Meet the award-winning designers solving global challenges

As a partner of the global firm OMA and director of the New York office for more than a decade, he should know. From reimagining Sotheby’s headquarters in New York and designing the expansion of The New Museum in the Bowery to devising Faena Forum – a multidisciplinary arts centre which he calls “a cultural jewel in the heart of Miami Beach” – his work is defined by its uncompromising scope and ambition. These are public spaces that enhance experience, creating new contexts for the arts and forging fresh ways for people to interact with culture.For the second year running, Shigematsu is serving as a mentor for the annual Lexus Design Award. Driven by the desire to propel fledgling talents on to a global platform, the competition has long pioneered the idea of harnessing design to create a better future.

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Drawing on talent from an eclectic range of disciplines including fashion, interiors, technology and engineering, over the last seven years the competition has allowed new designers to collaborate with a peerless roster of mentors – this year featuring Shohei Shigematsu, Philippe Malouin, Bethan Gray and Joe Doucet. Together, they liaise on creating a production-ready prototype of their compelling idea, ahead of the announcement of a Grand Prix winner on September 1.
Diversity and innovation have long been the calling cards of this competition,which has been running since 2013. Last year saw entrants from more than 65 countries, and this year’s broad-ranging set of six finalists continues that breadth of vision and experiences. Hailing from Russia to China, Kenya to Pakistan, each seeks to find design solutions for far-reaching and important problems.

Industrial designer Yaokun Wu, who studies at New York’s Pratt Institute, came up with Flash Pak, a user-friendly life jacket with a haptic navigation system that guides students to safety during flash floods. While in an effort to address a shortage of affordable housing, the Kenya-based BellTower set up Open Source Communities, creating design templates for clever, energy efficient homes that are available to all. Featuring everything from hydronic cookers to aquaponic greenhouses, they’re both brilliantly solution-focused and utterly sustainable.

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Then there’s BIOCRAFT, the brainchild of the LA designers Paul and Garrett Sutherlin Santo, a customisable, 3D printed air filtration system that could be self-installed at home. Created from a compostable biopolymer material that extracts carbon dioxide from the air, this ingenious fusion of tech and nature anticipates the rise in pollution as urban populations surge, bringing new meaning to the term “living wall”.

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For Shigematsu, the Lexus Design Award’s mentoring programme is more akin to a design school than a prize. In his role as guide, he keenly observes the progression of the contestants over the course of the competition – and never fails to be impressed both by the quality of the finalists’ ideas, and especially their evolution. “They deal with issues that really need to be addressed, and common goals,” he says of some of this year’s standout entrants. “Design is a tool to visualise and contextualise the changes we observe in society.”See Shohei Shigematsu at INTERSECT BY LEXUS – NYC, the cultural brand space by Lexus, share his thoughts on mentorship and the value of the Lexus Design Award.

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–For more information and to find out the winner announced on September 1, visit lexusdesignaward.com

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