A celebrated creator of transporting environments within the retail world and for private residential clients, Tokyo-born designer and architect Moriyuki Ochiai takes his most significant cues from nature. Ochiai’s design for the storefront of the Dream Dairy Farm—with its luminous resin board light grass-green walls— earned the distinction of 2013 Best of Year in the Food/Drink Retail category by Interior Design , as well as the Red Dot Design Award and several nominations at the German Design Awards 2013. From school spaces and beauty salons to bars, restaurants, and exhibitions, Ochiai and team call upon nature’s pageantry to guide their process. The results are soulful interpretations of the great outdoors that allow peace and pageantry to infiltrate the soul.
Here, Mister Ochiai discusses his love for his clients, his approach to humanity, and his way of borrowing from the natural world.
Interior Design: Moriyuki, your spaces are extraordinary?inviting yet cutting edge, surprising and celebratory. Can you tell us about the early stages of your creative process?
Moriyuki Ochiai: I organize conditions and design according to functionality. With the ARKHE beauty salon, for instance, I calculated the relationship between the ceiling’s height and the amount of light shining onto seats through the window at every hour. With retail premises, we lay out shelves according to the variation and amount of products. For private homes, we focus upon clients’ lifestyles. I value the energy and sense of positivity generated from an atmosphere—this is what I believe causes people to move in active and creative ways. I also believe that people look for comfortable and happy elements in every atmosphere, despite its functionality. I hope to accomplish the tasks of a business by meeting the basic needs of humanity.
ID: You’ve often said that nature is your greatest source of inspiration. Why do the natural world’s shapes, forms, and phenomena translate so beautifully into architecture and interior design?
MO: I have beautiful images of nature from around the world in my head, but I tend more to maintain the feelings generated from such scenery than images themselves. I think about the perfect feelings to bring up in the planning stage of each project. It is like a journey in the pursuit of something unexplainable. The final output may change from the original image in the end, after the spatial planning, but I still value the source of inspirations.
ID: What kind of responses do your homages to nature elicit from the people who enter your spaces?
MO: I hear that people feel comfortable and calm, despite the innovative impressions given by my spaces. I love creating a space that touches people’s souls.
ID: You’re quite sought after within the retail and hospitality world. What are the opportunities and challenges of designing with the public in mind?particularly for a retail situation?
MO: It’s important to show off the products being sold as well as display principles and heart put into the making of the products. The challenge for my clients—and me—is to create a company that gives back to society in the long term, rather than focusing solely on the sales in the short term. The goal is to make the world better and bless mankind.
ID: How are you able to execute the basic needs of an efficient company while incorporate more dreamlike design elements?
MO: I’ve realized through the years, as I’ve meditated upon humankind’s basic needs, that it is important to create spaces with happiness, comfortable elements, and something like love. Of course, the basic function of a space is the priority but I believe those elements are the basic needs, and what may be thought of as dreamlike features in my projects.
ID: Obviously the Dream Dairy Farm project garnered lots of attention. Why do you think that space worked so well and subsequently earned your firm such praise?
MO: Perhaps it’s because I focused upon the principles and the production approach of the client. These elements are what define each company. I don’t believe my design originality is solely responsible for my creations. Rather, I think a deep understanding of a client leads to success. We grow together.
ID: What are some of the projects currently on your plate, and in what ways are they allowing you to push new boundaries?
MO: We are working on a renewal project of a restaurant, built thirty years ago, in the same ranch as the Dream Dairy Farm store. The business of this client has changed dramatically since then, and new stores are being built around the ranch. My vision is to add architectonic elements, using the natural surroundings and employing the building’s foundation, including the posts of the old restaurant.
ID: What kind of relationship do you like to foster with your clients, and how involved are they in your creative process?
MO: The key is to understand and share the originality of each client, particularity their attitudes toward work and their contributions to society. Understanding their relationships with society is the creative process in my opinion. I will find the core elements first then translate them in to the design. It’s important to me that we share tremendous time with the clients and remain loyal to their voices. Another way of putting it: to foster love for the clients.
ID: What traits do you look for in the people with whom you collaborate?
MO: We have a passion to seek something extraordinary and magnetic—something that isn’t a combination of existing things but something new and can be touched only by hearts. Something that floats in the air without shape and can only be sensed. It’s my passion to realize and witness those elements using a variety of methods. Those goals keeps me alive and growing.
ID: What were some of the earliest instances in your life when you remember being engaged and fascinated by great design or your surroundings?
MO: The imagery of delicacy, beauty, time, and space created by the Japanese cherry blossom. This collage of my stay in Venice flourishes in every project—the lively brilliance of water within such a relaxed flow. Then there is my experience with the desert; seeing a mirage of water mingled in the midst of time and space, creating a source of emotional energy which does not maintain boundaries between what’s imaginary and what’s real.