Beyond the ‘general store’ – Yuki Teraoka

From the top of a glass highrise, roots and branches of a humongous mangrove tree cascade towards the ground, eager to spread outwards into the city. Military helicopters circle warily around, unsure how to handle this large-scale infestation. This is not science fiction, however – this is the artistic starting point for one of Yuki Teraoka’s interior design projects.

With two interior-designer parents, Yuki’s path might seem like it was set from birth. Growing up in Japan, his two best friends were “Lego and the very old Apple computers.” He preferred drawing to taking notes in class.

However, his way to the field was not as simple as just following his parents. He actually says his calling is furniture design – interior design is just the logical expansion of that field: “I found that good furniture not only stands out as a piece of art but also harmonises with the interior at the same time. I needed to understand the spatial relations to furniture, in order to create outstanding, yet harmonious work.”

“My parents are not the kind of people to give me clear advice whenever I want. Instead, they are more likely to put me somewhere I have never been before, making me take any necessary means to figure out the way home myself.”

But back to the big parasitic tree. Believe it or not, but this outlandish scenario is actually the result of a collaboration with a developer about designing the interior of a student accommodation on the high street of Stratford in the UK.

Inspired by the bleakness of the area, Yuki felt that an infusion of life was needed, like a plant growing up from a crack in the sidewalk. In this case, an unidentified life-form would be introduced, slowly taking over the area like a fungus or bacteria, its starting point and nerve center at the top of the student housing itself. Now, before you get worried on behalf of the developer who has to build the project, this is actually how Yuki’s design process works.

“My ideas tend to be really unrealistic at first. The reason for this is if I choose to start from a realistic level, I am capping myself not to go crazy, which in turn means things get mediocre, and the solution for the building process will be easily found. There is no innovational achievement within the existing. I love innovative and stimulating experiences, so I don’t mind how much I struggle in the process. In fact it is rather fun, because I know the outcome will be something extraordinary.”

Looking through the design process, you can see how the wild, scifi-ish collages become more and more realistic, but still maintain the original idea – the expressions of growth and natural elements and the overall spatial idea, remains the same.

“Since it is really a fictional work, things like the scale and growing speed [of the plants] might not be realistic, though these are actually based on real facts. Some plants do grow a lot within a week and the dominating process is taking bacteria as an example. The structure of the building is based on a tree, therefore I tried to make the building breathable by having wind circulation through the whole building’s interior, so it doesn’t interfere the natural flow of the environment.”

The Star Wars movies might have tempted young Yuki to become an astronaut (a dream he has since then more or less given up), but he can see many exciting futures in his current field as well.

“Interior design is often referred to as the general store’ of the design practice, because you learn so many different kinds of stuff. You can even learn programming if neccessary, which I am working on right now for my project. Since anything can exist in a space, the amount of possibilities you can achieve are countless! And it is not only about 3D, there are lots of dimensions that are intricately interconnected. Let’s take people for example. They not only occupy the space, but their thought, behaviour and consciousness are also flowing through the area.”

Within his field, Yuki can see three distinct possibilities for his future: game design, stage design or movie set design. Yuki likes games, and they can be played at home, he likes the stage as he himself plays an instrument and he likes movies, especially the way visual effects allow you to create almost anything.

But his ultimate dream is much more unconventional: designing a new educational system for Japan.

“I want to do this is because I really wish I would have learned these technical skills when I was young. Imagine if all the kids could learn what they like at a very early stage. How may things could they achieve in the future? Kids are born to learn. Look at babies, they even put things in their mouths to learn what it is. So what is killing their passion of pursuing knowledge? The answer is easy because we’ve all been through it.”

Yuki’s long-term plan is to get into the London design scene and pick up enough experience to start his own design studio. He is currently working on three projects – a year project for his final year show, a collaboration with the architecture and engineering firm Arup and an exhibition called “Roots” about discovering what your roots mean to you. Lastly, he hopes to discover more about beauty in seamless harmony.

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