INTERVIEW: Architect Satoshi Okada for THE ZONE

His designs can be found throughout Japan and worldwide, and for the first-time renowned architect, Satoshi Okada, is making work for the stage. Collaborating with Co3’s Artistic Director, Raewyn Hill, Okada’s large scale set piece will transform the Heath Ledger Theatre in September for THE ZONE.

Raewyn discovered Okada-san’s work over a decade ago, when drawn to the simplicity of form, and the importance of light within the design of his Mt Fuji House (2000). They eventually met in Tokyo 2012 when both their works were presented at the National Arts Centre, Tokyo. During Raewyn’s AsiaLink residency to the Tokyo Wondersite in 2016 she finally invited him to create the set for her new work, THE ZONE.

We spoke with Okada-san about the collaboration, THE ZONE’s set design and what inspires him.

See Satoshi Okada in conversation with Raewyn Hill in a pre-show talk on Thursday 7 September before the opening performance of THE ZONE. Tickets available here.


How did this collaboration with Co3 come about?

Raewyn selected me among numerous architects around the world, for which I am deeply honored. We met few times in Tokyo and, during our conversations, I realized we share the same mindfulness for spaces for human activities, a peculiar attention for a universal issue which is common to both dance and architecture.


Mt Fuji House (2000)

What were your initial thoughts when Raewyn first approached you to design a set for the stage?

This has been the first set design of my life; therefore, as Raewyn proposed me this collaboration I wondered how I could develop her idea. After discussing it in depth, I came up with some imageries for the space that would host the performance.


Describe the set that you have designed for THE ZONE and some of your reasons behind its design.

I studied elements of set design while conducting my Ph.D research on 18th Century Italian architecture and Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

After the great cultural achievements of masters such as Donato Bramante for Renaissance and Francesco Borromini for Baroque, the Age of Enlightenment saw the technique of perspective being highly developed, and thus the creation of innovative architectural spaces. Within constraining boundary conditions, architects tried to reach the illusion of endless-ness and infinity of space through perspective.

These were for me great hints for the set design of THE ZONE.


How different is it designing something for the stage from your usual design process?

Architecture pertains to a three dimensional, mostly independent object which contains spaces and can be observed from all around. On the other hand, stage design relates to a limited frame in space, still three dimensional indeed, but always seen from the point of view of the audience. This is a big difference.

However, while developing the space itself, I do not think about this difference: design is all the same to me. When I envision any piece of architecture, I always strive for spaces that respect the human scale, that are provided with light to appreciate things and involve each of the five human senses; thinking about the body movements within a building is fundamental, as it is for any stage design and particularly for that of a contemporary dance performance.


What inspires you to be creative?

Dialogues with clients are always inspiring me in any case, definitely. If there were something that makes me creative, that would be all the beautiful works of the past created by the great masters I have so far come across, not only within the architecture field but also in others.

In this perspective, I do nothing but barely transmitting the past to the present, while adding my fragile contribution as a filter slightly perceivable in my works.


Have you ever been to Perth or Australia?

It is the first time for me to visit Australia. I am very much looking forward to THE ZONE. Particularly I am curious to see how the silent stage set will start breathing with the dancers under Raewyn’s direction.


Tickets to pre-show talk with Raewyn Hill and Satoshi Okada, including the performance: $45
Thursday 7 September
Talk: 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Performance: 7.30pm – 8.30pm
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA.



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