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East meets West at NDE

Wed, 14 Oct 2009

Nissan opened the doors to its European design studios late last month, part of the Japanese automaker's first ever participation in the London Design Festival events in London, UK. Showcasing the works of 20 designers under the theme of 'East meets West: the cultural crossroads of creativity', the exhibition also included a ‘Pecha Kucha' event with presentations from a further six influential designers.

Held in Nissan Design Europe's ground floor conference rooms, the exhibition presented pieces from artists and designers around the world working across various disciplines, including photography, Fine Arts, textiles, product design, fashion and ceramics. The series of installations revolved around the ‘East meets West' theme, with each of the exhibits expressing their own interpretation of the cultural and visual transformation of a journey from one city to another.

The main event of the evening was the 'Pecha Kucha' presentations by Mike Faulkner (Director, D-Fuse), Daljit Singh (Creative Director, Digit), Francois Pachet (Researcher, Sony Science Lab), Nick Talbot (Director of Product Design, Seymour Powell), Suzanne Lee (Senior Research Fellow, St Martins School of Art & Design) and Alfonso Albaisa (VP, Nissan Design Europe).

Set in the stark white viewing area, each of the six designers gave six minute-long presentations. speaking about their varied projects and the inspiration and influences eastern cities like Shanghai, Mumbai and Tokyo had on them and their work. Speaking about the aesthetic, cultural and sensory contrasts within these cities and the creative industries of the west, the presentations provided an informative and aspirational platform from a design language, interaction and ecological perspective. We've gathered videos of all six presentations for you to view for yourself.

"We have been here seven years now and it was a good opportunity to expose," Studio Chief Designer Atsushi Maeda told Car Design News when asked why Nissan decided to open its otherwise highly secretive design studio to the public. "Through this event we can give a more concrete image of design," Maeda said, highlighting that it was important for people to be more aware of the studio. "It gives people perspective on how Nissan creates for the consumer," he continued, "and it's a good opportunity to showcase our own designs."

What Maeda was specifically referring to were a few pieces that had been created at the studio, notably an installation by project lead designer and event coordinator Martin Uhlarik. The piece was created from Lexan sheets cut to reveal the silhouette of a motorbike, and radiating blue light. The project was inspired by the entire design team but had been created by the seven person modeling team.

Other models created by Nissan designers included a glider and a battery-powered boat concept. Both particularly significant in that they further emphasize Nissan's recent electric vehicle initiatives, the glider charges on the ground then uses the power to get to the required height where it can glide sustainably and serenely. The boat concept uses the attributes of a sail boat in a racing series, but employs a wind turbine to recharge the on-board batteries. Both concepts were literally "done in days" a senior designer told CDN.

Maeda also told us that there had been a huge number of applications from artists and designers to showcase their work at the exhibition, and that were 30-50 finalists who had submitted visual installations: "They all proposed a variety of ideas based on the concept of East meets West - there was quite a variety," he said, adding that all of NDE's designers collaborated to making the event a success, "The fashion design exhibit came from the relationship with Color & Trim."

At a time when London was playing host to 100% Design, the Dock and Designers Block, the East meets West exhibition at NDE fulfilled its overall objectives, showing people a bit of a seldom seen car design studio while catering to the installations from artists and designers. But the three day gathering of these influential artists and designers in the Japanese automaker's Paddington-based design studio also blurred various facets of design and expounded that these often disparate entities are intrinsically linked.

By Eric Gallina