Japan is the country which does people-friendly design.

2013.04.14 Updated


Photo:Chan Lai Kiu

Chan Lai Kiu

Vice Chairman of Hong Kong Architecture Centre: China

Interviewer: Hideki Akiya (Toyota Boshoku Corporation)
Interview date: Oct. 13, 2012 PM 18:30-


— First of all, it has been 10 years since IAUD was established in 2002. What do you think of the progress of Japanese universal design in the last 10 years?

Chan Lai Kiu: To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about universal design before. Therefore if you ask me about the progress over these 10 years, I can’t answer the question. I had thought this was a new direction of design previously, but after coming to Japan I know that Japan is much more advanced than Hong Kong at least or China relatively. First of all, I think Japanese is a very caring nation to me. This is reflected in how you design a toilet or in the design of anything. Japanese design always care very much about the people. Also probably your aging population is another reason that you are much more advanced than us. I think you are at the moment. the global leader in this aspect.
I know the Scandinavian is also doing very well on this. In terms of design I see that the world is moving towards that direction sooner or later, so it’s very good that you are in front of everyone.

—The second question, how do you feel about what is our Japanese role to progress universal design in Asian area?

Chan Lai Kiu: Now, there’s a few things Japanese are very strong. For example, your car industry, your electrical appliance and etc. I went to the convention center and saw a lot of things. These are areas that you’re probably ahead of the rest. And then, apart from that, IAUD you set up here is also very good. I think it’s starting to bring attention to the world.

Now personally I’m more an expert of sustainable design than one on universal design. But I am always interested to learn new area of design. From sustainable design, I found that integration with business is very important. Tomorrow I will talk about that. If you looked at the history of sustainable design or environmental design, it started off initially a little bit like a minority interest. But now they have become a dominating force in the market and at same time, brings profits to business. The green design movement, from a minority interest, has becomes a major interest today. I can see, potentially universal design is something similar. It’s starting from a small group and only certain people are interested in it. And then gradually, it becomes beyond that. Everyone will gradually aware of this. Also, like many design movement, at the beginning, designs done are not good enough. It will mature with more people participating and with the need of more people. That’s why I see Japan as the one who sets the fire, ignite this movement.

— I think we Japanese and many people who live in Asia have changed our sense of security since Japanese met the tragic earthquake and tsunami last year. Now we have two points: first is saving our life from the future natural disaster; second, getting back our safety daily life after disaster. These two issues are very serious problems for us. Then, I have a third question. What do you think of how do we have to do to realize sustainable society in terms of saving life and recovering our daily safety life after disaster?

Chan Lai Kiu: Now this is a difficult question for me because I’m in Hong Kong. Though we have typhoon, we don’t have major earthquake or similar natural disasters. But, now I’m just speaking from myself. I can appreciate the kind of worry everyone have in Japan. I think it is important to prepare for the worst, whether products and systems, is a must. In addition to such physical preparations, I also think mental and psychological preparation is also very important. Although there are many worries, for example an earthquake, disaster, or tragedy occurs, as if the sky is coming down, it is important to prepare psychologically to handle the emotional strain optimistically. In addition it is necessity for children to get such education so that, if an earthquake occurs and they are put into a tough life with no privacy, they can still enjoy their life. They can take these as part of a lifetime experience. I think it’s important to think positively and change negative situation into a positive one.

This is true for other places. Taiwan also got earthquakes and typhoon. Filipinos also got the same problem. Although Philippines has typhoon and earthquakes, they are enjoying their life. I think it is important to prepare both physically and psychologically, while enjoying current life.

In China there’s a major landslide and earthquake in Yunnan Province and Guizhou Province. I think the solution by China is quite good. In China, a big city and a small village form an alliance. When an earthquake or disaster occurs, the big city has responsibility for providing money for recovery aid. For example, Hong Kong is also assigned to help an area, and be responsible for its recovery from the disaster. Hong Kong, also gain something from this experience. People participated learned to appreciate the challenges and develop sympathy to those people injured or suffered from the disaster. The alliance leads to a good relationship like brotherhood. I don’t know whether there is a similar system in Japan. I think the system, in which a city is assigned to help an area after disaster and be responsible for its recovery, is very good. The contents of recovery aid include monetary assistance and personnel dispatch, by which recovery is speeded up. A relation is also established between the two areas. One will also feel much more peaceful if you know there is always someone somewhere ready to help you.

— Finally I would like to know your expectation or request to the activities of universal design in Japan.

Photo:Chan Lai KiuChan Lai Kiu: It’s the first time I attend a conference solely on this subject. So for me it’s very good to learn in a short time a lot of things. I did some research before I came here, and I think you haven’t drawn a big circle of people yet. I found that the range of speakers was still a bit confined. It hasn’t spread to a bigger audience. Therefore, one of the long-term challenges in the future is to invite a variety of people as speakers and audience. To be honest, I think you haven’t able to draw a lot of attention and a lot of prominent speakers yet because universal design is a relatively new field. Yesterday I attended the 48-hour design marathon competition. The students went through a variety of processes, went to foreigners, and solved a problem. The result was amazing to me. This is very interesting to me but for some of universal design I still feel that there is room for improvement.

This 48-hour design marathon that program is a very important program for IAUD. We are developing the program not only the designer but also the planner, engineer, and student. If you want to get this system please let us know, we can provide assistance to you as much possible.

— Thank you very much.


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