisciplinary group of specialists – artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects.

Shogo Kawata established his own practice – Kawata Architects in Japan – and started collaborating with teamLab, an international art collective. In 2009, he established teamLab Architects Inc., the architectural wing within the larger firm. They comprise an interdisciplinary group of specialists – artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects. They develop cities for the new era through digital technology, art, nature and people.

Shogo Kawata was a speaker at the recently-held ID Symposium at India Design ID 2024.

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ID: How do you think digital art, technology, AI are changing our world? What lies ahead?

SK: I believe that space plays a crucial role in connecting people with each other. With the addition of digital technology to space, a world could be created where the natural and artificial elements, something contrasting, come together, forming connections that transcend boundaries. This integration might lead to a world where things are connected beyond borders.

ID: You studied at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. How did your education influence your skills and interests?

SK: The city of Kyoto, where my university is located, is a place in Japan with numerous historic temples. More than the academic aspects of university education, my experiences in the temple spaces of Kyoto have significantly influenced my current approach to spatial design. Among them, the spaces in Zen temples have a direct impact on our current work.

In Zen spaces, the distinction between the exterior and interior is dissolved, and both are treated as equals. Interior paintings are not framed and are treated as if they are alive in the space, responding to the movement of people. The visual design is meticulously planned based on human movement. In my current work, I believe that the visual experiences found inside Zen temples – the integrated sequence of interior and exterior – serve as the foundation.

Main Light Vortex by teamLab Architects Inc.

ID: Since its establishment, teamLabhas designed everything from bench sculptures to offices, through experiments in art, science and technology. How do you transcend one discipline and move to the other?

SK: What “field” or what “kinds of things” to create may not be that crucial. In our society, which is evolving towards becoming increasingly information-based, we must make spaces that are needed in that context. At teamLab Architects Inc., we create such spaces by gathering the necessary team members and collaborate together. As we progress, the required spaces increase, become more elaborate, and along with that, the necessary expertise also continues to grow.

ID: teamLab is an interdisciplinary group that includes artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects. How do they all work in sync towards realising a concept?

SK: The most important aspect of collaborating with other fields, I believe, is not relying too much on specialised language. Language comes with specialised backgrounds and, at times, cultural contexts. As we collaborate on projects with people from various fields worldwide, we try to adopt a method of realising processes one by one in order to make judgments in a more flat manner.

Reversible Rotation – Non-Objective Space by teamLab Architects Inc.

ID: The KidsLabo Minami-Nagareyama Nursery, designed by your firm, has fun with colours while demonstrating your sense of spatial understanding. Was it joyful to design the space for kids?

SK: Of course, creating spaces for children is a very enjoyable task. However, there is no fundamental difference in designing for children or adults. Whether it’s an office for adults to work in or a nursery for children to spend time in, I believe that fundamentally, they share the same design principles as spaces geared towards an information society. Both are stimulating and exciting tasks.

ID: Future Park, Planets was a responsive and interactive exhibition held in 2017. Eight installations explored digital technology while the other focused on the flow of water. Could you share a behind-the-scenes secret about these exhibitions that nobody knows?

SK: In 2018, in Tokyo, we opened two significant facilities almost simultaneously: teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets. These two facilities were quite large and opened in very close proximity. Initially, there were discussions among our team members about the challenges of opening two facilities at the same time, concerns about production resources and whether there would be enough visitors to fill the capacity of both venues.

Main Megaliths in the Bath House Ruins by teamLab Architects Inc.

ID: Borderless is another out-of-the-world experience. How did you conceptualise these experiences for the audience/visitor to absorb and interpret the space?

SK: The distinctive feature of the digital is its ability to be changed, unlike physical elements. It can transform and move based on interactions between people. Utilising these characteristics, we created spaces where artworks move, interact with people, and change continuously, ensuring that no two situations are the same. Physical entities often have boundaries, which can become challenges in today’s society, requiring resolution. Being digital and boundary-less allowed us to construct a world without borders in physical spaces using digital technology. Our aim was to encourage people to experience this borderless world comfortably and positively, contemplating the idea of a world without boundaries.

Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year per Hour by teamLab Architects Inc.

ID: Flowers and People, Black Waves – these are some of your upcoming works. How do you decide on topics and concepts for such new works?

SK: The strength of our works evolves through the repeated experimentation, which gradually forms the final piece. Even with initial ideas, the process of repetition and refinement is crucial in creating impactful and robust works that resonate with people. Conversely, ideas hold no meaning if they are not realized. Therefore, what we value most in our work is the continuous improvement and refinement process, more than the initial idea itself.

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