'In Barcelona, Tradition Says Things Must Be Truly Beautiful. Not So in Tel Aviv'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: A design student describes the aesthetic difference between Europe and Israel, and two young karate fighters explain what Shotokan is all about

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Francesco Lucini.
Francesco Lucini.Credit: Meged Gozani

Francesco Lucini, 25, lives in Barcelona, and flying there

Hello, how did you spend your time in Israel?

I came to visit my girlfriend, an Israeli who lives in Tel Aviv. We met in Barcelona – she lived there for a while; now she’s returned because of academic obligations. We are both product designers and both have another year of studies and then we will certainly live together. Now we’re in a long-distance relationship.

How does that work?

We call a lot. I don’t like messaging. I prefer video talks, so I call at night to hear how her day was.

How was it in Israel?

I was born and raised in Italy, in Bologna, and I have a Mediterranean background, so maybe this place looks familiar. The vibe, the heat – it’s not so different from Italy. The food here is very good, too.

Not as good as in Italy.

But the culture is very diverse. And to have many religions living together in the same country is interesting. I was great here, except that it’s all very expensive.

A familiar complaint. How’s the design?

The aesthetic here is different. This is a relatively young country and doesn’t have the weighty background of history and art like in Spain or Italy, but there’s something amusing and attractive, aesthetically. Let’s say, in some neighborhoods people hang their clothes out to dry. That’s a very creative solution for people who didn’t study design.

And have no idea what it is.

In Barcelona, there’s a tradition that things must be truly beautiful at the aesthetic level, and here it looks like it’s more important for things to be functional. I’m not saying that things here can’t be beautiful, but it’s optional, not mandatory.

How did you get from Bologna to Barcelona?

To live in Bologna when you’re young and energetic is a problem; it’s a city of 350,000 and there’s something provincial about it. So I left after high school. At first for California, where life was laid-back, but it’s a 20-hour flight from home and I missed the sort of essence you have in Europe. In the end I got to Barcelona, which is just four hours from Bologna.

Is it fun in Barcelona?

It’s a city where people have been living on art and for art for hundreds of years, and it’s a big city, but it’s not all roses. The economic situation there isn’t so great. But for the time being, I’m planning to stay, unless I get an interesting job offer.

Is it hard for young people to get into the profession?

Actually, there are opportunities in my field. Besides that, large companies are looking for people who think outside the box. A company that wants a subversive concept won’t take someone who’s been in the industry 20 years, but someone from another field of design. The truth is I already have an interesting job.

Let’s hear.

I’m designing for a startup, we’re going to launch in November, at Design Week in Dubai. It’s a big project, dealing with water filters for home use. Because we haven’t launched the product yet, I can’t tell you anything, other than that it’s nice to work on a team. I’m not into working alone.

Water filters? Doesn’t sound very sexy.

I generally like to deal with the aesthetics of objects, but I don’t want to design things that no one needs, and here there was an interesting engineering challenge. Of course, there’s work that’s more conceptual and ideological. And the truth is, some of the work is becoming more relevant.


Because we are entering an industrial revolution and things are changing fast. For example, your pen or camera are objects that in my opinion are part of the past.

What will the future look like?

Not the way things look today. We’ll be dealing with objects that may not exist yet. I think what will happen is that computers will actually lead us toward design that is more and more organic. Think of a flower – how beautiful it is and how geometric, and how it catches the eye. After all, it’s not designed by a human, a human being couldn’t imagine anything like that.

Yoav Klausner and Yuval Revah.Credit: Meged Gozani

Yoav Klausner, left, and Yuval Revah, both 14, live in Ramat Gan; arriving from Dublin

Hello, what were you doing in Dublin?

Yoav: We’re coming back from the International Cup competition of JKS – the world organization of Shotokan karate, which comes originally from Japan.

What kind of karate?

Yoav: Shotokan. How do we explain?

Yuval: Kyokushin karate is more about fighting.

It’s all Japanese to me. What happened in the competition?

Yuval: There are two things in Shotokan: katas and sparring. A kata is a few sharp, fast moves. What’s most important in it is posture, stamina.

Yoav: Kata is a sequence of movements invented by the person who founded the organization.

Yuval: Who was at the competition himself.

Yoav: No, that was the person who succeeded him. A guy of 70. It was great to see how he moves fast and kicks.

Yuval: Anyway, there will be Shotokan at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Yoav: They added it to honor the Japanese.

Yuval: That isn’t so interesting.

It is, actually. But how are katas involved in the fighting?

Yoav: Katas are a matter of control and technique.

Yuval: And fast moves.

Yoav: It’s actually like performing.

Yuval: There are two competitors, but no contact between them.

Yoav: Both do the same kata and get points. The winner is whoever does it better.

Aren’t there belts?

Yuval: We both have a 1st Dan black belt.

Yoav: The highest is 9th Dan, which the head of the organization has.

Yuval: I was supposed to test for 2nd Dan this year, but I broke my leg early in the year.

You still look injured.

Yuval: I hurt my finger at the competition against a really bad Italian competitor. They didn’t do an X-ray but said I have a small fracture or a big sprain.

Yoav: We both won group medals.

Yuval: We finished third.

Yoav: That’s a pretty good accomplishment.

What does “group” mean?

Yuval: There are matches where groups of three from each country compete. In the fights themselves, it’s one-on-one, but it wasn’t really fair there.

Yoav: It was a competition of 14- to 16-year-olds, and we’re young. There were guys there who were 1.90 meters [6.2 feet] tall and who looked like rugby players.

Even so, you got third place.

Yoav: At the start, we got the Italian team and beat them.

Yuval: I went first, but I was injured. My hand was open and he gave me a kick.

Yoav: Then the second guy went in. It was 2-0 for the Italians and suddenly they made it 3-0. Afterward we saw the video and the coach filed an appeal.

Yuval: The Italian also committed fouls. Our guy won because of them.

Yoav: Then I went in for the third fight and beat the third Italian 2-1.

Yuval: Meanwhile, I was in the ambulance feeling bad. I was sure we lost, because I’d left during the second fight.

Yoav: Then we went up against the Welsh, and they were tough, too. I went in first, but lost to a big guy, a real buffalo, but it was still an amazing fight. And then Yuval’s replacement went in and he lost, too.

That’s it? And you still got third place?

Yoav: There is no separate competition for third or fourth place; we took it together with the South Africans.

Yuval: Anyway, the Japanese are the best. They came with a small delegation and took first place.

What happened with the katas?

Yoav. We won 4-1 in the katas.

Yuval: Even though I got Heian Yondan, the kata I prayed not to have to do. Besides that, it was really fun just to be there and watch. It’s a different ballgame abroad.

Yoav: We saw a lot of matches, we kept watching the Japanese. You can really learn from that. And it was also great, because it was the first time we got a medal in a major competition.

What did you learn?

Yuval: It was an experience of motivation for me. Two years from now, there’s the world championships in Brazil, and I saw the level you have to get to. The minute we get back, I’m starting a new kata. I’m getting to Brazil.