Olivia Shih and Yoshihito Kashiwagi established Facet Studio in Sydney, Australia in 2008.
Facet Studio grew from humble origins; the first project is the renovation of a Thai restaurant. In its 4th year, Facet Studio has gone on to design several Japanese, Vietnamese and Taiwanese restaurants in Sydney and has expanded their design portfolio to include retail design, office fitout, single residential and commercial building; the field of activity has also extended beyond Australia into Japan, China and France.
Facet Studio has undergone a tremendous rate of expansion within a short span of time, which has benefited the office with a substantial portfolio of completed works. Furthermore, there are several ongoing projects, which are expected to contribute to the office’s achievements in the near future. These bear testament to the office’s capability, which is recognised by clients and the media
With the amount of overseas projects, Facet Studio has established an office in Osaka, Japan in 2011 to better care of the projects and clients in Asia, whilst designing and managing from the Sydney office.
Even though Facet Studio has been expanding rapidly, the founding philosophy of “meaningful design” has never shifted from the core position in its designs. This extends to and encompasses the client, builder as well as the people who experience the spaces created. Combined with a keen sensitivity to local context and cultural differences, the office is spurred to further refine this design philosophy as well as continue to produce meaningful architecture that touches and excites people, and as a result enhances richness in people’s lifestyles.
We are 7 at the moment, including both Yoshi and me.
Your folio contains both architecture as well as interior designs. How do you manage the 2 different disciplines and which, if any, do you prefer?
Our prime interest is "people" - in this regard, interior and architecture has very similar roles but different intimacy and immediacy to the human it encompasses, therefore the 2 disciplines ultimately have different expressions.
We do not have a preference, because a beautiful space is a beautiful space, there is no "interior" nor "architecture" difference.
Your folio contains work completed in Japan. What are some of the challenges you face with working for overseas clients, specifically the differences in Australian and Japanese culture in relation to clients and your work process.
What we found the major difference between Australian and Japanese clients is: Japanese clients are more descriptive in what they want, and Australian clients on the contrary are clearer about what they want.
To illustrate this difference, lets use “travel” as an example:
Japanese clients would say, “lets stay at a nice resort with beautiful beach!”. From there we can start talking about what destinations can provide this experience, then determine where we want to go.
Australian clients would say, “lets go to Venice!”. From there we can start talking about how do we get to Venice – airplane/ boat/ train/ bus?
This cultural difference does not alter our way of design; however we would adapt our way of doing business and communication according to different cultures.
How would you describe your style?
Our motto is to do “meaningful design”. What we meant by “meaningful design” is to logically sort through mixed values, and to give them correct hierarchical order. Visual appeal is something subjective depends on the viewer, hence we tend to see less meaning in it.
What is your process?
With every project we start from analysing the mixed values given to us by whom we design for (the “client”), and place these values in hierarchy. “So after all what is the most important here?” – and how we express this hierarchical structure which supports the values, architecturally? The client’s sense of value, cost issues, timeframe issues, construction technology and level of craftsmanship, site issues… depends on the type and situation of the issues, the priority of the values change accordingly. As long as we sort through the values carefully, the characteristics of the project will naturally become apparent. By repeating this logical process time after time, the element we need to design becomes more and more distilled. By the time this distillation process reaches the limit when this one element we need to design is at its purest form, we believe it is when design can reach hearts, and can be accepted by wide range of people.
What influences your work?
People and their behaviour.
Natural phenomena (eg. Sun / shadow).
To date what has been a highlight of Facet Studio?
I think every time when I see the project taking shape. It is an extremely surreal experience - like something popped out from the brain into the real world. It is a feeling that is so addictive, which fuels us to keep going.
I do not have a favourite project as such, although a few projects brought us more fame than others - projects like Sneakerology (Sydney), Streetology (Sydney), Watermoon (Sydney), Habitat Antique (Osaka, Japan); recently we have had a lot of media enquiry on Uchi Lounge (Sydney), Connect Sydney (Sydney), M House (Niigata, Japan).
How do both of you separate work from home life at the end of the day?
Work is very much part of our lives.
Design is a 24hr profession; we look for design hints and clues in everything, everywhere.
Your studio set-up is a juxtaposition of old and new, an open creative space and focussed work spaces, what was the thinking behind the fit-out and how long did it take to create?
We wanted to create a studio which is a “mechanism” to help young creative people switching gear between tasks of different nature, in addressing the increasingly multi-task work style.
Within the same space we have allocated different zones affording different levels of exposure to natural light, which in turn helps to define the work style, be it relaxed/ open-communicative, productive, or intense/ focused. People can move freely between these zones to carry out different tasks through out the day, and in the process of moving around, one can identify the change of immediate environment hence switch into a different mindset.
The existing warehouse context is something we deliberately left untouched, as we believe the contrast between the old and new bring out the character of each, hence a happy coexistence.
The entire project from design concept to construction completion took about 1 month.
What was the last book the studio bought?
Perhaps "Tezuka Architecture Catalogue" or "Kyokai" by Kengo Kuma.
We have been receiving complementary copies of books and magazines we have been published in, which have now become a valuable source to our library.
What kind of music is on high rotation in the studio?
Immediate plans for the future?
There are challenges in 3 major directions for us in the coming year.
To design the brand identity for client. How do we express corporate identity in retail design? Also, how do we then develop that corporate identity in multiple retail locations? We will challenge designing the identity of a corporation beyond designing of the physical retail premises.
Residential project. Currently we are working on a project which involves building 3 houses on one large site; we are trying to merge landscape and architecture in our design. Our challenge here is, on top of designing the building, we will also be venturing into landscape design.
Product design. We will challenge designing objects such as furniture, lighting, and developing them into products.
In the coming year, we would like to cross the boundary of “architecture” / “interior”, and venture even further into a broader, more comprehensive design approach.