STUDIO SMLSep 05, 2023
Interview with Colin Seah of Ministry of Design
Colin Seah is an architect and artist who seeks to Question, Disturb, and Redefine convention in Ministry of Design – a multi-award-winning architectural, interior design and branding firm. From winning Singapore’s President Design Award twice to being named “Designer of the Year” by International Design Awards USA, Ministry of Design’s timeless projects transcend national boundaries. Come along with us as we uncover the impetus for Ministry of Design’s groundbreaking projects, and also get to know its founder, Colin, a little better.
Interview with Edmund Seet and Kai Yeo of Bureau
Started back in 2009 by Edmund Seet, Yeo Gee Khuy (Kai) and Yasser Bin Suratman, Bureau is a design studio that has been making its creative mark on brand identities, product, editorial and spatial design. Originally called Bureau for the Advancement of Lifestyle and Longevity and Success, or more affectionately, B.A.L.L.S, Bureau has worked on countless projects since its inception. We explore Bureau’s changing rhythms of their artistic direction over the years and how they navigate through relationships in the design industry.
Interview with Alvin Ho and Clara Koh of Atelier HOKO
Alvin Ho and Clara Koh are designers and artists, but also researchers who study the increasing disengagement between people, objects, and space in Atelier HOKO. The duo – who are both business and life partners – have worked on projects all around the world. From having their wearable “INDEX RING” enter the permanent collection of Stedelijk Museum’s Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, to exhibiting “Café CUP”, a drinking laboratory which serves cups rather than drinks at Singapore:InsideOut Bank Gallery in Tokyo, to having their ongoing research publication “Science of the Secondary” join the DESIGN LAB collection at the MAK Museum, Vienna, their projects seek to defamiliarise common phenomena, helping people view them in a new and more curious light. Apart from engaging in projects, Alvin and Clara are also active part-time teachers, giving back to society by developing workshops and curriculum for Singaporean design and art schools like LASALLE, NAFA, and Nanyang Polytechnic. We dive deeper into the motivations behind Atelier HOKO’s unique projects, and also get to know their founders a little better.
Interview with Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin of Foreign Policy
Since Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin founded Foreign Policy in 2007, the globally-acclaimed design and branding agency has been behind some of the most recognisable projects around town in partnership with clients such as Figment and Singapore International Photography Festival. Narrative-making and storytelling defines their work, while a principled local sensitivity provides foundations for their community-minded initiatives such as Design Diplomacy and Brand Guide: Singapore Edition. Good design is intrinsic to good business in their work, creating projects that are not just form, but substance. We trace their local and international roots with the pair, who are partners not only in their creative practice, but in life as well.
Interview with Lim Shing Hui of L Architects
In 2022 Singapore, a relatively unknown young architect Lim Shing Hui of L Architects beat a shortlist of established architects and bigger projects to win one of the two “Design of the Year” awards at the Singapore Institute of Architects Architectural Design Awards 2022 with her modest entry of a kitchen appliance showroom. The world always root for the underdog and it is even more cause for celebration when women make it in the male dominated industries. We are delighted to know that Shing Hui’s phone has indeed been ringing quite a bit after her recent win. So as we are rooting for Shing Hui to create her masterpiece, Kelley Cheng manages to catch the newly crowned winner for a heart-to-heart talk about her journey, her thoughts, her inspirations, her work and her favourite pair of shoes.
Interview with Gideon Kong and Jamie Yeo of gideon-jamie
Starting out from a partitioned space with a modest area of just 9m2, Gideon Kong and Jamie Yeo adapted constraints into an attitude towards graphic design, and adopted temporary measures as sustainable systems. Since beginning their collective practice as gideon-jamie in 2017, the duo has expanded into the realm of publishing (Temporary Press) and conceptualised their current studio (Temporary Unit) as a versatile space for connecting with communities through events. From their background in product design to their inclination towards economical DIY methods, we learn about what shapes their sensibilities and how they collaborate as partners in work, creative practice and life.
Interview with Catherine Loke of Lander Loke Architects
Architect Catherine Loke is not just an architect. While the veteran architect has nearly three decades of experience under her belt, she is also an educator and activist with a transdisciplinary approach towards life. So while Catherine’s experience and achievements in the architecture field speak for themselves – having won many awards – in this interview we shine the spotlight on her work beyond that. Our writer Michelle JN Lim finds out about Catherine’s goals as the Founding President of The Circle for Human Sustainability, how she thinks architects can play a part in our volatile future, and the importance of asking good questions.
Interview with Pann Lim of Kinetic Singapore.
Family and kinfolk. These are anchors for Pann Lim, co-founder of Kinetic Singapore, a local creative agency founded in 2001. With no less than 550 awards to its name, Kinetic was recently ranked 5th as Design Agency of the Year 2022 at the D&AD awards. Pann Lim was also the recipient of the prestigious President*s Design Award “Designer of the Year” in 2013. However, Pann does not over-rate these accolades. He remains grounded and shares some hard truths in running a creative agency for over 20 years, where hard work and humility never lose its value. Our writer Chris Low gets some life and work lessons from Pann Lim.
Interview with Melvin Tan of Currency Studio.
An experience in a curatorial programme during his university days planted the seeds for Melvin Tan to organically grow his own studio. Having designed for major arts institutions and independent creatives, Currency Design is no stranger to Singapore’s arts and culture scene. In between running a design studio and caring for his plants, Melvin’s active role as an arts audience and organiser put him in the sweet spot of collaborating with artists, curators and programmers. We catch up with Melvin over a can of beer to discuss the ebb and flow of tending to his studio, how he navigates the intersection of art and design, and what keeps him going.
Interview with Ker How, Jing Feng & Zhong Yi of Asolidplan
Three friends meeting across different circumstances and situations, all sharing a common vision to set up an architecture design practice—sounds like, Asolidplan. Almost ten years on, the practice has grown in experience and numbers. Their work stretches across residential houses and apartments, F&B and retail shops, hotels and office design. They were awarded the Singapore Good Design 2020 and received an honourable mention for Taiwan Interior New Talent Award in 2021, each member a winner at the 2021 SIDS’s 20 under 45 Awards. The practice is constantly pushing the limits with design and was recently was nominated for ArchDaily Building of the Year 2022. There is no looking back for the three partners in the architecture profession for the long haul, where it is really survival of the fittest, beyond passion and dreams alone.
Interview with Nan Chyuan, Peter, Selwyn & Torrance of Farm
In the Farm that Torrance Goh, Selwyn Low, Peter Sim and Tiah Nan Chyuan built, an organic approach prevails—be it the studio’s evolvement from an arts and design society to a multi-disciplinary design practice, or the expansion to a team of 50 people. As the interests of each director are varied, Farm is many things at once. The three main teams—graphic design, interior design and architecture design—that underpinned the practice have also given rise to Farmacy, a research and experience design arm and a Farm Store. And many things it will continue to be because it keeps the work interesting for the “farmers”, makes learning and creating inspiring, versus a focus of repeating on a typology to gain economies of scale. For that’s when the magic happens.
Interview with Max Tan of MAX.TAN Studio
Max Tan draws inspiration from traditional Asian silhouettes that resonate in Paris, Middle East and Scandinavia. How does he bridge the practicalities of a fashion brand, while pushing forward ideas and concepts of a designer brand? An award winning designer, Max prepares his next season for 2023 while making and crafting theatre costumes for Singapore International Festival of Arts 2022, and all this while teaching the next generation of design students, hungry to make their mark in the fantastical world of fashion.
Interview with Alvin Tan, Jackson Tan & William Chan of PHUNK
Four friends meet at LASALLE College of the Arts in 1994; over the 26 years that have since passed, Alvin Tan, Jackson Tan, Melvin Chee and William Chan built PHUNK, an iconic contemporary art and design collective based in Singapore. With a fervour for pop culture, PHUNK has created ground-breaking multidisciplinary work, representing Singapore on the global stage. Whether one calls PHUNK a collective, a band, or a family, their multifarious achievements speak for themselves – as does their enduring friendship.
Interview with Mike Tay & Eugene Yip of Onlewo
Onlewo designs are personal works of founders, Mike and Eugene. Finding inspiration from Singapore heritage, culture, places, food and architecture, they create storied prints which are expressed onto home, fashion and lifestyle products. The Onlewo journey began in 2015, and by sharing their cultural stories through contemporary renditions of patterns and colors, Onlewo has built a distinctive brand image known for its all-original designs that connect people with beautiful memories, ignite warm-hearted conversations and spark new passions for our Asian heritage.
Interview with Gustavo Maggio & Wendy Chua of Forest & Whale
Forest & Whale, as the name suggests, is a studio that's centred around the love of nature and a sustainability mindset, encompassing the values of its founders Gustavo Maggio and Wendy Chua, a husband and wife team. The studio's work is a multidisciplinary, including spatial and furniture design, as well as bringing circular thinking to products and systems. Elaine Chan speaks to the couple over a long distance coffee, as the duo is based in Berlin at the current moment.
Interview with Jacqueline Yeo & Victor Lee of Plystudio Architects
Jacqueline Yeo and Victor Lee have a soft spot for civic projects that are less commercial in nature but reach a large audience. This may very much have to do with how the husband-and-wife founders of Plystudio Architects consider space – both ubiquitous and egalitarian. A tested methodology of basing an idea of modulated forms that can be aggregated and scaled up has allowed this small firm to work beyond perceived limitations of its size, with a body of works that range from a single house to schools and a large-scale housing project. Jacqueline says they would love to work on an overlooked and run-of-the-mill structure, which conventionally wouldn’t require an architect to design. Perhaps a bus-stop.
Interview with Ryan Tan & Shermeen Tan of OuterEdit
OuterEdit, do they just design t-shirts? Or are they Christmas tree designers? What started in 2011 as a graphic t-shirt design online company, has since morphed into a creative agency, with international brands Beam Suntory, Formula1 Grand Prix, in its portfolio. Not forgetting its roots here at home in Singapore, OuterEdit has also impressed us with its alternative sense on branding for local communities in projects such as Street of Clans, organised by Design Singapore, the Arts House takeover project: Passion made Possible, XPLR, the world of esports, and familiar names like OCBC and NTUC. We speak to our guests Ryan Tan and his wife Shermeen, and gain some insight into the enigmatic world of strategic branding.
Interview with Ho Weng Hin & Tan Kar Lin of Studio Lapis
Studio Lapis has been a consummate storyteller of heritage and the historical past since it was established in 2009. As an architectural conservation specialist consultancy, husband-and-wife founders Ho Weng Hin and Tan Kar Lin peel away layer by layer of heritage structures to unravel the rich and colourful histories buried within. There are always many ways to tell a story. And to recreate the lost tales, Studio Lapis does not only apply multi-disciplinary knowledge, but also creativity and imagination, that persuades towards calls for preserving heritage. The path in conservation isn’t always easy but “there’s something reformative and quite existential”, says the couple, when dilapidated buildings are restored and given a new lease of life for the future generations.
Interview with Timo Wong & Priscilla Lui of Studio JuJu
Husband-and-wife duo Timo Wong and Priscilla Lui at Studio Juju stumbled upon “juju” – a Japanese formal term – in their search for a name that reflects the concept of give and take, the foundation on which their partnership was built upon. They later found out that “juju” refers to a totem in the West African culture, as well as a trick that one performs to make a child happy according to their Finnish friends. Like its namesake, Timo and Priscilla strive to always inject freshness into Studio Juju’s works, to bring an optimistic and emotional connection to the audience. Progressive design thinking has led to international awards like Designers of the Future by Design Miami in 2011, and a President’s Design Award in 2014, as well as enduring designs like the Rabbit & the Tortoise Collection, and artworks such as the pair of sculptures Big Round and Tall Long in the Tampines Downtown Line MRT station. The pair hopes that how they function as a studio would encourage younger people/studios to find their own unique ways that will in turn, evolve design.
Interview with Voon Wong of Viewport Studio
One year shy of 60, London-based architect Voon Wong of Viewport Studio, shares intimate details of his long journey from his student days studying at the Architectural Association, to working for Zaha Hadid, working in an era without computers or internet, evolution of his studio from Voon Wong Architects to VW+BS to the current Viewport Studio, keeping calm and carrying on through a few financial crises, his design of the Virgin Galactic Spaceport, what the Singapore design identity means, and unexpectedly scoring a client through his Instagram travel “snaps”.
Interview with Pan Yi Cheng of Produce
Pan Yi Cheng’s propensity to search for the existential crisis – and even looks at himself from that lens – is the essence and genesis of Produce, the design studio and prototyping workshop he founded in 2013. The design studio’s claim to fame is its award-winning plywood pavilions for Xtra’s Herman Miller shop-in-shop. The first version won the Best Retail Building award at the World Architecture Festival of 2012 and the second pavilion was named World Interior of the Year at the Festival of Interiors in 2017. Produce’s body of works also include designs for the Wild Rocket and Kki restaurants, as well as landed properties. Having started with “very, very, very small objects” and seen how small parts fit together into the bigger whole, Yi Cheng says they are now ready for bigger projects like master planning and urban design. Yi Cheng graduated with honours at the Architectural Association in London in 2006 and accumulated years of experience in the field of architecture and academia working with renown international firms like Arup Advanced Geometry Unit, TP Bennett, Serie Architects and UNStudio before moving back to Singapore to set up shop in 2010.
Interview with Thomas Wee of Maison Thomas Wee
Pioneer Singapore fashion designer Thomas Wee is something of a legend in the local fashion design industry. He first blazed onto the scene in 1978 after emerging a finalist in the inaugural Young Fashion Designer Contest organised by Her World magazine, and was swiftly named one of “The Magnificent Seven” designers of Singapore thereafter. Over the next four decades, his dedication towards impeccable tailoring and innovating the classics gained him a loyal following among those in pursuit of sharp style and elegant glamour. In this interview, we pick his brains about the challenges of the fashion business, the importance of good taste, and the DNA of the Thomas Wee brand.
Interview with Jonathan Yuen of Roots
Founded in 2011, the branding and creative design company, Roots was started by Jonathan Yuen with the goal of returning to the basics of good design. As the principal designer of a small company, hear about what growth and success means to him, and his opinions on where the industry is headed.
Interview with Cherin Tan of LAANK
If you have been to Violet Oon’s kitchen at National Art Gallery before, and wondered who is the designer behind the exquisite design, it is actually done by a relatively young designer in her 30s, Cherin Tan of Laank Studio. Laank is a 8-year-old studio that has done some remarkable interior works focused on human-centric spaces. Kelley Cheng speaks with Cherin Tan on her design-in pajamas-from-the-bedroom one-woman-show beginning to how she overcome teething problems to build her studio of 12 today.
Interview with Gin Lee & Tamir Niv of Ginlee Studios
After working with global fashion brands in London and Shanghai, Gin Lee realised a fundamental flaw in the industry, something which called for a shift towards more sustainable practices. With her training in womenswear design, she decided to take things into her own hands; and in 2011 her label Ginlee Studio was born. Beginning their journey in Israel, Gin and her partner Tamir have since established their brand in Singapore at their Great World City boutique. Translating their experiences, cultures, and beliefs into unique silhouettes and fabrics, Gin and Tamir continue to challenge consumer and industry practices by making their own culture of slow fashion.
Interview with Nathan Yong of Nathan Yong Design
Founder of Nathan Yong Design and one-half of the partnership at Grafunkt, a successful lifestyle and furniture store, Nathan Yong is one of the most prolific and successful product and furniture designers in Singapore. He shares with Kelley Cheng his carefree childhood by the sea, his up and down journey as a designer, entrepreneur and artist, his views of an ideal education in product design, the secrets of his success and why his pet beagle is named Jaeger.
Interview with Larry Peh of &Larry
Trials and tribulations have made Larry Peh, of &Larry, the man he is today. With his fair share of rough beginnings and difficult times, the simple goal of doing good with design and the driving force to succeed eventually got him named Designer of the Year, at 2014’s President*s Design Award. With the belief that in a business for the people, good design should fade into the background. &Larry has made a solid reputation in the local design scene.
Interview with Randy Chan of Zarch Collaboratives
With a fairly young design tradition, it was only in recent years that more design studios have become multi-disciplinary. But Randy Chan of Zarch Collaboratives has always embraced the interconnected relationship between art, architecture and design. It was when he joined the art collective, Plastique Kinetic Worms, that he fully realised the potential of a collaborative approach. Being involved in curation, architecture, and art installation, Zarch Collaboratives deconstructs the traditional rules of genre and approach, demonstrating an innovative vision of what design can be.
Interview with Chang Yong Ter of Chang Architects
Chang Yong Ter founded Chang Architects in 2000, on the cusp of the new millennium. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, first winning the URA 20 Under 45 award in 2004, and a multitude of others since then. 17 years have passed since then, but Yong Ter’s passion for design continues to burn as brightly as ever. More recently, Yong Ter and his wife founded the Wondrous Light Children House, an activity centre for preschool children that focuses on development of the senses, rather than just education. He shares his journey with The Press Room.
Interview with Sim Boon Yang & Calvin Sim of Eco.id
From friends to co-founders of Ecoid, Sim Boon Yang and Calvin Sim have always set their sights far beyond local bounds. Starting from a cramped shophouse basement in Geylang, Ecoid has since expanded its offices to China and Thailand, designing hotels and resorts in some of the most unique destinations around the world. Specializing in hospitality, Ecoid has left its footprint in countries like India, Kazakhstan, the UAE, and Zanzibar. It is from their extensive work overseas that Boon, Calvin and their partner Carol, have found creative inspiration and fulfillment in their work.
Interview with Jessica Wong & Pamela Ting of Scene Shang
An internship in Shanghai has uncovered their love for the Chinese culture, which led to a journey in search of their own cultural roots through design. Jessica Wong and Pamela Ting of Scene Shang share their inspiration and journey in pursuit of a new chinoiserie, one with a small sprinkling of Singaporean-ness.
Interview with Gabriel Tan of Gabriel Tan Studio
In a small country like Singapore where the local market is small, being a furniture designer is just as difficult as being a fashion designer - it is hard to make it abroad and it is hard to sell just in Singapore.