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Interview with Frank La Rivière

Home > Designer Interviews > Frank La Rivière

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Frank La Rivière (FL) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Frank La Rivière by clicking here.

Interview with Frank La Rivière at Wednesday 26th of April 2017

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
FL: It was my interest in old buildings like churches and houses in historic inner cities that formed one of the bases for me wanting to become an architect. But also the experience of the refurbishment of our house is a factor that rose my interest at a young age. I also liked to go to my grandfather’s atelier to do oil paintings under his guidance. Working concentrated on a painting and after several hours stepping back to see the three dimensionality appear from the canvas was sort of experiencing a wonder. I knew I wanted to become an architect from the age of 12 and after high school I went to study architecture and interior design at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Except for architecture and interiors, I endeavour in photography and Japanese brush calligraphy. In all it is the joy to express, through design and art, that motivated me than and still does even now.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
FL: In our work we concentrate on architecture and interior design but we also take up graphic design work once in a while. The interior work is often the interior of the architecture that we design, so we can achieve a harmony of expression.

FS: What is "design" for you?
FL: For me design is the solving of design problems through design thinking. It is inventing with an aesthetic sense.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
FL: I prefer designing projects with a cultural content as this stimulates to achieving a high level of design.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
FL: I try to work with the intention that the outcome will always be a favourite design for me.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
FL: I don’t think I can remember having designed so much by now over a more than 25 years’ career.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
FL: I feel the most creative when doing several projects at the same time. This apparently creates a state of mind that leads to greater creativity.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
FL: We focus a lot on the detailing and materiality of our designs. This is the most important aspect of the design work and the means that truly translate the design into realities consistent with the concepts and intend.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
FL: I need to feel concentrated. When the design direction starts to appear there is the Eureka moment that indicates that an important step in the process has been made. This is not necessarily the final design decision but is still a key moment in the process. In the case of the design of this house it was the moment when I realised that creating a house with basically only 4 windows was the way to go, that determined the final solution. These are always very enlightening moment.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
FL: In architecture and interiors, the production process is quite long and we go on site for checking and adjustments regularly. This means that we can follow the production and construction process quite closely. It is quite exciting to go on site and see the progress made each time. To see that what until than only existed in one’s imagination and in drawings becoming reality is a great pleasure. Oftentimes we discover that certain effects, that we had imagined, to be even more effective than we had hoped for, which is like receiving an unexpected gift.

FS: What makes a design successful?
FL: Effectiveness and how affective it is; are the main criteria I would think.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
FL: For me it is important that the design expresses the view of the designer in respect to how and what the designer needed to solve through the design. That it sorts of shows a clue to the design problem.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
FL: To help create a better world through the creative process of design thinking. This basically encompasses all the aspects of the design process under which socio economic issues to aesthetic to practical and functional, as well as environmental, safety and durability issue etc.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
FL: I hope that the prevalent design direction in architecture and interiors will be to move away from overly shaped designs as well as the use of a style as a starting point for projects. I hope design will be more seen as a problem solving way of thinking with an aesthetic and socio-historical core.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
FL: Throughout my more than 25-year career I feel that I need fewer and fewer sources of inspiration in the form of books, magazines, exhibitions, etc. However, my experience and social contact with others is becoming increasingly the most important source of my inspiration.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
FL: I want my designs to be contemporary. I am not so keen on designing in a style as this predetermines the design vocabulary which is not one’s own. I prefer to develop a design aesthetic and vocabulary specific for each project.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
FL: I live and work in Japan, which is not my country of birth. Japan is a country with a strong cultural identity and this has an obvious impact on my design work. Some influences come unconsciously while others are dictated by conventions that need to be followed because of client, legal and structural requirements. However, I do see the influence through the glasses of all my life experiences from the time I was born in the Netherlands, the time I lived in Paris, London and Tokyo.

FS: How do you work with companies?
FL: Working with private clients is oftentimes more informal than working with companies, in particular where it concerns the official documents and reporting needed. However, working with companies means working with professionals in the same field but with other positions in the process, which is quite stimulating and rewarding.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
FL: I think it is important that companies who like to work with designers, get on board of the process of design thinking. Good design ideas may appear as fragile in the beginning, so they need a lot of care to grow to strong successful design strategies. The support of the client in creating an environment in which this process can take place is vital. By getting to know the prospective designer personally and do research on their portfolio before selecting is a good way. Too often competitive bidding is used, but this exhausts quite a bit of resources and it creates quite a bit of disappointment with those who are not selected.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
FL: The initial phase is both dominated by receiving the client requirements, gathering information, analyzing the design problem and responding intuitively to find a design direction. After this planning phase we enter a phase we call Basic Design, during which we further check the hypotheses we developed in the preceding phase and further work out the design. The next phase is concerned with detailing materialization, solving the last legal aspects, drafting the building permit drawings and tender documents. During the construction phase we follow the site progress while giving additional instructions, making adjustments and checking that all is constructed conform the drawings. Overall, during the design process there is a lot of creating, testing, adjusting and changing going on, instigated by changing parameters, conditions and requirements of the project.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
FL: My favourite design items would be my Japanese lacquer bowls in a deep red colour showing a depth because of arduous work of applying all the layers. Also my Japanese tea ceremony bowls are favourite items. My two chairs design by the late Bořek Šípek. But also just simple objects such as a pair of scissors designed by Philippe Starck.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
FL: Stay focused on what you set out to do i.e. being a designer. Don’t give up easily when meeting resistance, because your design skill will help you find solutions for the problem. That is the nature of the practice of design thinking, which is much about being creative in finding solutions and being resilient. Also be a good listener. After all we have to translate real life problems into working design solutions.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
FL: The positive aspect of being a designer is that there are always new adventures awaiting with each project. The starting from scratch, not yet knowing which direction the project will go to the excitement of enjoying the final buildings spaces, is a process full of little surprises. However, not all people on the project are always so endeared by the idea that a design assignment is an adventure. In those cases, when this ethic intend gets overpowered by business interests it can be hard to do satisfying work. This I would think is one of the downsides of being a designer. In particular, in architecture there are always many parties involved so it is hard to keep all on board.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
FL: Striving for designs that I haven’t seen before myself and evoke a sense of joy and liberation.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
FL: To imagine, dream and to be resilient. I am not sure if these are skill or talents or that they can be learned.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
FL: We use mostly AutoCad for 2D and 3D drafting, Photoshop and Illustrator for presentation and graphic design work. Modelling techniques are simply working with foam board and other readily available materials. Otherwise I sketch a lot to order and develop my thoughts.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
FL: Yes, designing is quite time consuming and many clients do not realize how much extra time and effort we often put into the design and management of our projects. The extra hours on design work or the development of a design strategy are often spent late into the night, when there is not too much distraction. Otherwise the time management is straightforwardly working towards meetings and deadlines during normal working hours.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
FL: This truly depends on the type of commission. If we take on the design of a house for example it might be a year, if it is a large building at least 2 or more years. But we also do smaller work and that might take from a couple of month to half a year.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
FL: I think my most important job experience was working with Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Rena Dumas Architecture d’Intérieure on the flagship store for Hermès in the Ginza district in Tokyo. This was an invaluable experience.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
FL: We mostly work for private clients. However, we have also been involved in a public works project commissioned by the city of Aomori.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
FL: I very much like the detail design phase and the construction phases of a project as it holds true for these phases that “how you design it so it will be”. I feel the most effective and productive in these periods, however these are also the hardest labour wise.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
FL: For the building projects that we undertake we always form a team with a structural engineer as well as a mechanical engineer. For larger projects the number of consultants will be larger. The team could be strengthened with a collaborating architect, landscape architect, lighting consultant, acoustic consultant, etc.

FS: How can people contact you?
FL: We can always be contacted through the e-mail address provided on our website: http://www.frank-la-riviere.com

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
FL: Patronage is the most important driver for design and we are very grateful for the trust placed in us by our clients.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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