Article first published on Peristiwa Issue 05
  Temasek Design School Journal, Feb 1996
The date was 13 September 1995. Shin Egashira had arrived at the new campus a week earlier than scheduled, ready to meet our 31 anxious second year students. He wanted to show us the slides of his students'work and more importantly, to brief our students and prepare them for the workshop which would commence a week later.

At the end of the slide show, Shin delivered the brief - 'to design and build a reading chair'. Just as the students thought that that was not too difficult, Shin deliberated on the workshop brief and clarified the 'reading chair' was not just a chair to read books but a chair to read the environment! He wanted the students to explain the design in the context of seeking the relationship between the man who came into contact with the chair and the environment in which the chair was placed. At this stage, students had absolutely no idea how to proceed. They were visibly flustered by the brief.

The workshop proper commenced a week later. It was a brain-racking but enriching experience. When a student presented his or her sketch design, the rest would be busy sketching and thinking real hard in their seats while listening to Shin's comments. Within the first day, each student had presented two to three design sketches which were meticulously examined and questioned by Shin. The students would listen attentively to every word as if he was a great guru.    Top

It was hard not to admire the patience and professionalism shown by Shin as he spent long hours with the students in the lecture theatre and the design workshop. He would often prod the students to think of the chair as a connector between man and the environment? During critique sessions, he would ask : "must the chair be placed on the floor?" "think of a horizontal surface rather than a floor." "find a spot in this beautiful campus to place your creation." "explain your choice of site when you present your design."

At 32, Shin Egashira has already attained commendable achievements. He was awarded the Eillen Gray Scholarship to study at the renowned and radical Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He graduated from AA with honors and bagged the Royal Institute of British Architects' Presidential Medal in 1990. Before this award, in 1988, he won the first prize with his graduation work from the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music. In the following year while pursuing his studies in Architecture at AA, he worked for Zaha Hadid and together, they completed the much acclaimed interior projects in Japan. He is currently teaching at AA.     Top

This relatively non-prolific architect is more like an artist, designer and philosopher who readily comes to our mind when we ponder on the potential for integrity and meaning in art, sculpture, architecture and design. He told the Japan Times in May 1994 while having his solo exhibition: when I was exposed to the politics of the architectural world, where a designer's freedom is limited by budget constraints, client's wishes and having to work with off-the-shelf parts, it is no longer design and people involved in the process are not happy.He decided to return to the basics - collecting and reconditioning parts, labeling parts and finally reassembling all parts according to his own taste in design. Shin used the waste that he collected and reused certain parts over and over again. The parts seemed to be the main characters of his works and ultimately these parts were transformed into a beautiful piece of creation under his formidable craftsmanship.

He told the students: "I am interested in the relationship among man, matter, the environment, and the Earth. My mind is full of these questions while I search for an image." Most of his works began with his search for this relationship. The students finally seemed to understand his point of view after the lengthy critique sessions that started from 9.00am till 9.00pm on certain days.

Most students's creations reflected the spirit of Shin's teaching. One of the these was Gary's rotating chair and it reminded me of Shin's work entitled "invisible wings of may chair make my head spin" Another was Goh's creation which when placed in the centre of a big field was calm and serene for the man who came into contact with it but when placed on the top of the balustrade at the 7th storey staircase, tension and suspense would suddenly develop and be felt. Last but not least, Ee Ling regarded her reading chair as an outdoor installation art that revolved around the relationship between human and chair, chair and the environment, environment and human. There were also may exciting pieces crated by other students that reflected the same commitment and enthusiasm.

Most students were happy to have had an opportunity to deal with different types of materials and to learn to put the parts together to create a reading chair. One student, Yew Tee wrote: "some of us feverishly imitate his little actions and speech as Shin really impressed us by his work attitude, his willingness to spend time with us." His ability to recall the design development of each chair in precise detail is another of his traits.    Top


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