Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities

Students from Singapore and Kyoto have created a series of design objects based on photographs of each other's home city.

The Exchanged Forms project was set up by two professors, from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Kyoto Institute of Technology, (KIT) to bring together young designers from two "distant realities."

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
These low tables by Tan Sei Yee are designed to imitate the patterns of Kyoto's famous Zen rock gardens

The collaboration went forward without the two groups ever meeting in person. Instead, they took photographs of objects and sceneries that are typical in their country and sent them to the students in the other city, paired with a short description.

Each student then chose one of these images and used it to create their own interpretation of the foreign city.

The 17 resulting objects range from a table patterned with a Chinese chess grid to a tobacco tray set inspired by Japanese dragonflies.

"In this project, we both hope to discover and rethink our identity through each other's lenses and interpretations. Not only exchanging forms, but also the exchange and forming of each other's values and identity," said Patrick Chia, a professor at NUS.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Tomoko Murakami's bench is inspired by the vibrant colours on a Singaporean handrail

According to Chia, Singapore and Kyoto appear on the surface to be opposites in culture, landscape, weather, language, crafts and tradition.

He describes the Japanese city of Kyoto as having a strong sense of tradition and craftsmanship. Whereas Singapore is seen as a city that is in "constant metamorphosis," as its buildings are repeatedly torn down and rebuilt.

In their projects, the 17 students have tried to explore the subtle similarities between the two cities, as well as the differences.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Edmund Zhang pays homage to the traditional construction of Japanese bamboo fences with a pair of 3D-printed carbon fibre vessels

Exchanged Forms is on show inside the Università building at new Milan design week venue Ventura Future – for which Dezeen is media partner.

In the exhibition, the works are mixed together in a bid to challenge visitors to find out the origin of each piece.

"Relating to someone else's culture is a good exercise because it forces you to connect, to create empathy," said curator Paola Bellani.

"In the case of the Japanese designers, they mainly took the multicultural urban patterns, while the Singaporean students were inspired by the natural elements of Japanese landscape," she added.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Aika Nishiyama's flowerpot depicts the shape and colours of the seats found on Singaporean trains

Using an image taken of the red and white plastic seats on the Singapore underground, Aika Nishiyama designed a 3D-printed flower pot.

Half red and half white, Nishiyama's flower pot matches the colours used to represent priority seating on Singaporean trains. It takes its curved form from the shape of the seats when viewed from the front.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Mayu Noda's Add chair was made by adding extra parts onto a simple stool

Adopting the same colour palette, Mayu Noda created a red and white plywood chair that she made by adding parts onto a simple stool.

"In a picture of Singapore, I found it interesting to see plastic signs attached on to old buildings, changing these buildings' function from residence to a visitor centre," said Noda.

"So, in my design, I use the same analogy. The old stool is like an old building with added parts, to create a new form," she added.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Kanta Nakano's Showcase bench features prints of images taken of Singaporean supermarket shelves

Other designs include a bench printed with vibrant images of Singaporean supermarket shelves, a set of low tables indented with the patterns found in Kyoto's Zen rock gardens, and a silk fabric patterned with "soft scales" inspired by Singapore's half-fish-half-lion Merlion statue.

"This is quite a peculiar collaboration, as normally there is a lot of dialogue and exchange. Whereas here we were working in a very blind way, and I think this resulted in a kind of uncomfortable way of working," Chia told Dezeen.

"This was good, as there was no reference to check against, which allowed for more creativity. The students were able to take a leap of faith," he added.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Cheryl Ho looked at the way light filters through Japanese windows as the starting point for these lamps

Without meeting in person, the students from each city weren't able to give and receive criticism or input about how well each design represented its respective city.

"Thanks to the inevitable misinterpretation that accompanies this process, we produced objects that reflect qualities of both Singapore and Kyoto," said Eizo Okada, a professor from KIT.

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Toki Sakurai carved out the grid of a Chinese chess board to create the Chess Table

According to Chia, this meant that the students were "free to just do as they wish," resulting in "unfiltered" designs that weren't over-edited.

The exhibition curator said that a "retro" aesthetic has dominated the last few editions of Milan's Salone del Mobile, bringing back "old" materials like marble, brass, velvet and a "dusty colour palette."

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Lee Hsiao Fong designed a vase that takes its shape from the handle of a Japanese uchiwa fan

"What is relevant in this selection of designs is that tradition is not the end of the journey, but is the beginning," she said.

The exhibition is on display at Ventura Future from 17 to 22 April as part of Milan design week. Other student projects at the festival include an exhibition by ÉCAL students exploring the changing nature of the manufacturing process.

More images

Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Toki Sakurai has carved out the grid of a Chinese chess board and filled it with resin for this Chess Table
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
A Chinese chess table that inspired Toki Sakurai's design
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Emma Huffman's Soft Scales design was inspired by Singapore's Merlion statue
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
The statue of the Merlion in Singapore, which has the body of a fish and the head of a lion
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Tomoko Murakami's bench was inspired by the vibrant colours on a Singaporean handrail
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
A Singaporean handrail that was the reference for Tomoko Murakami's bench
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Aika Nishiyama's flowerpot depicts the shape and colours of the seats found on Singaporean trains
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Priority seats on a train in Singapore inspired Aika Nishiyama's flower pot
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
This sunshade by Mayuko Okamoto was inspired by inner eaves of buildings in Singapore
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Mayuko Okamoto took inspiration from colourful inner eaves in Singaporean buildings for her design
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Mayu Noda's Add chair was made by adding extra parts onto an existing stool
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Mayu Noda's stool was inspired by the plastic signs attached to buildings in Singapore
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
This candle stand by Takuji Yoshida is covered with tiles to emulate furniture found in public spaces in Singapore
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Tiled furniture seen in public areas in Singapore inspired Takuji Yoshida to design a candle stand
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Kanta Nakano's Showcase bench features prints of images taken of Singaporean supermarket shelves
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
This image of a supermarket shelf in Singapore was the reference for Kanta Nakano's bench
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
These low tables by Tan Sei Yee are designed to imitate the patterns of Kyoto's famous Zen rock gardens
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Zen rock gardens found in Kyoto were the inspiration for a set of tables by Tan Sei Yee
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Lee Hsiao Fong designed a vase that takes its shape from the handle of a Japanese uchiwa fan
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Traditional Japanese uchiwa fans were the inspiration for Lee Hsiao Fong's vase
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Cheryl Ho was inspired by the way light filters through Japanese windows for these lamps
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
The lattice patterns found on typical Japanese windows were the reference for Cheryl Ho's wall lamps
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Jon Chan Hao's plates draw on the similarity between the patterns on traditional Kyoto houses and the banana leaf packaging used to wrap grilled fish cakes in Singapore
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
The rhythmic patterns featured on the walls of traditional Kyoto houses inspired Jon Chan Hao's plates
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
This Portal Cabinet by Aaron Chooi takes its cues from the torii gates found in Kyoto
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Aaron Chooi's cabinet emulates the traditional torii gates in Kyoto, which lead people in to shrines and temples
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Japanese dragonflies were the inspiration for this tobacco tray set by Naroth Murali
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
A Japanese dragonfly, which Naroth Murali referred to when designing his tobacco tray set
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Fong Sook Yin made a trio of lidded canisters for storing items at home based on the tea aisles found in the Kyoto mountains
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Tubular tea aisles situated across the mountainsides of Kyoto inspired Fong Sook Yin's containers
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Edmund Zhang pays homage to the traditional construction of Japanese bamboo fences with a pair of 3D-printed carbon fibre vessels
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Edmund Zhang's vessels were a response to traditional Japanese bamboo fences
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
This carbon fibre space divider by Willie Tay was inspired by Japanese structures made from bamboo
Students from Singapore and Kyoto design objects inspired by each other's cities
Japanese structures made from bamboo informed Willie Tay's carbon fibre room divider