Interview: Dr Colin Okashimo, Landscape Architect & Artist

Sep 22, 2015

150922 Colin profile
“Mono no aware… wabi-sabi… anapanasati”.

Colin Okashimo invokes these ancient practices and philosophies to explain the fount of his personal motivation, as well as his professional impetus as a landscape architect and sculptor.

“I am motivated to research ‘place’ and to find specific and contemporary ways to achieve a meditative experience,” says Colin, who is Japanese by ethnicity, Canadian by birth, and a permanent resident of Singapore for the over 30 years.

His portfolio demonstrates this objective. His landscape design work in private residences, hospitality and social spaces in Singapore and across the region, features “quiet eddies” for contemplation, and are punctuated with original sculptures, also created by Colin.

Belle Mare Plage resort, Mauritius: A pathway from the public reception area to the private guestrooms
is shielded by a screen of volcanic stones, and features a shallow pool with tall ceramic cylinders.

Private residence, Singapore: Striated granite detail of the water feature Riverscape,
installed at the entrance of the residence.

In these surroundings, one slides into a placid state of mind. But the insights one receives need not always lead to euphoria. In fact, they may touch upon sadness, even melancholy. “Mono no aware is an appreciation, a respect, for the ephemeral nature of things. The sakura is a perfect example. It is beautiful, but because it doesn’t last, it is even more beautiful, more precious,” says Colin.

Expanding on this state of awareness, he adopts the world view of wabi-sabi. “The eroding nature of materials appears continually in my work,” he says, pointing to an on-going inquiry into the prolonged effects of a piece of washi paper sandwiched between granite stones. “I’m observing, experimenting with tactility, imperfection, the contrast between rough and smooth…”

For an individual and a design practitioner for whom a clear mind is paramount, Colin takes regular jogs, itself a breathing-in-breathing-out anapanasati meditation for him, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. He reads (current title: Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art). He retreats into a pocket of meditative silence. And he makes an annual pilgrimage to Koyasan in Kyoto, which has the largest collection of Buddhist temples in Japan, where he attains “the strongest sense of calm.”

Park Seven condominium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: The podium on the second level features
the site-specific sculpture Listening, twin pear-shaped forms that invite users to lie back and relax.

More about landscape architecture accreditation: