Design for the community: interview with Koji Yanai

Going to the toilet is an activity that all people perform, regardless of gender, nationality, politics, religion, disability and many other factors.“, Narrator Koji Yanaison of the founder of Uniqlo as well as vice president of the company and the mind behind the project Tokyo toilet, which has seen Japan’s top designers build a series of sophisticated public restrooms in key areas of Tokyo. Many believe that the project was born in connection with the recent Olympics in Tokyo – but it is not, because the real possibility was the Paralympic Games held immediately after: “I have been interested in the Paralympic Games for some time»Explains Koji Yanai. “There is always a lot of excitement around the Olympics, while there is still a bit of excitement around the Paralympic Games – therefore I wanted to do something and create some excitement. I started from hereThe project arrived in Milan, among other places, on the occasion of the recently concluded Design Week 2022 and has seen The SKWAT collective wallpaper the bathrooms at Milan’s Duomo Metro Station with photos by Daido Morayama. “Right from the start, I decided to expand my project outside of Japan. Milan was the best city: in Italy, of course, there is a great deal of knowledge about art, fashion, creativity, innovation and design. And the Milan Show was the best opportunity to present the project“.

The philosophy behind the project, in addition to pure protection, is interesting because it brought up a variety of very different creative materials: by architects as Tadao Ando and Shigeru Ban to a product designer like Nao Tamurato an interior designer Masamichi Katayama also passes through a fashion icon such as Nigo who for his project was inspired by the American-style houses built by the Allies in Shibuya in an enclave called Washington Heights. When I ask him why he has decided to choose the best talents from such different design areas, Mr Koji replies: «When we think of big problems or problems, it is one of the key factors to find solutions to approach them from different angles. For this reason, I had decided from the beginning to choose other creators besides architects“. But of course there is more.

When I ask him a question about values ​​underlying the projectquotes Koji John Maeda and his sentence Design solves problems, art poses them. “I believe that human values ​​will change when design and art, ie problem solving and explanation, take place at the same time. In this project, I believe that installing the best creativity and innovation in the city’s infrastructure will raise the standard of living itself and make everyone happy, as well as improve the quality of the city itself.It is clear that the contribution to the community arises, through this project, not only through the artistic value of design, but also through the infrastructural contribution to an entire city. “The infrastructure is often managed by local authoritiesKoji explains. “It’s very difficult to bring creativity to these places, but I believe there is a lot of room for height. Like telecommunications and information technologies were controlled by public organizations, but the situation changed with the advent of the Internet and the influx of Microsoft, Apple and Google.“.

The idea is a democratic design that reflects the philosophy that Koji and the Yanai family cultivated: “I believe that a business must exist for the good of society. In other words, I believe that companies must make a contribution to society and the community itself“And speaking of the association of design and cultural contribution, we have reached the next chapter of the project Tokyo toilet – the movie there Wim Wendersthe director of masterpieces such as The sky over Berlin And Paris, Texas, shot in Tokyo to tell the story of the project. As Koji Yanai explains the central theme is cleanliness and hygiene, of the noble humility of public toilets, which not only shows the taste for design and the feeling of welcome in Japan, but which wants to start from a small detail to tell the greatest values ​​that support the whole project. Wenders’ films will therefore have as main characters the cleaners in the bathrooms:

We clean them every day, but it is also true that they get dirty every day. I wanted to convey the importance of cleaning in a natural way, so I chose the art method. When I thought of an instructor with the best understanding of architecture, art and the beauty of the human mind, I could not think of anyone but Wim Wenders. I think it will beautifully portray the baths themselves and the beauty of cleansing deep inside the spirit“.

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