After graduating in Architecture, Planning and Preservation from Columbia University, Daisuke Nagatomo and Minnie Jan worked with TEN Arquitectos and Fxfowle Architects before gradually starting the process of establishing their own office in Taipei, where they could work across the interior, architectural, spacing, furniture and product design fields. The result of all their hard work is MisoSoupDesign, a now internationally recognised, award-winning design studio. We caught up with the creative duo to talk about, amongst other things, their very tasty choice of name.
Hi guys! Tell us about life as designers in Taiwan. What's the creative scene there like?
The major advantage of Taiwan is the vast number of design opportunities on small to large scales. In our office we work on architectural projects alongside furniture, and product design projects. Another bonus of working here is the accessibility of technology-oriented fabrication tools such as computer milling and laser cutting machines. The costs of using these are significantly lower than in other places.
Unfortunately many places here operate on low design budgets with very tight project schedules though, so there’s a lot of pressure on designers. But there’s a very enthusiastic design community here and we’re always inspired by our designer friends and their projects.
Tell us about your choice of name, we're intrigued.
Well we’re a collaboration between Japanese and Taiwanese backgrounds and we named our working unit ‘MisoSoupDesign’ whilst we were still in the United States because miso in Japanese means brain. Miso soup would be a sort of melted version of the brain, which would technically be translated as a think tank. Because we always treat our thinking processes as very important parts of our design work, our name is to make sure we never forget them.
On that note - what's the most exciting brief you've ever received in terms of thinking processes?
Our Lightscape Pavilion at Treasure Hill Art Village in Taipei. We received a phone call asking us to come and see the site from a client who was organising a lantern festival in the village and only had a couple of days to hand the proposal into the local government.
After the site visit we gave them a sketch of our ideas back within a few hours and they went for it! We literally took inspiration from the site and then installed it so it was a very fast-paced design process. The experience really helped us to trust our sources of inspiration when making a design - and the best result of all was that the pavilion looked beautiful.
How about upcoming projects, what are you working on at the moment?
We’re currently working on our first architectural project in Taiwan - a single dwelling in the south, so we’re very much looking forward to sharing it once it is finished. We’ve also been working on some larger scale interior projects and an updated version of our Spiral Stool chair.
What would you love to redesign?
We'd love to redesign the street parking system in Taiwan. The biggest problem here is the overcrowded streets because there are so many food vendors, street markets, and even funerals all going on in the streets and the resulting amounts of vehicles makes the streetscape a very uncomfortable experience. When we are walking around we always think “is there anyway we could improve this condition?” We believe that if we can find better solution, it will contribute to a huge improvement in Taiwanese city living.
OK, be honest with us for this one. What areas of design do you still have problems mastering? What do you want to get better at?
We always struggle with lighting design, especially creating different atmospheres within natural lighting. When we’re dealing with different types of space, we need to examine many different variations in order to achieve the right lighting conditions. Lighting is always a very important part of architectural and interior design projects, and we spend a lot of extra effort developing our knowledge and skills in this area.
Finally, what are you creatively most proud of from the past year?
Last year was a turning point for us as we won two design awards: the first was the A’Design award from Italy; the second was the Best of Golden Pin award from Taiwan for our Spiral Stool, which is our first mass furniture product in Taiwan. The latter is one of our most represented projects thatnks to its sustainability concepts and we’re really proud it has been accepted by award juries and the general public.