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Colin K. Okashimo: Peaceful Process

Landscape architect and sculptor Dr Colin K. Okashimo researches place on many levels to develop meaningful sculptural environments that induce pause and contemplation.

Colin K. Okashimo: Peaceful Process

Dr Colin K. Okashimo beside the large-format model of an 88-key boutique hotel, designed for a steep site near Ubud, Bali. The project is slated for completion in 2019. Architecture by CSYA. Photo by Justin Loh

Dr Colin K. Okashimo is on a Skype call when I arrive at his studio within an industrial building on Syed Alwi Road. We’ll be having a discussion about his work and practice – both sides of it, landscape architecture and sculpture – but for now he’s engaged in a virtual meeting with a client in London. They’re nutting out details of the artworks and landscape scheme for NeuHaus – a private waterfront villa on Lake Maggiore in Novara, Italy, which is currently under construction. There’s a potential annual increase in the lake level of up to 2.5 metres from snow melt, so it’s critical that accurate and regular coordination is maintained to ensure the design is installed according to site conditions – which sometimes override tender documentation.

His Business Development Director Debra Wright walks me around the large studio, stopping at models of current landscape projects. Among them are a High-Tech Business Park outside Ho Chi Minh City, a Medical Centre and Serviced Apartment Tower located just off Orchard Road, Singapore, a steeply sloped coastal site at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, and a lifestyle resort in Ubud, Bali. “This is the largest model we’ve ever built here,” says Wright as we look over the Bali model, which recreates the site’s hillside and gorge, the proposed resort buildings (designed by Chan Sau Yan Associates, who supplied architectural components of the model), and Okashimo’s landscape design. It’s a 1:50 scale model, 6.5 metres by 6.5 metres in size, and raised on an island of timber pallets and plinths. At its highest point, a viewing platform has been built so it’s possible to have an eye-level perspective of the resort’s point of arrival on the ridge. Specially made low timber stools are clustered around the base so the model can be viewed comfortably at the site’s lowest levels too.

“This is what we consider as a design development model,” says Wright, much to my amazement. “We’re documenting the construction drawings from this model. We don’t provide concept nor schematic drawings. It’s all explained and presented through models to show the proposed spatial experiences. I can’t tell you the number of times this model has had its swimming pool rebuilt,” she says. Okashimo joins us, and we’re soon talking about how a reliance on 2D drawings and perspectives at the conceptual design stage can lead to problem areas within a design being overlooked. “A model ends up being a very collaborative tool for the whole project team. It can flag any problems with the architectural, interior and landscape concepts,” he explains. “With the computer, you can control and manipulate the client view. But with a model there’s nowhere to hide.”

Read the full story in Cubes 86, out now!

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