Q&A with Ryosuke Yamamoto
1. Please tell us a bit about this architectural project and the design concepts used in the space.
The project was a shop for Number Sugar, a manufacturer and retailer of handmade caramels. The aim was to increase customers’ expectations for the white boxes of caramels by incorporating elements of those caramels into the shop’s interior.
2. In which part of the space did you use tiles, and why?
Tiles have been used from waist level down. I thought that this would help to create a setting that enhances the appeal of the products on display.
3. Can you explain your thoughts and ideas that led to this particular tile design?
I wanted to use materials made from natural ingredients, just like the products, which led me to use tiles made from soil. Rather than creating a space using pre-existing tiles from a catalogue, I wanted to create a space that was compatible with the products and so I designed the tiles, starting with their shape, texture and colour.
4. Please tell us about the design concept for the tiles you used.
Rather than focusing on individually unique tiles, I wanted their attributes, such as uneven colours and distortions, to become apparent when they were assembled together. By arranging the tiles based on a regular perpendicular grid, I aimed to provide a feel for their distortions and varying expressions.
The tiles used for the edges were assembled and fixed prior to firing, allowing for the creation of a caramel-like mass. This connects to the hand-cut shape of the caramels, which is never perfectly rectangular.
Also, the tiles and the caramels share the same proportions.
5. What was it like to produce your own original tiles?
I visited the tile factory in Tajimi, where I was able to gain an understanding of the production process and do a variety of studies. It wasn’t only about the appearance [of the finished product], but comparing different processes from the moulding stage onwards. Discussions were held during the production, allowing me to create something that wasn’t superficial.
6. What are your thoughts regarding tiles in comparison with other materials?
I had the impression that tiles were a product with a predetermined expression based on specifications. However, I now see them as a material that can be produced in a more creative manner.
7. If you have any personal memories or thoughts about tiles, please share them with us.
Looking back through my previous work, I had never really thought about creating a design based on tiles. The reason is that I had the impression I would be using something that had already been designed, but as a result of this project, rather than starting with the tiles themselves, I now look further back and start with the soil they’re made from.
8. In your opinion, what are the characteristics and strengths of Tajimi tiles?
Tajimi has a range of factories specialising in different methods of production and it was reassuring to be able to work with various factories based on what I wanted to produce. Some of my friends, who are around my age, are based in Tajimi and I got the impression there are young creators producing new things and places.
Ryosuke Yamamoto / ya Inc.
After graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2011, Yamamoto worked for Schemata Architects. He founded Ya in 2018 and works on design projects ranging from architecture to interiors, commercial spaces and furniture. Throughout the design process, he places importance on dialogue with both people and place, which is reflected in his carefully composed spaces. His recent projects include Number Sugar, Sta. and the exhibition design for “Found Muji: A Journey to Encounter Wonderful Things”.