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Discovery: When a designer takes a green road-An interview with Mr. Ismael Abedin Ingelmo

May 9th, 2015 by Lin Yufeng@Archibucks

Discovery: When a designer takes a green road

 “I’ve stayed in Shanghai for 4.5 years.” He told me.

Mr. Ding,( Ismael Abedin Ingelmo) Senior interior designer of Wheat Design Studio, is from Spain. He likes a bright star among the wave of foreign talents in China, not only for his charming tone and professional skills, but for his environmental protection concept.

No wonder why he is a designer with strong personality. “The construction market is full of money, money, money” Under this situation, he still insists doing design that protects the environment. If Eric is an architect of nature, Mr. Ding should be the green of secular society.

He knows his own mind very well. “I don't like idols and I don't like to be idealized. I don’t have favorite designer, I have favorite ideas from people or projects, not only one designer does a project, but a whole team work on it. In Shanghai, I like 1933 Building, I like the restoration of Tianzifang old neighborhood, I like Chongming island environmental protection approach , especially the wetlands.”

Among numbers of designers, the design of Kengo Kuma impresses him. Both of them have similar ideas of the combination of design and environment. Mr. Ding concentrates more on people than money. So does Kengo Kuma. This Japanese designer put forward: “Should our building be like this?”  After the World War II, the quality of buildings deteriorated, many problems appeared. The earthquakes, hurricane, the war etc. many disasters impel us to think that, the building, as the shelter of human being, is such fragile. He thought, the building itself is for providing a living place and make us feel comfortable. We should focus on the core of building.

Mr. Ding’s and Kengo Kuma’s ideas achieve the same result by different methods. “For me, I don’t like to make only one style. I like the style that is better for the context where is realized and think always on people who use the space. If I design one hotel, I want the hotel customer happy, and the people who stay in the hotel be comfortable and satisfy their necessities.” Mr. Ding tries to pull the relationship of people and buildings closer through design.

 “I'm quite flexible and I’d like to adapt to different design that helped me not only working in interior design, but also architecture, urban planning, environmental strategy etc. I think every designer should be flexible enough to adapt critics from others into their own design and also strong enough to defend the value of his/her design.” A good designer is not the one who obeys the rules and regulations, it’s someone who can throw himself into it and think of what is better for project.

You may praise that: “What a environmentalist!” He is always a doer. He designed the first exhibition of Bentley cars In China, He designed a Spa in LC Hotel in Shanghai, building designed by Mario Botta, and he did many other projects in China. “It wasn’t like a famous project. I can feel happier with some small projects. For example, I like one small restaurant i did, which all the materials used on it are recycled. Like ershou. It’s not  a famous project but I like it, I like it much more because it’s good for environment. I used wood of 70 years old, tiles 100 years old, bricks of 50 years old and everything is second hand. And it is also not very expensive construction and good-looking.”

      About the house. It is only 19 meters space from a historical villa that is in Hongkou district. This villa is 100 years old and the architect was Japanese. I rented the small space for 1 year cheap with the condition to fix it up. So I put second hand wood floor, clean walls, make toilet (it didn’t have toilet before). Put wood outside and most important I took care of garden outside. I grow lemon trees, guihua trees, tomatoes, mint etc. All neighbors were happy about me. After the house was fixed the year passed, I moved out to other house. I did this for hobby, not for business. For the challenge of living in 19 meters space in a local place( with no foreigners) and to restore part of historical house.

As a designer, he emerges his talent from a young age. “I like creativity and find solutions for everyday life. So interior design is the best way I can do it. When I was in art high school I use to paint and my drawing teacher always knew if I had my bedroom organized ( even if he had never been there) because after I organized my bedroom, the painting I did at class was better, it becomes more organized and proportioned. So I started thinking about the relationship between space and oneself, then I decided that interior design and it’s a very nice way to explore this relationship. I have been studying and working in different counties, like Spain, USA, Kuwait, Bahrain, Myanmar and China. Meanwhile doing spaces help me to understand cultures in a much deeper way, but still there is much to learn.”

When you experience the countries and places’ local customs and culture, you can well understand the people’s mind and design the things that meet their needs. Just like a saying: Do in Rome as the Rome does. The appearance not only exists in architecture but in catering industry. Many foreign fast food restaurants launch new products that cater to public taste. The architecture should be combined with local ingredients which will make it tastier.

He kept saying about his experiences: “I study in Tongji University one master degree in environmental management and Sustainable Develpment. Before, I didn’t know anything about environment. I know very little, so I want to learn more. And now I can apply with the things I learn in Tongji. Not only about design, also about environment, about ecological economy, about sociology, urban planning, etc.”

“In Spain I studied design, when I was studying, I always collaborate on projects and I did some by myself or with friends, but mostly they were graphic design works, window design, exhibitions, etc. But later was more difficult to find a job in Spain. So I moved to Kuwait for work where I designed villas, hotels, gym, offices, showroom, over the mid-east (Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain). ” After he came to China for further study, he also did many projects. “Also I did some research in Myanmar in my time studying master in Tongji University. I learn things about how to do and how to write scientific paper. I have my first one in Tongji. During that time I helped to draft the new Myanmar National Building Code. So I incorporated sustainable aspects into it——Natural Ventilation and Natural Light. So all new buildings build under this new law will save around 20 % energy in almost no expensive. I'm proud of this. I would love to see some strong encouragement from China to promote sustainability and live closer to nature.”

That sustainability reminds me of a building of Japan uses solar electricity to supply, and some in America takes adjustable windows to circulate air which causes no air conditioner, moreover, no pollution.

China is different from Spain in designing field. “For example, we like to do the concept. And after that we need to make all the plans on the CAD or others. We don’t like it. However, in China, people would like to do something more technical, the designers don’t like to think too much. They have one idea, the first idea is ok. They prefer develop all the plans. It’s more practical and technical. Not how to do it well, not how to calculate. Maybe by concept or by thoughts, and maybe more like critical thinking. Think by yourself. In Spain, people think a lot, how to get good idea, but maybe they don’t know how to develop it, how to make all plans and which idea is better. If we design a house in Spain, it may need 1 year. But in China, it may only do it in one week. Spain is much more conceptual with longer process and smaller project.”

The time can not decide the quality of the building. “In Europe, quality is better because people spend more time to design and build. In China if you have one small project with enough time, that’s also qualified.”

Chinese traditional culture and construction appeal to him beyond doubt. “I like Chinese traditional construction, and it's sad to say that nowadays China copy styles from other places such Europe when china have potential to develop its own way of doing things. China has a nice tradition, such as Taoism that respect nature and integrate it in every day life, also the balance. Chinese designer can learn from the organization of feng shui and develop it more and adapt it to 21st century. In China, what impressed me most is the Tea Horse Route in Yunnan. How many years ago since Chinese developed such infrastructure for trading tea which demonstrates the commercial culture from China.”

“I don’t want to go back to Spain, from now I will stay here. I don’t know how long but maybe a few years.” He has been in Shanghai for 4.5 years and seems to be satisfied with the life here. When talked about the future of Chinese construction business, he said:” The business of construction in China have some risks because it will be a slowdown on the  demand of new buildings, and the new ones will have more competitors, regulations and  international exposure. I hope the slowdown in China will be slowly and doesn't affect jobs and closure of companies like it happened in Spain. Also I hope that industries in China learn how to adapt to the environmental challenges of the world, contributes in a positive way and also being a good sample for other countries to follow.”

China is becoming more and more international, Shanghai in an international city with people of all nations. People seem to prefer to come to Shanghai for their study and work. The phenomenon is common day by day. “China have a great demand of qualified architects, designers and other professionals, I think Chinese people should learn from ideas from outside while keeping China characteristics of design and should be more open, not only to "show that have a foreigner in the company" but also try to cooperate from international experts in constructive ways beneficial for everyone. ”

“I really appreciate the courage of Xi Jinping to say something like stop doing weird architecture and I think is god comment” he said. I laughed. China appeared a lot of strange designing months ago. “Now we need lot of work and education to put it into practice. It is true that many buildings in China are strange, bad designed, ugly and not useful. So we should learn from these mistakes and stop wasting resources and people forces, start doing better architecture: useful, beautiful and respecting the environment.”

“Shanghai is not about the future, it is about the present,” he said, “When I’m in Spain, people all think that. Shanghai works very good now. I can develop, I can keep my career, I can make project. It’s international. Also it’s local. For now it’s very good. In the future I don’t know. It’s an economical center. It’s a creative one. In Spain, we have Madrid. It’s the capital, like Beijing. Where I studied, in Barcelona, it’s more creative, like Shanghai. In every country you have the same situation. ”

    His tone is full of exotic and said: “In my everyday work, I try to make the design sustainable, little by little good for environmental. I cannot make it 100%. I can make little bit, little bit, little bit.”


Click to know more about Designer Ismael: www,