teamLab member interview
Collaborate with all kinds of people inside and outside teamLab to create something unprecedented as a team
Takuma Mitani, Art Catalyst (Space Design and Construction Management)
Joined teamLab mid-career
Takuma Mitani, Art Catalyst (Space Design and Construction Management)
Studied architecture at university and interned in retail design for 2 years, then graduated from a U.S. graduate school and worked in an architectural design office for 2.5 years before joining teamLab in 2021 as an art catalyst & taking on overseas front-end duties.

Career Before Joining teamLab

I was working for an American architectural/interior design firm specializing in retail design. When I was considering changing jobs in search of a new challenge, I happened to come across Team Lab's work in New York and learned of its existence. From there, I became interested and participated in the selection process, and after successfully securing a position at teamLab, I returned to Japan.

The work on display in New York that led me to teamLab.
《Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity II, Grand Central Terminal, New York》

From Joining teamLab to the Present

I joined TeamLab as an art catalyst and belong to two teams: the "Space Design and Construction Management Team" and the "Overseas Projects Team. When I first joined, I was mainly in charge of space design work, but six months later I was put in charge of the communication front with partners for overseas projects, and a year later I was put in charge of domestic projects as well.

*Communication front work: Work that serves as a point of contact for communication between teamLab’s internal artwork production team within teamLab and external partners and clients.

Currently, I am doing more design-oriented work that combines space creation and teamLab's work, such as creating entrance signs that serve as the face of teamLab's merchandise store and exhibitions.

In what ways is it different from your previous job?

My approach to spatial design is most different from my previous job. For example, in my previous job, when I decorated a room with pictures, I chose pictures that would fit the room and decorated them in the order of "space -> picture". At teamLab, on the other hand, we take the opposite approach, which is to design the space around the painting, with the painting at the center of the design. Aiming for the "best space for the art experience" was a new perspective for me.

ーDid you learn that perspective right away?
To be honest, I don't think I had that perspective yet for the projects I was involved in right after I joined the company. It wasn't until I started working on large projects that I realized that I needed to change my perspective or this wouldn't work.
At that time, I was under the assumption that I was supposed to come up with the "optimal solution" based on the knowledge I had accumulated from my previous experience. Because of this, I was unable to propose new methods, and I was also worried about how to proceed with my work.

At that time, as I looked at how the engineers and catalysts around me were proceeding, I realized that we were all creating things that had never been done before, and I changed my mindset to "We can't do this with our current knowledge, but let's find a way to do it and test it. And at teamLab, I also changed my mindset to "we are going to create something new every time.

Meeting with members

After that, when I received ideas from the members, I was able to move them in a realistic direction, involving various people.

I think it is extremely important to build a good team in order to create a good product. I feel that catalyst work is difficult, but I also find it rewarding,
I feel that I am the only one who can do it.

What is your most memorable project?

It is the "teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka," an open-air museum at night permanently installed in the Nagai Botanical Garden in Osaka. The work is now the main visual, but in fact the completed form was suddenly changed two months before it was to be opened to the public.

Sculptures of Dissipating Birds in the Wind" on permanent display at the Nagai Botanical Garden (Osaka Prefecture)

"Sculptures of Dissipating Birds in the Wind" on permanent display at the Nagai Botanical Garden (Osaka Prefecture)

That huge work was created only in two months! Can you tell us more about how your team managed to complete it?
This work is a huge group of sculptures that continuously depict the energy that birds actually give to the surrounding environment as they fly around. Our team's mission was to make the sculpture group look like a realistic geological formation during the day, while creating the best conditions for the work to be painted at night.

Specifically, we conducted a verification in the office to check how the walls would look beforehand

From left to right: Verification in the office.
Before construction → During construction → After construction

After verification, it was very important to convey the image correctly in advance, since it was the craftsmen who created the "undulation" of the strata directly on the material. we used Adobe Illustrator to create a percentage of the "undulation" and made a small panel as a prototype to convey the finished image.

Actual installation on the work

In my own role, I was entrusted with managing the schedule and cost aspects as well as the quality aspect. For this reason, I stayed in Osaka during the construction and worked with the contractors on site, wearing a helmet.

The process of actually projecting the artwork at night was scheduled to be handled by another team, so I made sure it was in the best condition by then, and when I was able to take over and say, "Please take care of the rest! I felt very relieved when I was able to take over the project.

Now I understand that many people from inside and outside of teamLab worked together to complete this project within a limited time frame!
Were you given this role in this project because of your experience in your previous work?

Yes, I was. I had just joined teamLab at the time, so I was put in charge of a phase where I could fully utilize my previous experience.
In the large-scale project I am currently involved in, I am not only in charge of managing the construction of a part of the work, but I am also in charge of the "overall role" of managing the planning and contractual aspects of the project as well. I believe that the scope of my role at teamLab will expand as I gain more work experience.

What kind of person do you think is suited for this job?

I think someone who can enjoy pressure! I think that people who can enjoy working under pressure are suited for this job, although I think that it is uneasy to proceed in a situation where you don't know what you are doing. Also, since there are many opportunities to communicate with various specialists, I feel that it is important in this job to expand one's range of understanding by researching and experiencing the necessary knowledge and information on one's own.

It sounds like those with curiosity and a desire to learn will have a wider range of activities!
Yes, I think so. Also, there may be many members on the team who can ask questions they don't understand right away and who can communicate in small ways. However, you don't have to be a talker, so don't worry (laughs).

We are looking forward to hearing from you if you enjoy exploring your own interests and likes!