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Monday, April 16, 2007

design matters

Tokyo MidtowndesignI'm just back from two weeks in Tokyo and the jet lag is almost behind me now. I'm married to a Japanese woman (the beautiful and talented illustrator Coco Masuda) so this was a family visit, more so than a touring one.

I tend to be such a 'dyed in the wool' native New Yorker, that it takes an immersive change of context, in a far away city, to reset my observation skills, and clear my overworked brain for creative refreshment. It was a welcome break. I had at least a couple of epiphanies about this site's context moving forward.

The most striking difference between Tokyo and New York for me is the embedded culture of design over there. Whether building Tokyo Midtown, the new architectural centerpiece of the Roppongi district, creating MUJI's simple, functional goods, or the presentation of food from stores to plates, they intuitively respect and demand a high level of design in their lives. It has roots in traditional Japanese arts and crafts; and translates into good modernism quite naturally. The latter reflecting vividly their embrace of globalism and an economy which seemed to me to be visibly on the rebound after 16 years of stagnation. In fact, our relatives seemed to feel that Tokyo is poised for a run in real estate, as their economy heats up after a long period of correction. A recent article from Knowledge@Wharton seems to agree.

"Nothing symbolizes Japan's bubble economy,
or its subsequent long slump, more than real estate. Now, after dropping by as much as 70%, real estate prices are ticking up, signaling a renewed Japanese economy."

It was being surrounded by that rigorous attention to detail and design culture, that I found inspiring over the past couple of weeks. I've always believed that good design makes a huge contribution to our quality of life, not because of any status it brings, as can sometimes be implied by its influence; but simply because we get to live with greater beauty and things which work well. Design is a critical choice for us. It reflects and transforms us. Through it, we can see one of the fundamental ways in which our culture is created and defined.

As the header above reads, my intention when I launched this site was to cover both real estate and design; however the chatter about the market's rebound and where it's going, seems to dominate the conversation about real estate on my blog, and most of the others. As any good broker knows, its partially about an investment. It's really always about how a person feels when they go home that makes them say, "I want it". That's a reaction to an overall mix of urban and architectural design. When we speak about a spaces' potential, we are talking about it's design potential. Since it is really the fusion of intuition and craft, it can be an elusive subject to write about, so I hope that you'll bear with me as I shift gears. A conversation about design will begin to weave its way into upcoming posts. It will be diverse, sometimes relating to business practice, like how design helps to sell exclusive properties; or checking out new developments and the objects we place in them. The urban context we live in, like the re-development of lower Manhattan, and the growing awareness of environmental sustainability affecting our design choices, are topics to be explored too.

Good design begins at home. As some of you know, I'm both the author and designer of this site, so I spent time tweaking it over the weekend. The results are a new interactive polling feature in the right column, where I'll be surveying your opinions on various topics, as well as some simplification of home page. Design is about how it works, as well as how it looks. And yes, I'll still be talking a bit about the real estate marketplace and local events too. Like most blogs mine is a bit of personal interest, reaction, opinion and point of view. I hope that you'll enjoy its evolution and participate in the conversation too.