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[Herald Design Forum 2020] Israeli designer Ron Arad says design begins with ‘What if’

Artist Ron Arad delivers a keynote speech online during the Herald Design Forum in Incheon on Thursday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Artist Ron Arad delivers a keynote speech online during the Herald Design Forum in Incheon on Thursday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Israeli designer Ron Arad said that his ideas and inspiration come from questions that begin with “what if?”

“The whole thing starts with curiosity,” Ron Arad said during Herald Design Forum 2020, held virtually in Incheon on Thursday. “Everything starts with what if you do that and what if you don’t. What and ifs. I don’t like manifestos. When I was teaching at the Royal College of Art, we never used the word ‘should.’ (We never said) you should do this, or things should be like that.”

Arad shared several experiences of creating art and architecture using what-if questions. For instance, he designed Totzeret HaAretz Towers in Tel Aviv, Israel, after asking himself, “What if you do a building upside down?”

“We put all the plants and machinery on the floor. Normally we put them on the roof,” he said.

He also presented his “Two Nuns Bicycle,” a bicycle with wheels made of sprung steel loops. He added that the piece resulted from the question “What if you do a bicycle without wheels?”

During his presentation, Arad also talked about changes that have taken place due to the pandemic.

“Things will change and are changing. You can discover how much you can do from your bedroom and also how things are going to affect your office spaces,” he said. “Maybe it will not happen exactly as we predicted.”

He also shared his experience of creating artwork through an online channel as a way to adjust to the constantly changing times. He introduced an artwork titled “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me?” -- a red classic Mercedes-Benz that has been crushed flat, framed in pieces and hung on the wall. This piece is part of the 252nd Annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

“The first time I saw this piece was right here when it was hanging on the wall. That was the first time that I saw it for real. This piece was done on screen,” Arad said.

“We bought the car online in Holland and then it went to a place where it was pressed,” Arad explained. The car was then transferred to a vintage car expert’s workshop.

“We worked back and forth with lots of drawings, lots of photographs and Zoom meetings. (After that) I felt I knew that piece very well,” he said.

During the conference, he also talked about the attitude that designers should have toward their work.

“William Morris said designs have to be beautiful or useful, but I say (it should be beautiful, useful) or love. Do what you love. If you like doing something, that is good enough,” he said. “And also you are forced to think of how you can use your ability and creativity to help when you can.”

Born in Israel and currently based in London, Arad is one of today’s most renowned designers and architects. He served as the head of the Department of Design Products at the Royal College of Art from 1997 to 2008.

By Song Seung-hyun  (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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