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A factory building forged with a concern for human experience; tales of products, people and new connections from the Salone del Mobile 2016; perspectives on design in Asia; and much more in our latest issue.


To humanise should perhaps be considered a core part of the work of the architect or designer. To make a structure or space that will be occupied by people, or a product that will be used by them, is – at its very heart – to consider their needs, comfort and engagement. Yet it has somehow become strangely nourishing to encounter a project or product that ‘humanises’ experience by confronting the often pervasive and dehumanising pressures of modern efficiency.

Wah Son Engineering’s factory and office in Seletar Aerospace Park, designed by ipli Architects. Photo by Fabian Ong (courtesy of ipli Architects)

Such was our experience of the Wah Son Engineering factory and office designed by ipli Architects in Seletar Aerospace Park – our cover story this issue. Challenging the blank and blanketing hangar typology, ipli created a trio of finely perforated blocks that celebrate light, shadow and sky. Here, the feeling had by staff when occupying the space was given equal consideration as the more traditional functional requirements. The result is uplifting – to the point that real estate agents have placed requests with the owner to rent out some of the office spaces to religious groups on weekends.

The balcony of an apartment at residential development 1919, designed by Park + Associates. Photo by Edward Hendricks (courtesy of Park + Associates)

A different approach to humanisation can be detected in the housing development 1919 designed by Park + Associates. The architects explored the forms of the past – in terms of aesthetic and level of detail – to connect with potential buyers and residents via a comforting scale and a sense of familiarity. The design was a reaction, says Park + Associates Director Christina Thean, to the numerous faceless modern glass buildings that have been springing up in Singapore. The result in this case was ultimate success for the developer; the units sold out within one weekend.

Patricia Urquiola in Milan at the Salone del Mobile 2016, sitting on her new sofa Belt within the Moroso stand (which she also designed). Photo by Narelle Yabuka

In this issue we also share our experience of the annual Salone del Mobile in Milan, which we attended in April. Our conversations with world-leading designers (including Patricia Urquiola and Konstantin Grcic) about their experiences of the fair touched on the issue of human behaviour in the design industry, and highlighted a side of the fair that is relatively hidden in comparison with the boldly designed stands and the frenzy around the latest products: the at-times prickly interaction between designers and the media. A greater dose of humanity is needed, perhaps, on this competitive global stage.

Co-curator Tim Power with Priscilla Lui and Timo Wong of Studio Juju at the exhibition Alamak! Design in Asia (at La Triennale di Milano) in April. Photo by Narelle Yabuka

Three chairs by Studio Juju, titled The Unfamiliar, at the exhibition Alamak! Design in Asia. Photo © Alessando Brasile (courtesy of Alamak Project)

Conversely, we found a great deal of positivity about the potentials of relationships within the design industry at La Triennale di Milano, where the work of twelve designers from Asia (including Singapore’s Studio Juju and P.C. Ee) was presented in the exhibition Alamak! Design in Asia. This issue’s ‘In Conversation’ feature pairs Tim Power, co-curator (with Yoichi Nakamuta of Industry+), with Timo Wong and Priscilla Lui of Studio Juju to discuss the preparation and impact of the exhibition. The conversation concluded with an agreement on the importance of the relationships between designers, and how the new regional network fostered by participation in the Alamak! show may well help to shift the focus of the world’s design industry even more strongly from the West to the East.

The Directors of CSYA, Philip Yong (left) and Chan Sau Yan Sonny (right) outside their studio. Photo by Justin Loh

This issue’s ‘Portfolio’ feature looks at the process-driven architecture of CSYA, and the potential of an inventive approach to the brief. Says Director Philip Yong, “Architects are not plastic surgeons. When you go to a plastic surgeon, you want to know the exact nose and eye you will be getting. But when you go to an architect, it’s ok not to know.” Adds Director Chan Sau Yan Sonny, “[We] don’t really know what the end is until we finish. It’s a form of discovery.” We track their work and its impact – and in the process, glance back to some of Chan’s earlier work with Kumpulan Akitek.

The entrance to the Katamama hotel in Bali. Architecture by Andra Matin. Photo by Martin Westlake (courtesy of PTT Family)

Aesop store at KLCC Kuala Lumpur, designed by Russell & George. Photo by FunkyDali Photography (courtesy of Aesop)

Other features in issue 80 look at Bali’s new Katamama hotel designed by Andra Matin, Takenouchi Webb and PTT Family – a building composed of more than 1.5 million handmade bricks; two of Russell & George’s latest retail spaces for Aesop; sculptural houses by K2LD Architects, as well as Pencil Office and AKDA Architects; a perspective-bending office for an IT company by Space Matrix; and Jaime Hayon’s discipline-mixing approach to creativity.

The Hut House – a residential extension project by Pencil Office and AKDA Architects. Photo by Béton Brut (courtesy of Pencil Office)

We also report on Singapore Design Week, paying particular attention to the DesignSingapore Council’s Design 2025 master plan of strategies to embed design thinking and processes in business and public life here. The report envisages a Singapore where people-centred experiences will abound. As a number of the projects in this issue illustrate so beautifully, we are on our way to that future.

Note by Editor Narelle Yabuka.

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