A professional resource for the design curious

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Colin Seah: The Year Ahead

Ministry of Design had an eventful 2012 with an impressive range of projects in Singapore and beyond. Its Director of Design Colin Seah reflects on the past year, and tells us what we can expect from the award-winning studio in 2013.

Colin Seah: The Year Ahead


April 16th, 2013

By all accounts, 2012 was a fruitful year for Ministry of Design (MOD). Tell us what kept you busy.

We unveiled a number of new projects, including an art gallery (FOST Gallery), two retail outlets (phase 1 of Tangs and Durasafe), two show galleries (UOL Edge Gallery and Vanke Triple V Gallery), and a boutique hotel in Penang (Macalister Mansion). We also worked on a masterplan project (in Qingdao for Vanke), an architecture project (Guangzhou Knowledge City for Ascendas), and a resort in Goa.

vanke triple v gallery

Vanke Triple V Gallery, Tianjin, China

In addition, we had a great time at the World Architecture Festival, judging as well as presenting our work.

durasoft singapore mod shopfront

durasoft singapore mod

Durasafe, Singapore

Currently, we are continuing our work in Qingdao for Vanke. It’s our largest masterplan-architecture project, a mixed-use development 150,000sqm in size. What’s special is that we won the commission via an invited competition in June 2012, and the client really liked our strong rational planning, plus they commissioned us to also design the landscape and interior aspects, so it’s really multi-disciplinary on a large scale. This should be completed in 2015.

FOST Gallery Singapore interior

FOST Gallery Singapore MOD

FOST Gallery, Singapore

The FOST Gallery is MOD’s first art gallery project. Were there any unique challenges?

We started on a blank sheet by asking ourselves what the essential purpose of a gallery space was, and developed our concept from there. We discovered that when distilled to its essence, a gallery needs to provide space that can be constantly curated and re-curated; with the hand of the designer at once present but simultaneously rendered almost invisible. This balance was very challenging to achieve and was so different from the majority of our projects where the mark of the designer is intentionally pronounced and almost dictatorial.

mod barcode office ministry of design singapore

mod barcode office ministry of design

MOD’s Offices, Singapore (for more on this project visit IndesignLive.Asia)

You also have a new office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Can you describe it? Is it similar in concept to your award-winning Singapore office?

The Kuala Lumpur office tests some key ideas we have on workplace design (interaction and non-hierarchical space) but in a different way. It is more edgy and uses fabric walls to delineate space.

Macalister Mansion Penang Malaysia reception

Macalister Mansion Reception, Penang, Malaysia

What prompted the decision to set up an office in Malaysia?

Malaysia in a way has always been related to Singapore. Geographically, it is our hinterland (with Johor Bahru’s development especially) and culturally, we share a similar DNA. We have always wanted to explore working there and we feel that the time is ripe to enter this market. After a decade or two of strong development, Malaysia is entering its next phase where there is a greater appreciation for alternative or unconventional design.

macallister mansion malaysia ministry of design

Macalister Mansion, Penang, Malaysia

In terms of projects, we’ve completed the Macalister Mansion in Penang (the only Malaysian member of the Design Hotel group). It has been very well received internationally and has challenged the local preconceptions of the boutique hotel. On the horizon, we are working on a city hotel, a 200-acre masterplan, and the interiors of a downtown condominium, all in Kuala Lumpur.

COLIN SEAH Macalister Mansion Penang Malaysia

Macalister Mansion, Penang, Malaysia

How would you describe the Malaysian design scene? How does it compare to Singapore?

The scene has really matured especially in the past five years, with more Malaysian designers marching to the beat of their own drum, and finding patrons to support them. I see new projects that celebrate tectonics, craft, and a material honesty in a contemporary way. It’s very refreshing.

Singapore is a different scene from Malaysia. Our size and scarcity of land lead to a different kind of exploration. Perhaps the scene here tends to be more overtly commercially driven, and the explorations follow suit. But these are generalisations at best. It’s difficult to survey and summarise an entire nation’s design state succinctly.

UOL Edge gallery Ministry of Design Singapore

UOL Edge Gallery, Singapore

What else can we expect from MOD this year?

2013 has just started, and there is lots more exciting work to come. We are working on two new show galleries for UOL in Singapore. Then in May, an 8-storey training campus for OCBC Bank will be ready. We are excited about that as we got to redefine learning scenarios and think through how adults learn best. But besides the projects, I endeavour to continue igniting the studio’s creative spark and continue to do what we do best: to question, disturb, and redefine.

Ministry of Design


INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed