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Marisa Yiu is appointed Executive Director of Design Trust

The architect and co-founder of ESKYIU steps into a role at grant-funding platform Design Trust. She talks to Tamsin Bradshaw about what she hopes to achieve in her new position, and how she juggles work and children.

Marisa Yiu is appointed Executive Director of Design Trust

Pictured above is Marisa Yiu, shown with ESKYIU’s Industrial Forest. Image courtesy of ESKYIU

For seven years, Marisa Yiu has been on the board of Design Trust, and now she steps into a new, bigger role as its Executive Director. Yiu is a Founding Partner at multidisciplinary architecture studio ESKYIU, alongside Eric Schuldenfrei, as well as being involved with a number of other design initiatives (including acting as an ambassador for Hong Kong Indesign 2015). Having spent time in New York in her early days as a designer, she was exposed to foundations and organisations that provide grants and support to the design industry. “Why not have something like this in Hong Kong, and in our region?” asks Yiu.

It was this line of questioning that led Yiu and a band of her fellows working with Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design to establish Design Trust in 2014, a non-profit, grant-funding platform that focuses “deeply on design excellence and the process of design,” says Yiu, by supporting meaningful, creative projects in and around the region. Here, Yiu fills us in on what’s on the cards for Design Trust.

ESKYIU, Design Trust, Ambassadors of Design
Marisa Yiu, the new Executive Director at Design Trust

Congratulations on your new role as Executive Director of Design Trust. What will it involve?

Thanks so much. The role is a super interesting one, as it combines so many of my interests in creating cultural projects, bringing various communities together, advancing discussions on contemporary design and elevating the positive role design can play. Besides strategic planning as a not-for-profit registered charity in Hong Kong, I will be working closely with my board and advisory committees to develop new partnerships and garner support to build a stronger foundation for the design community, cultural landscape in Hong Kong and the PRD. And it is through funding of meaningful projects that we hope to stimulate richer dialogues, foster a culture of experimentation and generate new ideas.

What excites you the most about this new opportunity?

In Hong Kong and in our region, there aren’t any independent platforms that offer support and funding for projects, and at the same time, that actively advocate building meaningful and critical research and content. Our organisation is actually hard to define in the traditional sense, but I see it as an important connector to not only disciples and fields of design, but also to other networks, foundations and institutions, in order to advance research. And as a way of providing opportunities for scholars and practitioners to explore work in a deeper and more rigorous manner! It’s also about making the invisible visible to the larger public, in terms of shaping possibilities about the way design interacts with and adds positively to our society and public realm.

Design Trust
Elaine Ng Yan Ling, multimedia artist and recipient of a 2015 grant from Design Trust to work on UN/FOLD: A Stitch in Time

What’s your vision for Design Trust in the future? What are some of the new initiatives you have planned to highlight the design process and raise awareness?

I’m currently planning a new Flagship Programme that will be an integrated, yearlong project/platform/studio concept. It will highlight the process of design and generate more awareness of multidisciplinary approaches to public space, design engagement and issues relevant to the context of Hong Kong and Shenzhen sites. Design Trust is rooted in Hong Kong and the PRD, but we are not limited by our territories and borders. We hope and aim to create dialogue and projects that have local meaning and global reach.

It’s also a way to look at shared expertise and take risks in experimenting and finding alternatives to the status quo. And, ultimately, to bring various international and local communities together to interact and create a series of prototypes.

Design Trust
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) Shekou Gallery received a grant from Design Trust in 2015, for its project Unidentified Acts of Design

Aside from grants, how can we elevate the positive role of design in Hong Kong and the PRD region? How can we make design more accessible to everyone?

Design Trust is content focused. ‘Design’ is often misunderstood as being only for the privileged, seen as an embellishment or as a service, or as a luxury product connected with the commercial sector. ‘Design’ is, however, very much part of our everyday. We see the need for better and ergonomically well-designed public spaces. We are inspired by how the process of designing new technologies can reduce waste and impact on our environment. We are intrigued by design scholars who research the history of urban form to allow us to better understand the rapid needs of the future of cities. The processes required to achieve ‘good’, positive design outcomes require rigorous methods, insightful design thinking and unique approaches. Through these projects, we envision that a richer dialogue could be fostered; one in which a culture of experimentation, new ideas and innovative possibilities can build a stronger future.

Marisa Yiu, Eric Schuldenfrei
Linear Landscapes, a project by ESKYIU. Image courtesy of ESKYIU

How do you balance motherhood and your work – especially now that you’ve taken on this new role for Design Trust?

It’s not easy! I find myself constantly on the move, thinking and connecting at work, and balancing and being as efficient as possible with meetings. And it’s a balancing act keeping me alive. I love every aspect of motherhood and professional life. It’s very exhilarating and addictive – I feel like I am constantly building things, people and aspirations!

Design Trust


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