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A one-on-one with Asia Young Designer Awards 2021/22 Winner

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Nippon Paint’s Asia Young Designer Awards (AYDA) 2021/2022 is a popular Asian design competition initiated to champion designing for good (social impact design). This year, AYDA 2021/2022 saw higher quality entries from its young design talents than before. Singaporeans could also tune in to the competition process through a live judging session (Interior Design; Architecture) conducted with some of the region’s top architects and designers.

This year’s winning entries showcase designs centred on green and sustainable design, addressing the competition’s theme of Forward: Amplifying Empathy Through Design. Vanessa Maera Wijaya won in the Interior Design category with her entry, Seni Pavilion, which serves as a platform for the people of Bali to learn new skills for better livelihood, and a recreational destination for visitors to enjoy the local culture and environment responsibly.

Lim Hock Siang Tyler’s design in the Architecture category, The Water Parliament – Bangkok City 2100, embraces the sea level rise in the city. It harnesses integrated water infrastructure in urban redevelopment while reinstating traditional Thai water culture.

Participants in this year’s edition hailed from various tertiary institutes offering Architecture and Interior Design courses, such as Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, National University of Singapore, National Technological University, and Raffles Design Institute Singapore. With a rigorous mentorship process, students worked closely with industry leaders, honing their designs.

We spoke with one of the winners Vanessa Maera Wijaya (VMW) exploring her creative processes, inspirations and the relation between art and sustainability.

TVM: Take us back and please share how and when you got the inspiration to enter the field of interior design and what were some of the challenges you’ve faced so far?

VMW: Growing up on the island of Bali, I grew up inspired by my father and that ignited my love for art and design. I was impressed by the light and colour of my surroundings and showed great interest in paintings from a young age.  As a means to communicate my passion and ideas, interior design became my selected vessel for creative expression. 

As I venture and explore other creative avenues that inspired me, I was concerned about slowly losing connection with my original roots. However, the deep longing and the memories of the island continue to comfort me, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.

TVM: Tell us more about your work.

VMW: It started as my passion project and an ode to the beloved island I call home, Bali. A beautiful place that is peaceful, alive and unique; yet so often, misunderstood. This is not the perfect island often portrayed by others. Behind the glamorous pictures, that hide everyday poverty for many of my fellow islanders. This is my attempt to give back to my home, Bali.

Multipurpose Pavilion

My entry, Seni Pavilion, is a village enrichment centre for the people of Muntigunung village through the ideals of sustainable development – leaving a better world to future generations. The project attempts to be a development tool that is resilient and self-sustaining, lifting a village out of poverty through empathy and leading it with compassion.

TVM: What do you think about the current interior design scene in Singapore? What does it look like for newcomers and how can they establish their position in the market?

VMW: There’s no defined road map when starting your creative journey. The interior design scene can be overwhelming at first, as there are many areas to explore. I would say to experience it first, to understand yourself and your preference. I have always believed in being intentional with your design and creating beauty through thoughtful design. The best outcomes are inevitably the ones in which the intention has a strong voice and mindful point of view.

TVM: How was the AYDA mentorship programme and how did it help you with your creative process?

VMW: I have been so fortunate to have worked with my incredible mentor, Goy Zhenru from Goy Architects. Sharing my curiosities and sensibilities with someone who is so passionate about design. I had the opportunity to discuss my project with the judges, who offered unique perspectives and brought something different to the table. They are my greatest teachers.

TVM: Could you share more about the influence of the environment on your design thinking and the direction of the winning entry Seni Pavilion?

VMW: The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken Indonesia’s most beloved island greatly. With tourism accounting for 80% of the local economy, the pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of relying so heavily on a single sector. The number of beggars on the streets of Bali have surged since the pandemic started.  Many of them come from the Northeast region of Bali and Muntigunung village is named the “poverty house” of Bali. 

Seni Pavilion aims to create a new paradigm for infrastructure through rural rejuvenation and human development. In hopes that this project can be a model of infrastructure for poor villages, Seni Pavilion embraces the idea of creating a symbiotic relationship between the urban and rural environment. Rural rejuvenation not only provides a new avenue for development but also rekindles the nostalgic images of the idyllic Balinese countryside. Bali has so much potential for future development, and each village represents significant history and heritage. These are valuable resources to push socio-economic development in rural areas and could help in promoting the eco-tourism sector throughout Bali.

TVM: What does winning the competition mean to you? How do you feel about the regionals?

VMW: I am extremely grateful for this remarkable achievement. Being able to share my passion project on a remarkable scale, makes it both exciting and challenging. Seni Pavilion, my entry for Nippon Paint’s Asia Young Designer Awards (AYDA) 2021/2022, was an outlet to reconnect with my roots and beliefs. I am always looking forward to the next adventure!

TVM: How significant is the relation between art and the environment? 

VMW: It is a blurred boundary, art and environment have been colliding and merging forever. To me, I wonder how something could be experienced with its surroundings, and art can be an experience in itself. Again, it is a blurred boundary. I tend to look at everything through the bigger picture, and it is about the curation as well: how things are put together and how they interact. It coexists by working in harmony rather than disrupting each other’s flow.

TVM: A lot of TVM readers are budding designers and artists. Any message for them?

VMW: Stay focused on what you do best. The only way to grow is to take risks and experiment with new things. Seek new sources of inspiration, broaden your horizons, and be curious. My mother told me to take one step at a time and this is what I tell myself whenever I’m overwhelmed.

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