Hold the Space

This episode features a conversation with teacher, artist, entrepreneur (and a few more things)...Cesar Jung Harada. You can find out more about Cesar at his website, cesarharada.com.

Cesar's biography says: 
Cesar Jung-Harada is a French-Japanese designer, environmentalist, educator, and entrepreneur, passionate about ocean technology, impact innovation, and education based in Singapore. Cesar is an Associate Professor of Design at the Singapore Institute of Technology. Cesar is currently a candidate Ph.D. in Design and Ocean Innovation at the CNAM (France), Former Director of MakerBay LTD (Hong Kong Makerspace), Scoutbots LTD (Ocean Robotic Startup). Cesar serves as a Trustee of the board of HBKU (Qatar), the Wyng Foundation (Hong Kong), and regularly delivers workshops and keynotes at international conferences in places such as the UN, Harvard or TED. See his projects.

As you'll hear, I first met Cesar back in the late 2000s, where he was making an audacious project at the Royal College of Art, with a note that said 'join me' - so I did! That project took me on a wild journey, and I learnt a lot from it. Since then, Cesar has worked, lived, and taught around the world, with a wealth of weird and wonderful experiences that he brings back into all of the other roles he has. I really enjoyed this conversation - there is a lot of wisdom in Cesar's words.

Please note, this conversation was recorded in 2022, when Cesar was teaching in Hong Kong. Since then, Cesar has moved from Hong Kong to Singapore.


00:00 Cesar's introduction
01:02 Ollie's introduction
06:05 Description of practice 
07:40 Mode of practice
17:15 Teaching
20:08 Hong Kong
27:16 Early education
35:32 Preferred teaching exercise
41:35 Life experience and design; barriers to entry
51:50 Learning from repetition 
55:14 Time management, and people management

Creators & Guests

Cesar Jung-Harada
Cesar Jung-Harada is a French-Japanese designer, environmentalist, educator, and entrepreneur, passionate about ocean technology, impact innovation, and education based in Singapore. Cesar is an Associate Professor of Design at the Singapore Institute of Technology. Cesar is currently a candidate Ph.D. in Design and Ocean Innovation at the CNAM (France), Former Director of MakerBay LTD (Hong Kong Makerspace), Scoutbots LTD (Ocean Robotic Startup). Cesar serves as a Trustee of the board of HBKU (Qatar), the Wyng Foundation (Hong Kong), and regularly delivers workshops and keynotes at international conferences in places such as the UN, Harvard or TED. See his projects at https://cesarharada.com.

What is Hold the Space?

Conversations with creative practitioners who also teach, exploring what, how, and why they do what they do. A podcast for anyone who works in a creative field, who studies a creative subject, or who teaches one.

Hosted by artist, film-maker, and teacher Ollie Palmer, and supported by the Situated Art and Design Research Group at Caradt.

Cesar Jung Harada: Nice to meet you.

My name is Cesar Jung Harada.

I'm a French Japanese designer, an
environmentalist, educator entrepreneur.

I've been based in Hong Kong
for the last eight years.

Right now, I spend a good chunk of my
time to teach design and ocean science and

research at the university of Hong Kong,
in the department of architecture and at

the Swire Institute of Marine science.

So that's my main title or role,
spend most of my hours doing.

But I'm also running Maker Bay,
which is the biggest privately

owned maker space in the region.

And I also have a ocean robotics
company startup called Scout Bots.

And the two active projects are coral reef
mapping robot technology, and floating

solar hydrogen, and the oyster hatching


So it's diverse, like some is education.

The other one is more entrepreneurial.

The other one is more
like community building.

oH yes.

And I'm also doing a PhD as well
in France, remotely at the CNAM;

the CNAM: conservatoire national
des arts et métiers de Paris.

So that these are the different,
main activities that I have.

Ollie Palmer: Hi, and welcome to Hold the
Space, a podcast about the intersection

between creative practice and teaching.

Each episode features a conversation
between me, Ollie Palmer, and another

creative practitioner who also teaches.

This episode features an old
friend of mine, Cesar Jung Harada.

I met Cesar nearly 15 years ago when he
was a student at the Royal College of Art.

I first saw his project, Open_Sailing,
at the Work in Progress show, where the

public is invited to walk around the
college and see projects that students are

working on, still slightly rough around
the edges, not quite finished, but often

in their most intriguing and raw state.

César's work stood out to me.

It was a big, floating installation.

Hovering high up in a double height
space, a sea station made of numerous

modules that were all interconnected,
each with different functions.

But the captions made it clear
that this was a model that

would someday be prototyped.

at real scale for testing.

Besides the intriguing nature of
this initial design, my interest

in the project was piqued by his
business card, which invited anybody

who was interested to get involved.

So I did.

I contacted César, and I joined his
team, and we worked together, alongside

a disparate group of people located
all around the world, on developing

this weird and wonderful project,
the big goal being to develop the

first International Ocean Station.

Like the International Space
Station, but in the water.

Together with other team members,
we spent a month living in France,

learning ocean survival skills,
visiting all sorts of maritime

locations, building models, meeting
people who offered so much assistance.

We also ran a workshop in Barcelona that
we mentioned briefly in this conversation,

where the public came and dreamed
of different ways of living at sea.

The whole thing was a great, weird,
chaotic adventure all spearheaded

and held together by César, a
verifiable polymath with interests

and skills in so many different areas.

The experience of being involved
in that project truly changed

my life, and honestly helped
shape my career trajectory.

I learned so much from it, and
I don't think I'd be doing what

I do, having not met César.

But it wasn't just me or our team
who was interested in this project.

It got picked up by
numerous media outlets.

It won the Ars Electronica
Voestalpine Next Idea grant.

Cesar became a TED fellow, he went on
to work for Southampton University, then

MIT, and has since worked with many, many
different people and places globally.

As he mentioned in the introduction,
there are quite a few feathers to

his bow, and actually finding a
time to speak was nearly impossible.

If you look at his website, you can
see his schedule, his projects, his

talks, and more, but it gives a hint at
just how hard working and how busy he

always is, and how he's always just in
a different country at a different time.

In this conversation, we discuss:
what César does and why he does it,

his teaching philosophy, his approach
to people, and how both of these

things were influenced by his early
experiences being completely disregarded

by the French education system.

We also discuss his work in communities
affected by big events, like the BP oil

spill, and working with refugees in Burma.

We discuss managing teams, the
nuances of teaching courses.

And at the end, Cesar concludes
with some lovely advice that I've

been thinking about a lot since
we recorded this interview....

so, please do listen to the end.

Note that at the time this conversation
was recorded, that was March 2022,

Cezar was teaching in Hong Kong.

Since we spoke for this interview,
he's moved to the Singapore Institute

of Technology, where he's now
Associate Professor in the Business

Communication and Design Cluster.

One last thing before we start.

I just want to apologize
for the audio quality.

I'm really sorry.

At the last minute, we had issues
with both of our microphones.

We were both using brand new mics to
do this interview, and our internet

connection was really unstable, and
as a result, you can hear glitchiness

and sound peaking occasionally.

I've tried to patch it up where
possible, but there are tiny

bits where it's still audible, so
apologies if you're an audiophile

and that kind of thing bothers you.

So, without further ado, here is my
conversation with Cesar Jung Harada.

Thank you so much for talking to me today.

It's such a pleasure to talk to you again.

I can't believe it's been
years since we last talked.

Several lifetimes ago it feels!

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah.


Ollie Palmer: For the sakes of full
disclosure, Cesar is a really good

friend and I'm really so excited
to have him talking to me today.

You described that you do about
a million different things.

Does your description of what you do
change according to you're talking

to, and if so, how does that happen?

Cesar Jung Harada: I have a lot of
admiration for the people who are able

to be chameleons, and they're able to
be adaptive, and they can assume many

roles depending on who they're talking
to, but I'm not really able to do that.

Not that I think it's being pernicious
or malicious, but I just wanna

treat everybody in the same way.

And so instead of having different
standards, I'm trying to bring the

people that are supposed to be like what
some people would assume as the lowest

standard I want to treat them the same
way as the people at the top, if you will.

And then the people that are at the
top, I'm intentionally not trying

to make an effort to treat them in
any special way, because I'm just

trying to be respectful to everybody
and truthful and direct with people.

I just don't waste their time or my
time, or like respect to anybody or

have excessive respect to anybody who
doesn't deserve it either, if you would.

Ollie Palmer: Having seen you operate
first hand with like directors and

galleries and with everybody else who
has come into the project from all

sorts of places, that's really clear
that there's no double standards in

that respect, and no deference to
something that shouldn't merit it.

Cesar Jung Harada: I feel that the
people as well, who are used to being

treated in a special way, when you
treat them not in a special way, then

they pay much more attention to you as
well, because you treat them as equal.

And so if you treated people as
equal they tend to hear more.

Yeah, that's just my approach.

Ollie Palmer: What led you into the type
of design practice and this inclusive

way of working that you have now?

I know there'll be many influences,
but how would you summarize that?

Cesar Jung Harada: There are
definitely a lot of influence s

about the participatory piece and
the treating people in the same way.

It would stem from the same base.

So what's the common
base is my desire to...

I really have a passion for the
environment, that is for sure that's my

denominator of all the activities that
I have, I'm always interested in like

environmental impact and based on that,
the environment is the context in which

all the human activities are taking place.

I have a very deep and emotional
relationship to the environment.

I think that comes from my father's side
of the family, where they are animists.

So my father is Japanese, but
not the Zen Japanese; more, the

Shinto Japanese, which is animist.

So they would believe that nature
is God, basically, the mountains are

God, the rocks are God, the ocean is
God, and the wind, the fire rain...

There's a few axiom in the religion,
which is that everything is alive...

so stone is alive.

A tree is alive, of
course, a fish is alive.

So if you cut a tree if you break a
stone, if you eat a fish, you have to

acknowledge and respect, when you consume
or when you interact with it in any way.

And there's another Axiom, also
every, everything is equal.

So the life of a tree, the life of
a plant, the life of a human all

should be treated with respect.

And so when you have this, empathy,
then it's natural to treat everybody

in the same way, because you already
have developed this relationship

with things, whether they are living
or dead things, because there's

no dead things in Shinto belief.

So I would say that the way that I treat
materials, tools, people, nature, has

always this constant, consideration...

being considerate with things
around you and moving with care.

So I think basis for
the things that I do.

I don't know if I answered
your question though.

Ollie Palmer: No, that
makes a lot of sense.

And it's nice that you
mentioned your father.

I remember when we first met, one of the
first things you showed me was the book

that you had made, about his sculpture.

And it's really clear that there's
a huge amount of respect that you

have for the work that he does.

But also it seems very different from what
you do, but I can see the origin now that

you've explained this idea of animism.

Cesar Jung Harada: And it's something that
I'm trying to pass on to my kid as well.

I don't know what he's gonna make out
of this information, like everybody

reacts differently to this kind of input.

But, as a designer, I could see
that it's led me to consider my

environment and operate as designer,
maybe in a different way from other

designers; not in, not every designer,
of course everybody's unique.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

So, with that in mind, what other people
or things who influence the creative

practice to get you to this stage, where
you are teaching in Hong Kong, where you

have such an enthusiasm for the work
that you do and the teaching that you do,

but everything is so bundled up together.

Is there anybody whose work you came
across or any, people who've really

influenced that way of, accepting that
everything fits into the same place?

Cesar Jung Harada: I would say that the
the energy and the impetus, so beyond

this almost faith, or religious belief,
is more in the environmental activism

community before being a designer.

I was a, an environmental
activist very active in in Europe.

My older brother was the head of the
green party youth group in Paris.

And he also had a very
huge influence, on me...

but not only him, but the sort of
community that ended up growing in.

And I felt, some point maybe the
people that had the deepest influence

on me were environmental activists.

Not really like anybody that
I could name in particular,

but the movement, if you will.

I felt at some point doing direct action
of activism what XR, the Extinction

Rebellion people are doing in the UK,
you know, it is a new brand, but people

have doing this kind of like radical
environmental activism for forever...

You know, in many countries,
it's even much more radical.

In countries like Brazil environmental
activists get killed, like every week....

these are my roots.

The rage against the
destruction of the environment.

And then little by little, needed
to find my place in society as a

contributor, not somebody who was against,
the destruction of the environment

but somebody who's contributing
to actually do something positive.

And so little by little, through the
practice of design, I realized, okay first

I was as an artist, I was like, I can do
some art and raise awareness for example.

But I felt that raising awareness was
quite short, lived often time: okay, you,

you attract people's attention and you
change their opinion and that's great, but

doesn't necessarily change their behavior.

So it doesn't change their practice,
doesn't change the way they live,

what they consume, et cetera.

And so I felt like design was a very
powerful way to engage with people.

And then little by little, like right
after graduating from the RCA, my

first job was in civil engineering.

So I worked in in Southampton
University in the civil engineering

lab on ocean wave energy conversion.

Then later I work at MIT in robotic
and material science and more and

more, my work has become more and more
technical, a little bit similar to you.

After you, you worked for Open_Sailing
I started reading a bit of your PhD.

You really went deeper
into coding and scripting.

And so I did the same, like one, went more
and more and more technical engineering

and ended up starting a robotics company.

And so now I've traveled across
the gamut from art to science.

And I'm very happily navigating that
sort of horizontal, if you will.

And then to implement this at a higher
level, on the vertical, then I've been

going into like community building,
through maker space and entrepreneurship,

like how to turn those ideas into like
product and distribution marketing

and, sales and the economics of it.

And I feel like I'm very much a
generalist with a passion in the ocean

and an expertise in design and a bit of
knowledge and a lot of other disciplines.

Always with the, with a common
interest and environmental stuff

and what, whatever it is now.

Ollie Palmer: The next question I
wanted to ask was about who the ideal

audience member for part of your work
is, but I think that's really hard to

define because you have, people who,
like myself work with you for a period

of time and become inspired by the
type of project that you're working

on, and then it has a changing point
in the trajectory of their lives...

I saw that you've done loads of work
with kids and trying to channel that

enthusiasm that they have and the
childish curiosity that normally just

gets beaten out of us in whatever way.

But then you also have this whole ethos
that you were describing earlier of

treating everybody on the same level...

How would you say the best
way for people to engage with

the type of work you do is...

what would be the ultimate accolade.

If you saw somebody really enjoy
what you're doing and like it?

Cesar Jung Harada: I think the way
that you've, you have experience

working with me, I think that's the
strongest way to experience it, because

we go through everything, together.

For example I would say that the people
that I've been working with that I've

been like most transformed is for example,
the people I worked with for example, on

the BP oil spill, there are people that
I've worked with, like on the ground,

like cleaning up the oil and working with
the community where the disaster struck

and those communities are completely
destroyed, and we spend months, trying to

document how they're doing, trying to help
them build evidence, to take up the courts

and to force BP to clean up the acts and
then transitioning to transform that high

anxiety, deep seated hatred of the people
who are destroying the environment and

trying to think like, how can we, use
that to do something positive, and then

developing technologies, like scientific
work, and then making breakthrough,

and then turning those into community
project that become in companies.

And then, this company grow and then
the company is a whole adventure

in itself, goes up and down and you
have this strong mission, but then

you have to struggle with so many
administrative and financial and legal

and, personal stuff like politics and
ego, like all these gets in the way.

Like the people that I work with,
I think are the most transformed.

The caricature of the artist is that
the artist is by himself, right?

Or by herself.

And they are this recluse
that has this kind of like

inspiration and creating artwork.

And so the medium is I don't
know, painting or poetry or music.

And there's a very small nexus
core of people that experience it.

But when you're doing like social work
is the other people that become your

sort of instrument of expression, not
in a sense instrument in the sense of

instrumentalizing or utilizing people,
but the collaborator become your terrain.

Like the relationship be
become the work itself.

Yeah, so I think the more people are
involved with the work, whether they are

like direct collaborators, or they're
like extended community members, or

they're consumer of the product that,
that we are building in and utilizing,

or they are people who are looking at
it looking at the product being used

and being inspired that or they are
like the students learning from, being

developed through participating or the
administrator that realized that it's

okay not to know what's gonna be the
outcome o of a class, or the community

chief that, felt reluctant to let their
young, being part of an experiment, but

realizing that not only it brings value
to the village, but transform this youth.

Like all this experiment for me are
incredibly gratifying because the people

who participate transform, because
they're not just consumer, they're

always co-creators at all these levels.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

And I have to say having been
one of the co-creators, been

inviting into that thing....

I can see the way that the goal is never
just a thing that you have in your hand,

that the goal is to build something that
keeps building itself in the future.

And that seems to me is a common
thread with all of the work that you

do, that it's not just making an art
exhibit that's gonna go in and change

a couple of minds, but building a
community that will continue trying

to change minds and continue fighting
against this or fighting for that.

Cesar Jung Harada: That's right, exactly.

Maybe if you're asking me just previously,
if there was somebody who had this

very strong influence, I would say
it's recently I had to write some some

letters to reapply to the job I have
currently because in academia and

there's a lot of this kind of like
crazy mechanism, you have to apply

for your own job to, to be renewed.

But I had to reflect and I was
thinking about this conversation I had.

I think it was in two thousand and eight.

Yeah, 2008.

I was in middle of my masters
at the Royal College of Art.

But I started teaching already
masters at, ecole nationale

superieure d'architecture Versailles.

So before doing my masters, actually
I was myself, a lecturer in masters.

So I was.

In my first year of teaching.

And you remember we went to,
did this workshop at the CCCB?

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

Cesar Jung Harada: And there was one
moment where I took a step out and you

guys were like going around Barcelona
and I was gonna meet I, my pen pal,

because I had a Spanish pen pal.

And the father of my pen pal was actually
the director of the school of fine

arts Escola Massana, and I went to meet
him and I had a coffee with him and I

felt inadequate because I could feel
he is such an extraordinary teacher.

I could feel from the respect
that his students had for him.

And and I asked him a very blunt question
because I felt I was a bad teacher.

So ask him, what is the
difference between a young, bad

teacher and a good old teacher?

And he took, he was never, he never
took so long to, to think, but he

took a good 10, 20 seconds where
he looked in his coffee, he took

the time to think about his answer.

And then he told me the difference is
that a bad young teacher is trying to

convey his conviction and his passion and
a good old teacher is trying to develop

the students' conviction and passion.

In other words, a young teacher actually
we often feel a bit insecure and we feel

that we have to transmit our ideas as
if those ideas were the most important

that we have something to impart, whereas
the old teacher, in his wisdom, he knows

that young people are right and they know
what is right for them, and they have

a different vision from society and you
need to let them develop their own views.

You don't wanna have 30 people
with a similar mindset like you do.

You want to support them
to become better than you.

And so it's vain, in the negative
sense, vein in the ego sense to

try to convince people of your own
opinion, in your own experience,

because those opinions are relevant,
they're not relevant to, to them.

At best you can have the advantage
of having some experience and maybe

some insight in the mechanism,
but the goal is not to exist.

The goal is to really get the young
people to become themselves and

be the energy that the world needs
tomorrow, not an extension of you.

So for me, this simple answer was
really transformative and completely

changed , my teaching and in recent
years as well, I'm in Hong Kong.

And it's not one particular
conversation, but I'm in a society

that is demoralizing a very high rate.

Hong Kong, has been a occupied territory
by the British, by the Japanese.

And now it's been taken over
by the mainland government and

it's a place where people don't
feel that they own themselves.

They always feel that they
live on a borrowed time.

They feel continuously colonized.

And so they always kept a place
of safety in the own identity,

recluses from the occupiers identity.

But unfortunately it is
really struggling right now.

And when I arrived in 2013
it was a very liberal place.

In 2014, it was the Umbrella Revolution.

Already, everything changed.

And in 20 19 the national
security law completely changed

the whole feel of the city.

And young people felt that their
life was being robbed of them.

I guess like some people in UK maybe
felt like that when Brexit happened,

they felt like a part of their potential
for, their life and their ability to

travel, and the ability to work in
Europe was being stolen from them.

But still, it's a big territory.

UK is big territory and it's a good
passport, but when you're a Hong

Konger and it's such a small island,
you feel like you have nowhere to go.

And so I have to deal with
this psyche of the young people

and what is happening to them.

They live on the fault line between
the east and the west and they've

lost their sense of identity.

So as a teacher, not only I have to
help them to, develop their, their

the impetus and the motivation and the
passion, but here also have to help

them define their own identity and help
them to struggle with the sense of loss,

of themselves, of their own future.

And it's a it's been a huge
challenge to be honest.

And most of the time it's
failing to be also very honest.

Like most young people are not
able to salvage this sort of hope.

And a lot of them live in a fantasy world.

They're not able to see the reality.

They live in a constant state
of lying uncertainty and

they're just looking for safety.

So as a teacher I've been growing
up a lot, and I feel that my work

as a teacher has also very heavily
influenced the role that I think I

have as a designer and an entrepreneur.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

It's funny you say that about
the difference between the

types of teaching and the impact
that, that then has later on.

The title of this podcast is
'Hold the Space' and that's

trying to work in two senses.

The first is that, as the teacher, I
think I definitely was I definitely

was the first type of teacher that
that you were describing earlier of

like trying to prove everything through
the teaching that you're doing, and

not leaving enough space for students
to discover things on their own.

And it's been a long
process to shift towards...

I hope now that I'm responsive to
what people want to do and supportive

of that, rather than dictatorial
in the way that I go about things.

And I think that's the best that we
can aspire to be as teachers, to hold

the space so that they can find it.

Cesar Jung Harada: Exactly.

Ollie Palmer: But equally, there's this
tension between the various administrative

burdens or the societal burdens that
you have of being in a place where times

are shifting and this sort of thing,
and the ability to actually carry out

creative practice and the extent to
which you yourself have to embody that

conflict between obligations to do
something and obligations to do something

in else, and also keeping the passion
alive for the thing that you want to do.

So it's like the holding
the space in two senses.

Cesar Jung Harada: There's there's a very
strange expectation, I don't know in in

your academic environment, but in, in
university where I'm teaching, University

of Hong Kong an architecture department,
there's definitely an expectation

that you're gonna be a world famous or
architect and and like a highly published

academic, and a full-time teacher,
catering to both like the very technical

practice of architecture and all related
fields, and the very highly intellectual,

like theory of architecture and history.

And as well, spending the time to invest
in developing yourself with all the

new tech technology in VR and IoT and
blockchain, and working with like high

density environment as well changing rural
environment, this is the expectation

that you have to be doing like five or
six different jobs at the same time.

And I think it's a very toxic environment.

If you, not only on top of
that, you apply a lot of foreign

academic model as the template.

Not on only, you are trying to do
like six job, but you're trying to do

that in a cultural model that is not
local because we are an international

university, so we are based in Hong
Kong, but we also have to compete to

be the best ranked university in Asia.

And but we also are trying to
comply while doing this with all

the American standards, because
the leadership is Western.

It's an incredibly high
expectation environment.

Yeah, I think.

I think most of my colleagues and myself,
even if you're not successful in, on all

these fronts, because it's impossible to
be successful in all these fronts, like

it, it's almost inhumane to imagine that
you could be success in all this front...

you have to still pretend that you're
successful in all these fronts.

So it's a lot of, game of appearing
to be successful, rather than

like doing substantial work.

And I don't think it's healthy.

So personally I feel that it's
more for me a matter of working

on it by chunks, if you will.

So I feel like, okay, now I've spent three
years as a senior lecturer where I teach

a lot, like I've been teaching a lot.

I have like hundreds of students
every semester that I have to look

after, it's huge amount of work, but
now I hope that my next phase, it

can be a little less about teaching.

If I can get to tenure track, then I can
be a little bit more about research,

but there's always a risk, right?

Depending on where you are in which stage,
that instead of shifting, it just adds.

It's just on top.

And so I, I feel that this is what's
happening into a lot of my peers.

And I can see that is also this
sort of dysfunctional expectation

that you, that everybody's gonna
get burned out at some point.

And then that you are going to have a
sabbatical because they still need you.

So yeah.

I don't say this is
specific to my university.

I think that as an industry,
it's evolving very slowly.

But it's, yeah, it's not definitely
is not very healthy as an industry.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

It's I think it's a really tough thing
within the context of academia to keep in

mind your own success criteria, because
yeah, you are judging yourself according

to what the university wants, what
your peers are doing, which conferences

everyone's published at, all these other
external forces, which in the moment they

become, it reminds me of the stereotype
of the 1950s and American suburban,

partners like keeping up to date with the
Joneses next door, having the slightly

larger car because they're their neighbors
have a larger car and so on and losing

sight of what actually makes them happy.

and it's.

Yeah, I don't know.

It seems to me that you are able to
keep in mind what your own success

criteria are within the work.

You're...how do you that?

Cesar Jung Harada: I think I, I will
I'll be forever grateful that the French

education system failed me in a way
. That's another way of saying that I failed

the French education system in a way is
more that it failed me in the sense that

I studied first in public school.

In a, really low, like really low income
neighborhoods, like very blue collar area,

high crime rates neighborhoods in France.

And when we moved back, when we moved
to Paris because of my family name

and because the way I look, nobody
believed that I'm half Japanese.

They all believe that I'm Arabic.

So I was immediately because of the
racist education system I was put into

in a like third, fourth tier school.

And and then later in my high
school, École Boulle, which is

like arts and craft focused school.

Several of my teacher really
didn't believe in me at all.

Like I was working really hard,
but I just, again, because I didn't

treat them with a specific respect,
I just treat them as humans.

They really didn't like that.

I'm polite.

I'm a very polite person, but I.

I ask question, I don't
believe, I will investigate.

And so if the time is something
that doesn't make sense, I have

no problem continuing to ask a
question until it's satisfactory.

And of course teachers,
really don't like that.

It's not that I don't like authority,
I'm fine with authority if it's if

authority is, I'd say is deserved,
if it's in the right place.

But because of this tension that I
developed with the teachers, they

basically told me that they would
rather have me not trying to do my

baccelaureate because they were afraid
that I would get scores so low that I

would lower the average of the school.

And because of that, when I was
17, I dropped out of high school

and I went to study by myself.

But because I was so full of rage
and resentment for the teachers

that did not believe in me, I
worked so hard to prove them wrong.

And I passed my exam almost as a
sort of freelance sort of candidate.

And when the result came,
nobody believed the results.

I had the best result in the
history of France in my discipline.

Like I, I was, I had the best
mark in design in the history

of France back then in 2001.

And so at the beginning
they thought it was an error

because I was supposed to fail.

I was not even supposed to apply.

And after they verified my grade,
they found that yes, it was correct.

I did not cheat.

And then suddenly they
changed their attitude.

The teacher that, that insulted me
public in front of other students,

like literally insulted me.

They said I was gonna become a drug
addict as a designer, as an artist.

They said that I was gonna become
a criminal that I had no future.

They said this in front of other student
and suddenly they turn around and they're

saying like, this is our best student.

We're so proud of him.

He's the part of our school.

And so this is when I realized,
there's no way never ever in my

life, will I let anybody determine
the value of who I am in my work.


Because when they were proud of
me, the only thing I wanted to

do was to punch them in the face,
literally because I felt so betrayed.

aNd so since then it's created in my
psyche this even if people tell me

I'm great and whatever, if they, oh,
or the opposite, if they tell me I'm

terrible, I'm the worst, I never take
the judgment of someone at face value.

I, I always reflect like where
does the judgment come from?

What is motivated?

What is the intention?

I have this natural defense, if
you will from deep skepticism

on opinion versus facts.

So I guess now, if I put this in my
context of hierarchy in the university,

I do try to tick the box, because I have
to, but it doesn't mean that I believe

in the system, I do have to grade the
students and sometime I give them a bad

grade, but it doesn't mean that I don't
like them, or I don't like the work.

I see the grades and I see the, those
boxes that the stupid box that we

have to tick in the administration.

It's just the rat race in which we are,
but I really make a difference between

my judgment and the facts and the
grades and the quality of the people.

Ollie Palmer: It's, yeah.

It's funny to say that because as a
teacher as well, my least favorite part

of teaching, besides administration...

the process of grading people, I
think, unless you can be super clear

and transparent about the way that
process works and really let people

know what the reasons and the rationale
and this kind of thing are, then it

just becomes this arbitrary thing.

And I hate taking something where you have
seen somebody's very personal experience.

There's quite a level of intimacy with
teaching where you have to bear a huge

amount of vulnerability, to the students,
and then to you in terms of, starting

out with a new idea, new thing, and
not knowing if it's gonna be good or how

it's gonna be taken, there's a lot of
trust involved, and then see that entire

process go through and go, yeah, that was
a seven or a 6.3 or something like that.

It just feels so arbitrary.



Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah, totally.

And and if you think about this
designer or like painter, sculptor,

like fine artist, at least we are
one step removed from the judgment.

But think about like dancers, think
about singers, like people judge

their face, people, judge the shape
of their butts, the shape of the, the

quality of their skin, the color of
their skin, whether they look tired...

it's like a whole different
level of vulnerability.

Like they're literally
putting themselves out.

I have so much respect for dancers.

There's so much judgment and people
don't realize the courage that is

required because what they do, it
doesn't have a set market value.

If I'm a physical construction worker
and I work let's say building roofs

there is a market value for roof.

There's a, the cost of hours, et cetera.

It's clear.

If you dance.

, if you dance on a stage, people
are gonna be like, should I pay

10, 10 euros, 10 or 10 pounds?

Or no, this is only worth five pounds.

Like it's completely arbitrary.

And so your whole life hangs on
completely subjective judgment.

And so what I found exciting as well
about teaching design is that it's in

between you doing products, for example,
that can leave both in the world of

functionality, but also of emotion.

So you it's a gray area, which
is most fascinating to me.

Ollie Palmer: ONe of the things I
found really surprising I did a project

with the Opera in Paris and spent a
long time working with dancers to do

a bit of tech development and stuff.

But , I was really surprised
because I had assumed, and this is

completely my ignorance, but I'd
assumed that with dancing, there was

a huge degree of freedom in terms
of what you what you're able to do.

And actually there was the
opposite of that in terms of what

the dancers were allowed to do.

The choreographers had complete power in
terms of what happens, and the dancers

get given a spreadsheet every week, which
tells 'em exactly where they're gonna

be in 15 minute blocks, and so you sign
up, like you, you join that company at

age, like 15 to 18, something like that.

And you're there till I think it's 42.

And every single week, you know
exactly where you're gonna be,

everything is predetermined.

And they, the way they move is
incredible, their dedication

to the craft is amazing...

the, the results that you see in terms
of the choreography is phenomenal,

but it's a completely different level
of, a completely different set of

judgements than you have as a lay person
going to watch something at the opera.

Cesar Jung Harada: Yes.


I have so much admiration for them.

And also the fact that they're breaking
the bodies, like they're literally

breaking their bodies to, to please
the eye, and they have to do repeatedly

for like years on end and people treat
them like consumables, like it's so

it's such a cruel industry as well.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I'm lucky that I never have to
display that level of people judging

my body, my, anything like that.

A lot of it is that I'm a white, British
guy who has bumbled his way through

whatever else and got to whatever stage
with a lot of those privileges in mind,

and also not going into something where I
actually put myself out in that respect.

But maybe I can ask you a
little bit more about teaching.

I guess you work with lots of different
age groups, do you have any particular

favorite exercise to do with students?

Cesar Jung Harada: Yes, I do.

I think my really, my favorite is
to take them like on field trips.

I think it's the best because they
also have a great time and they are

learning something like firsthand,
like last field trip, unfortunately,

because of COVID was like, it was like
six months ago because we had very few

COVID case in Hong Kong, thankfully.

And I took my students to
volunteer, to rebuild a oyster reef.

And it was really fun.

Like the students, it's always contrasted.

You have a, we have.

15 or 20, 20 years old people.

And some of them are gonna be like
slackers, you're gonna have some of

them that are working super hard.

And then you're gonna see some
people are like, literally like

trying to hide or to not work.

And then you are gonna have the people
like proactively trying to like a optimize

ways to work more efficiently together.

Then you can have the cheerleaders...

like without saying anything,
there's so much stuff happening.

And it's just so much fun just to see them
and their behavior and how they are in

the class versus like how they're outside.

But the most important is that
when it's purposeful, when you go

out there to do something useful,
like an environmental restoration

project, it's also super motivating.

Like, you're doing something
useful for environment.

You're like working together, physical,
some people are gonna get tired,

they're gonna get cut, and bleed.

And like there's adventure, there's
something there and that's phenomenal.

I think for, in terms of learning,

Ollie Palmer: Do you think there's
something there as well to do with

the lack of the success criteria
that are otherwise placed on you?

Because if you could be a complete
slacker on the field trip, but

you could do really well in
exams or something like that.

Or you could be completely opposite that.

It seems like what you're saying
is you get the truth from a person

by doing that kind of activity.

Cesar Jung Harada: I think you get the
truth of a person, like when you do

that for a very long time, when you do
something hard for a very long time.

Hong Kong students they tend to
be very like studio based and work

super long hours in the studio.

So I don't think I'll ever get to see
my student because in their true nature,

because I'm not in the studio at 3:00
AM when they're working on the deadline.

So I get to see the students
when they're presenting.

Sometime I can tell if they make
a good show and they haven't done

much work it's is visible sometime.

But I would say most of the time I see
that they're working really hard, but

they don't have the confidence to to
present their work in a way that reflects

of how hard they work and how deserving
they are of recognition and praise.

I would say the hardest thing and
maybe the other thing that is most

gratifying, for me is the thing
that they do when I'm not watching.

So for example, like if
the students are doing.

If they learn something
from the course, let's say.

I took the example of the oyster reef
restoration, for example, and then,

one year or two years later, after
the course they go volunteer another

weekend on their own on restoring the
oyster reef or they they respond to

a government competition, to develop
better system, to protect the shorelines.

Let's say if they're landscape
architect or engineers.

And they stay interested in those
topics and they or, or in the approach.

And they stay true to the
things they've learned.

And in which they put their hearts,
for me, this is like, the most

beautiful thing that can happen, when
they push it further than what you

taught them and they take it, they
take ownership and they transform

what you learn outside of the class.

That's the greatest thing I think for me.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I guess like a sustainability of practice
that you yeah you're able to help them

find the thing that they carry on doing

Cesar Jung Harada: and that
they're passionate about themself.


Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

Is is there anything that you do to warm
up to some sort of creative practice?

For example I quite often find myself,
if I'm at a complete block and I think

I go over the same problem again and
again, just going for a walk or just doing

some free writing or anything like that,
really, I dunno what it is about those

things, but they really get me going.

Is there anything like that, that
you have that gets you fired up and

excited, or you just always on?!

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah.

I wish no, I'm human too.

I would say that for me, the,
because I'm all about like

environmental stuff, spending time
in nature is the thing for me.

But I'm trying to do that
with the students as well.

Maybe it's not very healthy emotionally,
but a lot of my energy comes from the

suffering, the, from the pain of, of
seeing the environment being destroyed.

So sometime if I don't feel I have the
energy anymore to do something for,

let's say plastic pollution, take a walk
on a beach, you're gonna see plastic.

That's gonna give you the energy
again, to get back to work,

because the problem is still there.

If you're working on a social.

On social issues.

Again, you take a walk and
you're gonna see homeless people.

And and then, I might stop and,
buy a drink or buy a snack and

just sit down in the street.

And, from the corner of my eyes, just
looking at them and just trying to

see like the humanity are they happy?

Are they are they sad?

Are they interacting with each other?

Do I feel the trust in how
they interact with each other?

Do I feel the same stress, that
is happening because there's a

war in other country happening or
because you basically connect with

other humans connect with nature.

And I think if you do any sort
of purpose- driven work this is

how you recharge your purpose.

Yeah, for me that's how I get
recharged or get inspired.

Ollie Palmer: How do you develop ideas
with other people and where do you get

feedback on things that you're working on?

Cesar Jung Harada: So the idea with
the other people, actually, what

I was describing first, as a field
trip for me is my primary way.

I try if I can, I don't want
to give any sort of answers.

I try to let the people being
confronted with the problem.

So they fall over the problem.

And so that they bring
new ideas to the table.

I guess like transforming that compassion
into creative empathy also because I

was trained in design thinking, it's
a method, that I codified but then

working with people is It's a very
natural thing for me to do, because I

truly see the value in other people's
creativity and the inputs, whether

because they bring new ideas or because
they criticize the ideas and negative

destructive or constructive critique.

I found all this nourishing and
because I think I've become pretty

resilient as a designer as well.

I am pretty much like ready to take on
any, I feel ready to take on any sort

of like hostile, like I feel totally.


In a very hostile environment as designer,
whether I'm working in a radioactive

environment, I'm actually like in a
dangerous space, like Fukashima area radio

activity, or I go to work like in a inner
city where people actually have weapons.

I am not that I'm looking for those
kind of of environment, but because

I grew up in a lot of this sort of
hostile environment, as a designer, I

feel like it really gives me a special
sort of ability to infiltrate tho those

different places and be very comfortable
in those different environments.

Recently, I was doing a
project for like refugee, for

example in the, in Cox's Bazar.

So there was a master of architecture
studio that I was running.

And because I had some, homeless
experience myself, then the kind

of stuff that they're telling me
about that that we went into discuss

with the Bangladeshi refugee or
the Rohingya refugees, like talking

about like, where do you go to shit?

As a designer, if you never had
this homeless experience, like you

don't even know that's a problem.

But if you had this experience
yourself, then you don't have

a problem talking about it.

There's no shame.

And if you don't have shame,
then the way you talk to people,

without shame, you make them feel
comfortable, they talk to you more.

So like it's vital in my opinion, that
designer have a lot of life experience

so that it can be human, so that they can
relate to other humans who are living as

big diversity of human experience as well.

Being rich, being poor, being isolated,
being betrayed, having your heart

being burned, or being injured, like
whatever, like being sick, like all

this stuff, if you have lived it I think
makes you a better designer and able to

collaborate with other people better.

You basically feel just much more human.

Ollie Palmer: I couldn't
agree with that more.

And I think one of the failures that a
lot of academic systems have, is that the

types of people who end up applying to
architecture schools or to design schools

or things where the outcome is quite
abstract or requires a huge amount of

money to invest in, and I'm thinking of
I used to teach in America, and students

have to pay a crazy amount of money just
to go to the university, so of course

it just puts up barriers to people who
might have really interesting stuff to

say, or to produce, or anything else.

And it's just such a shame that
design doesn't always invite, in

a more inclusive way, people who
have a wider range of experiences.

And that's not to say that if you
don't have a really interesting or

troubled background in some sort of
a way you shouldn't be doing design,

but exactly what you said about having
life experience makes you more human.

Cesar Jung Harada: For example, like
university, I'm not gonna give specific

name, but they are not allowed to give the
students free material for their models.

So it means that if you're given a
brief and you're from a rich family,

and let's say you are model calls for
like inserting a laser projector inside

of it, then you can do it, right,
because you have the money to buy it.

And I've been trying so hard to explain
and the department that it is, not

all the students come with money.

So you have to create a playing level
field where you can enable the student

that don't have money to be enabled
somehow, either through, lending them

equipment, or creating resources for them.

But the response I've had so far is that
it's just not our culture because they

come from elitist school, because they
come from place where they have money.

And because the only way that I
could be I am today is because I

was in the public French school.

And I was, and I had scholarship.

If I didn't have scholarship, there's
no way I could be who I am today.

So I have a lot of empathy that
with the students that don't

have the means to get there.

And I'm really working my ass off
to try to bring those resources

in the hands of the students, so
there's a level playing in field.

Otherwise university is
just another instrument of

society to amplify inequality.

And I don't wanna be part of that.

I don't wanna be part of a mechanism that
just makes rich richer and, and the poor

poorer I believe the education should be
the exact opposite, should be about merit.

But because the leadership in
university is coming from elitist

background, they don't even
understand the relevance of that.

They're just like: "They cannot afford it.

They have to be more resourceful..."

It goes back to the American dream.

If you work hard enough,
you're gonna get it.

They don't understand that, yes,
but there are lots of opportunities

where we can still make it so that
we need to give opportunities.

That's our job as teacher, like is
to give people who have potential

is to develop this potential.

Ollie Palmer: Yes.

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah.

That's been a struggle, but for
example, as a student, you know

that I was living in a van when
I was doing my masters in the UK.

So I was really poor.

I couldn't pay for the train.

So I was a bicycle, and I cycle
from my van every day to school.

And for me, I was proud that I
would be taking the material from

the, rubbish bin from the rich kid.

And I will be making a project better
than the rich kid with their waste.

And for me, it would be like the
ultimate, like middle finger to,

to show I don't need to be rich.

I'm gonna be so good that with what
you throw in the garbage, I'm gonna

make something better than you.

And for me I made a point
to make that happen.

There's a lot of resentment in
the way that I practice, but for

me, it's part of the practice.

Like how do you level the playing field
and give opportunity to people who don't?

That's fundamental for me.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I think that's very clear
the way you describe it.

It's very easy in elitist situations
and I don't wanna say this in terms

of like blaming anybody in any schools
or anything like that, but it's very

easy when you see elitist education
that perpetuates these ideas of

financial means equating to merit.

That if you have the financial
resources to build, like to 3d print

a massive model, then you must be a
good student and that's completely

the opposite to what it actually is.

Actually, yes, skip diving and finding
old materials and reducing waste and this

kind of stuff can yield different results.

If you have a completely blank canvas
and you have a completely just a huge

budget to make stuff, you don't always
make the most interesting stuff.

The most interesting projects come from
being situated in some sort of place, in a

specific location with a specific context.

There's just about no huge band who's
made their best album once they got

rich, it's all that stuff that you
were doing, recording on a borrowed

four track and this kind of thing that

Cesar Jung Harada: that's right.

Ollie Palmer: That's where
the soul comes with it.

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah.

And so as a designer, in, in a
way, it can be very healthy to be

on a restricted budget personally.

Now that I'm working in Hong Kong,
it's a very rich city and but I'm

interested to do an environmental impact.

And so that means that I need to develop
designs and technology that can scale.

And so if I do something that's gonna
satisfy my boss, which is typically gonna

be something using very high technology,
it means that if it breaks in the field,

there's no way they're gonna repair it.

And so that means that the stuff
that I'm gonna develop here

eventually is completely irrelevant
to what I'm actually trying to do.

In a way I have to get out of
the university to do something

that is relevant for society and
then bring it back to university

to learn something and to teach
something useful for the students.

So it's like the in and out going in
and out of academia for me is vital.

To stay relevant as well.

And so that's how I'm trying to
integrate like research and teaching

also for that very reason of the
utility the relevance of the work.

Cause in academia it's it's a bubble.

So I need to make sure that I don't
teach mass how to survive in the

bubble, but outside of it, ideally.

Ollie Palmer: Is there anybody
that you discuss or your teaching

ideas with, or do they just evolve
on their own with the students?

The reason I'm asking is because you have
such a wide background of educational

institutions that you've seen like from
the ones that completely rejected and

then loved you at the beginning, through
to places like the RCA, which really lent

into the things that you were interested
in and let you evolve, but also did

kick back against you, like quite a bit.

Cesar Jung Harada: I'm a
very communicative person.

And so it's whoever's the closest to
me at that moment, so I guess it's

gonna be like oftentimes it's my wife,
I'm discussing, those, like those ideas

in those last few years, I would be
discussing with a bunch of friends.

Some of them are academics.

Some of them work in the industry
or NGOs or something like this.

The people I think I enjoy talking
to the most are the people that

maybe, I don't know so well.

And so that I get to know through
discussing those ideas, because

they're maybe in a related industry or
they may be like the beneficiaries.

So let's say for example if I have
this idea of designing something

for the homeless, if I have a
brief about homelessness, then I

want to talk to a homeless person.

I don't wanna talk about
homelessness architecture for home,

like homeless people to another
architect because they don't know.

Or I don't wanna talk about designing
something for animals, for example, like

designing the enclosure for zoos in zoos,
for example, I then my, I would try to go

on the field to think about this topics.

So I would go into a zoo and think
about like, how can I improve the living

condition of animals in those enclosures?

I'm trying to I'm usually trying
to get close to the subject.

And yeah I also spend a lot of time,
listening to my students, taking their

feedback but also not like relying a
hundred percent of what they're asking me.

I'm also looking do they
actually produce quality?

And more recently I'm spending
more time looking at data as well.

Looking at for example, if we're
using a Wiki, I look at statistics

like who is engaging with the
course, how many hours do they spend?

And the hours spent versus the quality
of the work or, the proportion of hours.

Do this spend in tutorials versus
the hours that spend in the workshop

or in the field, or how much time I
allocate for presentation preparation

versus development of the work.

It's a machine with many
buttons and many knobs.

And then the students are
changing all the time as well.

So it's a constantly evolving
animal, and myself, because I'm a

researcher at heart, like there's
not one way that I'm gonna settled.

I'm always like optimizing
and experimenting.

I don't get bored and I always
try new things as a teacher.

And sometime it works sometime
it doesn't, and I'm constantly

trying to learn and reflect.

I enjoyed, like in the last three
years, I've been repeating for

the first time the same course.

I've been repeating this
architecture studio Floating my

Own Laboratory and every year
I've been running it differently.

And I feel like I've grown a
lot from repetition as well.

At the beginning, I was worrying
me that I was gonna repeat the same

course, but I found that every year,
it's super, super, super different, and

recently I wrote more than a hundred
page report about it, and reflection

of how the course was structured,
and how it changed over time, and the

quality of the output and replicability,
and it's been super interesting.

Repetition is also good.

Ollie Palmer: I can see that.

A lot of the courses that I do are about
trying to find creative unlocking in some

sort of way, creating a set of constraints
that people have to work within, or

react to, and I've really enjoyed running
some of those courses for several years.

In the past, I used to develop a
new course every year and try to

throw in a bunch of new ideas.

And it's just lovely, sometimes
seeing something that looked one

shape last year and is exactly the
same this year, but the students do

something completely different with it.

There's just something satisfying
in being able to take that

helicopter perspective and just
see the difference between things.

Cesar Jung Harada: I also see
it a bit like relationships.

When you do a new course,
every year, it's like dating.

And so it can be exciting because
it's new, but at the same time, you

don't really get to know the person,
isn't very necessarily very deep.

It's you dating, but then, doing a
course repeatedly, changes you as well.

And it's like getting married.

So it's the same topic.

But instead of having a lot of
different partners, you are now

having many different type of
interactions with that same partner.

And so you start to learn your topic
in many new, different angle and

becoming better at it and discovering
the complexity of that person and the

complexity of your topics much better.

Having a, I think having a mix of
class that you repeat and and a

couple of class where you experiment,
I think is a healthy balance.

And then doing research, of course.

So at the same time, as I, at
the beginning, I was saying

that I feel overwhelmed by
all these different aspects.

I do recognize the value of having those
diverse relationship to knowledge and

to to people inside university, outside
of university in research, in writing

and publishing, as well as in teaching.

So I, I do see the value, all of it.

It's just, it is overwhelming.

And there's no end to it.

It's not: you do a job
and you do it very well.

Let's say you are making great
shoes, there's a clear outcome.

You're making a bunch of, you
could always make better shoes.

So it's also endless, but it still
seemed that is like an object at the end.

It's quantifiable.

With teaching.

It's it's a sort of gray area on a
lot of those different disciplines,

so it's, yeah, it's hard.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I guess the best outcome you can
have is that you maintain contact

with students enough that you hear
that they're doing really well.

And the thing that you helped them
to do is the thing that they now

are doing, living and loving.

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah,

Ollie Palmer: But it's also hard to
maintain contact with that many students

once they pass through, because they're
at a very specific stage of their life

when they're your student quite often.

Like being, doing a masters, doing a
undergraduate degree, doing whatever else.

And they also move on with their lives
and go off and get married and, end

up not being in the studio till 3:00
AM every day and this kind of thing.

I wanted to ask a little bit about
the way that you manage your time.

In the beginning you said, "My
name's is Cesar Harada and I do...."

and then you listed about
20 different things.

I know that you are incredibly
busy and I know that you

have a huge amount of energy.

I remember when we were working
together on the Open_Sailing project,

you would be the last person to go
to sleep at about two in the morning.

And then you'd be the first...

I'd wake up and you'd still be typing.

And I've just been thinking, " how
do you manage to, to stay awake

for so long and also stay switched
on, and having new ideas?!"

And all this kind of stuff.

But I also saw in the planning
of this interview, you sent me

a screenshot of your calendar
and it's rammed full of things.

There's so much stuff in there, but
I wonder how you go about scheduling

your time, and give things priority,
and give enough space to be a partner,

and a dad, and all of the other
roles that you have to fulfill...

whilst also.

Running a startup, being a lecturer
doing all the other things that you do.,

Cesar Jung Harada: I think at the
end of the day, it's about the

people you surround yourself with.

I do think that I'm very privileged
that I, that that I've been

able to be part of great teams.

So that even if I'm participating a lot
of different activities, whether it's

teaching there's, there's a whole admin
team, that looks after the building.

And but for example, like when I was
doing certain type of things for example,

running Makerbay, the maker space in the
very first year, it was all consuming.

I was ago only to do that because it was
like just that job was like many jobs

at the same time, like maintaining the
building and the machines and getting the

materials, like managing the orders and
getting new clients and doing research for

the next, project that was so consuming.

But then over time the team at
Makerbay grew with the revenue,

and now I'm able to be at Makerbay
and still run Makerbay limited.

But I also build the foundation
and there's like a whole board of

director that runs the foundation.

Now we have a whole team and
manage to, to raise like, almost

like a million dollar grant.

So they have a job for
the next three years.

And so even if I'm, even if I
suck, they will still have a job!

And even if I get hit by a truck
they will still have a job!

So I feel like it's about creating
a lot of those like systems and then

like maintaining the systems so that
people are happy and that you don't

become a bottleneck for any of the
processes that you set up in place.

And also a lot about trusting.

I feel like I've learned so
much more about being a manager.

I've always hated to
be a manager, honestly.

I hate to control people.

I really want to trust people
and let them do the things.

But I also learned what all this,
all the wrong thing that can happen

when you give too much trust to the
wrong people or they not the wrong

people, but, it was just not the
right time for them or something.


So I say team trusts, then I
would say it's also quality

expectation somehow like lowering...

not lowering, but like accepting some
compromising or accepting that what

you want to have delivered is more
function of what the client wants than

rather that your own too high standard.

I don't know for you, but right.

For me a designer, I think we
tend to be like perfectionist.

Like we want to have certain things,
but when you start to become more like

a business person or like a management
person, then you have to let go of being

like a super anal designer, because
these two things are not compatible.

You can be super anal, and super
like demanding as a designer, but in

terms of business practice, then you
have to let go of a lot of stuff.

And also for me, it's just accepting
the loss , and also managing risk.

So in, in the past, I think I used to take
like everything in, take too high risk.

And now I've learned to to have a
bit of treasury and I've learned to

take measured risk, also because I'm
a father, so I also do not want to

compromise my health and my family.

So I do think that the Cesar that
you knew 10 years ago is, even

though the energy is definitely still
there, but the level of risk I'd be

taking is now super, super different.

And yeah, much more contained if you will.

I try to contain the risk.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I completely empathize with that
point because I think that the

Ollie you knew 10 years ago is
probably [laughter] a different one

to the one that you see today, in
that having a family, having more

responsibilities, "also having financial
responsibilities for teams changes a lot.

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah, totally.

Ollie Palmer: Again, I empathize with
you about the idea of running a team.

My natural inclination is to try to
find the things that people are good

at and trust them to do those things.

But quite often management requires
checking on those things and having

conversations about what did or didn't
go right about this kind of stuff.

And it's , it's really hard
to do that without assuming a

position of moral superiority.

And I don't wanna be that person,
but I don't think I can do stuff

better necessarily a lot of the time.

Cesar Jung Harada: Ideally,
you work with people who do

stuff better than you, right?

Like just the, that's what you want.

You wanna work with people
where you're like, "Oh wow!"

Like you're blown away, but then you don't
wanna show too much that you're blown

away because then they're gonna be like,
"Oh, he's got a really low standard!"

So it's kinda a, it's kinda a balance.

So that, that the that they value
your feedback and it's tricky one but

I feel now phase where I want
spend less time managing people.

So I'm actually, I'm in a phase
where I want to do a little

less of like big team work.

And I want to be a bit working on
myself for the next three years because

I'm also writing a PhD right now.

And so the people I'll be collaborating
with, I think I will wanna keep them

out of my, circle of management.

Like I wanna, I don't wanna have
to manage too many people in

the next three years, hopefully.

But once I like, hopefully get like
full tenure and that I have a really

good technology and a really good
design and it's time to scale it.

I think this is when I'm gonna go back
into like full, like management style.

But now I want to you more like in science
and engineering and design and research.

But yeah, I wanna take like a small break
because in the last 10 years I've been

spending so much time like managing people
and it's not what I enjoyed the most.

I'd say I like collaborating, but
I don't like managing, I don't have

to, I don't want to be responsible
for everything all the time.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I think that's a really
nice way to put it.

I'm looking for the way to, to do
management that is collaborative.

I think that's always the goal when
I'm working with other people, but as

I say, it's I think also with coming
from a design context, quite often

you end up working with people in
collaborative ways that don't imply a

power structure so much because you're
working on sort of like a group project.

There's very rarely training in management
that comes in design programs and in

our programs and this kind of thing.

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah.

Ollie Palmer: And so much of what those
practices involve is really like managing

relationships with people like being a
really good person, a good friend, and all

this kind of stuff, but also finding ways
of non-combatatively giving feedback.

So not saying, oh, your ideas absolutely
terrible, but trying to find ways of

seeing...where improvements could be
made and the way that a lot of design

education is set up, doesn't enable
that to happen in the first place.

Crit systems are awful for they make
you super tough, but you also, you...

the best people at crits are not
necessarily the best people in the world,

Cesar Jung Harada: Yeah.

Ollie Palmer: It's something
that I think doesn't come

naturally within the discipline.

Cesar Jung Harada: It
is toughening for sure.

I do see the utility of this
in a professional world.

Like you said, When you're gonna
have to pitch something to clients,

they, they're not with, receptive
and nice and love your idea.

I think schools are like architecture
school design school that use the

crits as a mechanism for teaching
produce a certain type of designer.

That mechanism produces a certain type of
designer or architecture, or I like, like

what you said, like it's not necessarily
reflective of the quality, but what I feel

is that there are different design schools
and they use different crit styles.

So I feel that as educator, as well,
it's also our job to choose which

institution we wanna take part in.

And as collaborator is also
to influence that process.

I'm actually we just got a grant in the
university of Hong Kong with my, some

of my collaborators to actually make a
study of alternative, to crit culture,

to change that in the university.

The reason is because there's
actually like a high rate of

suicide, or depression with students.

And we recognize that's
like a serious issue.

This is no longer just a
disciplinary how we know it's it's

it's sounds very constructive.

It don't feel good.

No, it's becoming clinical.

It's becoming like a pathological.

So we have to do something about it.

So I'm excited about that research because
I could see that could be a platform

for testing, a lot of other stuff.

As any experiment, a lot of
things can go wrong as well.

So I'm also a little bit, worried
that we may do something that may be

potentially even more harmful, than
crit, trying to resolve the crit problem.

I'm being very honest,

Ollie Palmer: Yeah

Cesar Jung Harada: because we always think
that we're gonna do something better.

But there's, unintended
consequences everywhere.

And it's also logistic thing.

Like I think it's useful for
the student to get feedback

from different professionals.

Personally recently I've been bringing in
people who are not designers to my crits

because I feel like they bring a lot of
common sense and that's oftentimes so much

more valuable than oh, I'm a designer.

And, because I feel that the
judgment that we put on the work

is the eyes of a designer, but
the consumers are not designers.

The sort of constraint that we create
by making a brief is one, but why

does it also have to be on the output?

The output should be judged by
society, not by the designers.

So bring people from society
to, to actually judge the work.

And I feel that would be more fair.

Otherwise we create this sort of
sterile environment where they're

like disconnected and it's like
hydroponic, and there's no taste...or,

I don't know how to metaphoris e
it, but I think you get the idea.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

And I can completely see that.

The course I teach on is
called Situated Design.

And part of the idea of situating is
that you remove this hierarchy that

exists between designers and the rest
of the world, that designers no longer

just sit in their studio and churn out
things in, generic fonts and get super

obsessed with kerning and all this kind
of stuff, but actually engage with the

world and go out and talk to people
and find things and work with others.

But yeah I think involving other people in
the process can only ever make it richer.

And I think that one of the natural
inclinations that designers have is to

say, oh yeah, but that also makes it
more complicated, but because designers

are always after simplification.


But messiness is something that can
really find its way into processes.

I'm not saying everybody should just
go and throw more and more ingredients

into it, but that if there's real
engagement with the world, with people,

with other practices and disciplines,
then there's a richness that comes,

that is group greater than the ability
to make something perfectly square with

the same radius corners or whatever
else that you obsess with in design.

Cesar Jung Harada: Again, it's
producing like different designers.

Like I feel that some designers
are gonna be more working in the

industry as executioners of ideas
or responding to market-led demand.

You're gonna have another type of
designer, that's gonna be like creating

new desires and creating things
that the society doesn't think they

need, or is gonna work with like
extreme users and, exploring places

that have never been explored before.

So I think like all these practice,
in my opinion, know, they are fine.

It is just hopefully the student that
have applied to a school understood

what they were getting into.

And they're happy to be part of this
mythology, but I feel that a lot of the

times the student first this information
is not clearly available or it sometime

misleading or we use like buzz words,
like interdisciplinary and future

thinking and new technology or whatever.

But it doesn't tell about the substance.

It just tells like the objects.

But there was one school of
industrial design called the

L'ENSCI – Les Ateliers St Sabin.

So it's a industrial design
school in, in France.

And they used to select the
student, not on the quality of their

portfolio, but on their potential.

And, they evaluate the students by
observing them working in a team.

So for example, you, instead of
having the typical exam, then it's

about like teamwork and building
stuff with Legos and going outside

and then interacting with people.

And this is how they build the, trying to
judge a, of character of the potential of

somebody instead of their achievements.

And I thought that was fascinating.

And the whole school was
articulated around this new

way of thinking about society.

And there was a fascinating school to,
to be in exchange there because I could

feel like everything was different
because of these sort of different

philosophical choices that they've made.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah, that
sounds really interesting.

It I was waiting for you to say, but
cause but no, it sounds really yeah.

Looking for the best in people.

And I think that fundamentally
design is an optimistic discipline.

I Have hope that most people who go
into design or into sort of creative

practice in whatever way do it because
they want to create something that

makes the world a better place.

And I think if you can start with
trying to make better designers

and see the potential in people,
you've got far greater chances of

making the world a better place.

Cesar Jung Harada: But the truth is
that most people don't really care

about design, except something is
like really horrid and breaks down.

Like most bit buildings are
not designed by architects.

Most designs are just a result
of like industrial designer

optimizing for injection molding.

Except if you live in a
very advanced economy.

But I'm talking about the vast majority
of the human beings in the planet

and not like us: the 1% of the 10%

Recently there was one designer that
told me that people don't really care

when they don't have a choice, but
when they start to have a choice, then

they start to see the differences.

And just by comparing.

So if you ask some what they think
about an object, they don't have

much to say, but if you show them two
objects and you have them, which one

they prefer, they would have so many
things to say because they can compare.

So I think this question of design for
us emerges because we have options,

because we have the social economics and,
the environment in which we, we leave.

But the design that I'm, I feel I'm
most excited about is the design

that transforms the situation.

So it's for people who use that
design to transform their condition

or transform the environment.

And so it's more like a functional
piece of design, if you will.

It's got a social
environmental function to it.

So I don't see myself as a
designer who's gonna design a lot

of like tables and chairs and,
nice shirt and stuff like this.

I don't have a strong
affinity with this actually.

Ollie Palmer: I think this is probably
a nice place to reach conclusion to the

conversation because we're, we've talked
about just about everything I wanted to

talk about, but it's also come back to
how to make the field better, how to make

people's lives better and how to be more
equitable in the way we recruit designers.

So do you have any advice for people who
want to do the kinds of things that you

do today, or people who are just starting
out to teach or starting out in design?

Cesar Jung Harada: I mean this is
not my idea, but you probably heard

about Simon Sinek and his idea of
like infinite game versus limited

game; fin finite game versus infinite
game familiar with the concept.

Ollie Palmer: I don't know this, no.

Cesar Jung Harada: Okay.

So basically the there's an I,
maybe I'm gonna describe it wrong.

Maybe this is my interpretation of
it but there's like a finite game.

So for example, let's say that
you're going to be uh, the

best designers of buttons.

You want to design the
best buttons in the world.

And so you're sort of like on the
treadmill to be number one, but the

designing buttons and being number
one is it's like you benchmark your

success against other people...

but let's say what you're really
interested in is not buttons, but

what you're interested in is to
give a sense of safety for people.

And so then it's not a button necessary
that you're gonna be designing.

You're gonna maybe design a bunch
of buttons, but maybe you're gonna

work on with zippers clips pressures
different type of stitch and folds.

And then what you care about is like,
how do you protect the human body, but

then it can become like more technical.

It can be more about the emotions
about the culture integration.

So it's like you start to have a game that
is much broader because it's not about

a particular item or particular stages.

It's not like something can quantify.

It's something bigger.

And so what I would suggest to people
is that if they get into design, is

that it's okay in the early stage, to
set yourself some very specific goals

so that it can stimulate your growth.

But eventually I believe that
the work of designer personally,

I believe it's deeply political.

And so if you want to grow to the maximum
that that the designer can be, then you

need to sort of have a philosophical or a
political or an ethical dIrection overall.

I'm not saying which
direction it should be.

But what I'm saying is that
eventually you're gonna it's a bit

like mathematicians, for example, or
physicists, like eventually you start

to see patterns of mathematics or
physics in like in the world around you.

And I think the same happens when
you're a designer, especially when

you're a designer, like you start
to see everything becomes design

in your opinion, the same, like a
lot of mathematics material, like

the whole universe is mathematics.

So the whole world is physics.

And I think that, or
personally, that's my view.

If you want to excel in, in the field of
design is to accept that eventually your

world view is gonna be transformed by the
expertise that you would have developed.


it is...

it's vital that you do not
construe your perception of

the world as being the world.

So for example, like some mathematician
become absolutely assholes,

unbearable to be around with because
they would think that everything

is mathematics, and be like there's
not only that way to read the world.

And to keep that sort of open mindedness,
so to have your own ability to see the

world in your own very own way, but also
being open minded enough, to be curious

and and accepting and interested in
acquiring those different perspectives.

And I think that's that in that way you
can engage freely with the discipline.

That is a true discipline, but at same
time, really being open minded and

continue to learn and grow a as a human.

And yeah, so that, that would So my
advice is, to, to love your discipline,

but like really stay curious basically.

And appreciative, of like other people's
perspective ... especially your students.

Especially if you're a teacher
it's so easy to, uh, feel that,

you are reinforced by your practice
and you should be the opposite.

It should be the opposite.

It means that every time you meet a
student, they should poke holes into

your theory because the world changes.

And so if your theory stays the
same or your technique stays the

same, you are failing to adapt.

You are missing, you are
fundamentally missing something.

Ollie Palmer: That is such lovely advice.

I agree with it completely.

And I don't think I could have
summarized it in a better way.

Anyway, thank you so much.

That was such a lovely way to finish.

I think it's such a nice piece of
advice that you can literally take

with you every day, whenever you are
thinking about whatever you doing.

Thank you for listening to
this episode of Hold the Space.

If any of the things we've discussed
are of interest, please do take a look

through the links in the show notes
and its website at www.holdthespace.art

I've tried to link to as many of
the projects and people as possible.

Of course, I probably
have missed a couple.

Many thanks to my guest, for generously
donating time to this episode.

As you know, this is quite a new
podcast and I'm still working out

the best way to make the format work.

If you have any comments or
suggestions, please do send me a note.

I'd love to hear feedback on this.

There are details in the show
notes and on the show website,

again at www.holdthespace.art.

This podcast is made possible by the
Situated Art and Design Research Group

at Caradt, the Centre for Applied
Research in Art, Design and Technology.

Each episode is recorded, edited
and mixed by me, Ollie Palmer.

For more information, including
full transcripts for each episode,

links to relevant work or resources,
please visit the podcast website

at www.holdthespace.art, or click
the link in the podcast notes.

Thank you so much for listening, and
I'll be back with you again soon.