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Ministry of Design Creates User Experiences at Durasport Flagship in Singapore

Between the Climb zone’s circular display cages is Singapore’s first “Freedom Climber,” a non-motorized climbing wall with a rotating surface upon which customers can test shoes. Photography by CI&A Photography/Edward Hendricks.

 

“How do we make a physical store relevant?”

That’s what the team at Ministry of Design asked themselves, says founder and director Colin Seah, when they got the chance to design a Durasport sporting goods flagship in a new mall in Safdie Architect’s Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore. Their answer? Make the space an experience, make furnishings as high-performance as the products themselves, and—like any good athlete—ensure flexibility.

Read more: Spacemen Creates Edgy Shanghai Store for Online Retailer By

LED tube lights by Unitrio Trading form an “X” logo across the entrance’s stainless-steel gates, featuring a hairline finish, by Sin Leong Ann Metal Supplies. Photography CI&A Photography/Edward Hendricks. 

 

The result is as much an R&D lab as a shop, with 2,000 square feet divided into four zones of activities incorporating state-of-the-art products (co-curated by Ministry of Design) and futuristic displays that include virtual fitting rooms, foot-powered climbing walls, and bicycles ready for a test-pedal. 

A dynamic display at the entrance sets a mannequin within a ring of steel and LED tubes. Photography by CI&A Photography/Edward Hendricks. 

 

“The custom display system required lots of design and prototyping,” Seah says, “but it enables a wide range of products which are different in shape, size, and display requirements. Also, each time Durasport brings in new products, they are able to ‘clip in and clip out’ to configure a new shelving display.” All that, plus new visual identities such as mylar shopping bags, silver foil name cards, and acrylic display tags create a true exercise in retail relevancy.

 Keep scrolling for additional project images >

The Cycling zone includes bikes, helmets, and shoes displayed within a faceted corner of stainless steel. Photography by CI&A Photography/Edward Hendricks.
Custom acrylic LED signage announces the Arctic zone, featuring a “Magic Mirror” that allows customers to photograph themselves in simulations of the skiwear. Photography by CI&A Photography/Edward Hendricks.
In the Trizone area, as throughout the Durasport store, ceilings are painted in Nippon Paint‘s Stiletto Grey and floors are Unitrio Trading’s Artigo high-performance anti-slip rubber. Photography by CI&A Photography/Edward Hendricks.

Read more: Hyperiôn Light Year by Karv One Design Wins 2019 IIDA Award

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10 Questions With… Robert Cheng

Before setting up his own practice, Brewin

Design Office in Singapore, architect and interior designer Robert Cheng spent years soaking in the vibrant design culture of different cities around the world. He was born in Pittsburgh and spent his formative years attending school in Singapore and then the United Kingdom, before moving to Providence to attend Rhode Island School of Design, followed by Boston to finish his master’s at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His educational background led him to prestigious gigs, first with Tsao & McKown Architects in New York, where he met his mentor Calvin Tsao, and later at Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel’s firm in Paris. After years on the road, Cheng returned to Asia in 2011, founding his own practice that dips into his Asian heritage while being thoughtfully shaped by his global exposure.

Cheng’s work is discreetly luxurious, the opulence shining through in his choice of materials and the symbiotic relationship they create with the space. Some of his best-known projects include multimillion-dollar private homes and commercial properties across Asia, the most noteworthy being a restaurant in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands composed of modular pods fitted with white oak fins that allow light to stream in while diners dig into delicately folded dim-sums. He also created an immersive design exhibit at the National Gallery Singapore, where he designed multiple unique spaces to showcase multi-artist pieces while still cohesively creating a uniformed, immersive experience for the user. Here, Cheng talks about his recent projects, Asia’s growing impact on global design, and why extravagance shines the brightest when rooted in functionality.

Interior Design: What are you working on at the moment?

Robert Cheng: Most recently we won a competition to design the National Gallery of Singapore’s new Rotunda Library, an art library meant to house the gallery’s Southeast Asian Art reference and archival collection. This project entails the conversion of the existing Rotunda space of the former Supreme Court into what will be the Rotunda Library and Archives. This is an exciting project steeped in historical research and heritage preservation as we are working on a building built in the 1920s and 1930s that played an important role in Singapore’s history.

Cheng designed modular pods fitted with white oak fins that allow light to stream in as guests dine at Blossom in the lobby of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Photography courtesy of Robert Cheng.

 

ID: You grew up in Asia and then spent significant time in Paris and different parts of America. How have all these places influenced and shaped your design thinking?

RC: Architecture is so multidisciplinary and to be a good architect, one needs to be exposed. I am constantly trying to expose myself more through new experiences and travel, and growing up in various parts of the world has ingrained a natural curiosity and passion for learning about people and culture, observing how things are done similarly or differently around the world. In places like Paris and New York, what is wonderful is that they are cities that have an in-depth history. Good design comes when you can both borrow from the past and deal with the present.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Philippe Starck

ID: What would you consider as one of your most career-defining projects?

RC: This would be in the early years when I was asked to work on my family’s house interiors with my mentor Calvin Tsao. It was a house designed by the architect Paul Rudolph. So many great lessons, which continue to stay with me until today, were learnt through designing extremely bespoke interiors, working with master craftsmen and furniture artisans on custom pieces of furniture that 16 years on, are still being used.

The Robert Cheng-designed Blossom restaurant, located in the lobby of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Photography courtesy of Robert Cheng.

 

ID: Your favorite materials to work with?

RC: Our design values hinge very much on integrity: In our designs we choose to reveal a given object’s structure and construction and abstain from needless decoration and pastiche. Stone and wood are two materials that echo this value. Their production involves minimal treatment and their finished look possesses a raw and natural appearance that respects their biological make-up. With glass, the material allows for many different ways of manipulation. We see glass as a versatile element that can be molded to suit the different environments that we build. We also use the material frequently to counter the visually ‘heavier’ materials that we use.

ID: Do materials dictate the design process, or do you have a vision of what you want to create and choose materials accordingly?

RC: Design and material selection have always been two intertwining processes. The choosing of materials is synonymous with the expression of a design concept as they give a tangible characteristic to an otherwise abstract and theoretical idea. One on-going project, for example, explores the relationship of a home to nature and biological forms. Much of the design hinges on materiality. The selection of raw, minimally refined materials serves to bring in the raw texture of nature into the confines of the home.

Robert Cheng designed this multimillion-dollar private home that sits atop The Morgan in Hong Kong. Photography courtesy of Robert Cheng.

 

ID: What makes Singapore such an exciting design city?

RC: There is a very palpable shift in Singapore’s design industry in that it is starting to look outwards for creative influences and inspiration. It is in a frame of time where it is starting to challenge pre-existing norms and adopt more creative and daring approaches to design—the constantly increasing desire to push boundaries in the curriculum of its design schools in one exemplification of this movement. In comparison to cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai, these Asian cities are either more cosmopolitan or connected to a deep-rooted history. Singapore is nascent in that it is a young city that has all the right ingredients for becoming an international city of the future.

Read more: 10 Questions With…Tom Fereday

ID: Asian designers are finally getting their due on a global platform. What do you think has been one of the key factors that has helped in changing the mindset?

RC: I the last 20 years, Asia has rapidly evolved to become more international. Cities like Hong Kong and Singapore have continued to grow steadily while cities like Shanghai and Beijing have made a mark to become world-class matured cities. Emerging markets like Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, and Jakarta have allowed for more urban development, greenfield property development, which in turn have allowed more architecture to happen. Coupled with this, technology—becoming more of a connected world—has allowed more international architects to work in Asia. Some of the best buildings in Asia are being designed by international designers from the west, and they have also felt the need to create results that are respectful to the Asia context. As a result, we are seeing better quality stuff out there. We are also beginning to see countries like China lead the construction industry internationally for fixtures that are built in China….China has become world class in its construction capabilities.

The exterior space of the Robert-Cheng-design penthouse residence at The Morgan in Hong Kong. Photography courtesy of Robert Cheng.

 

ID: What is your biggest design pet peeve?

RC: When designs are extraneous, overly decorative, and insensitive to their context. Our studio’s approach to design is one that is rooted in problem-solving, and we see design ultimately as a tool to either address issues or reflect the environment that it occupies.

ID: Any interesting books you are currently reading?

RC: “Small Pleasures,” published by The School of Life Press. I picked this up during a visit to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles recently. It is a compilation of stories about the sometimes overlooked small pleasures of life, like going to a fish market, or touching the back of a tortoise.

Cantilevered structure designed by Robert Cheng holding Mona Hatoum’s “Impenetrable,” with Lee Ufan’s work in the foreground at the National Gallery Singapore’s “Space, Light, Object” exhibition. Photography courtesy of Robert Cheng.

ID: What is the most recent thing you experienced that has deeply inspired you?

RC: Traveling is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. Some of my recent travels have been to Walter De Maria’s “The Lightning Field” in New Mexico. I spent my 40th birthday in a hut for 24 hours with two other couples. “The Lightning Field” comprises 400 vertical stainless-steel poles grounded into the earth in a grid formation spanning exactly 220 feet apart from each other and were the only man-made structures in a 30-mile radius. Our task as viewers, was to take in the surreal experience of walking through these poles and observing them at different times of the day. For me, this installation embodies the best things about art and architecture.

A private art collector’s home in Jakarta designed by Robert Cheng. Photography courtesy of Robert Cheng.

Continue reading 10 Questions With… Robert Cheng

25 Sustainable Projects to Celebrate Earth Day

 

Happy Earth Day! Sustainability is becoming a standard in architecture, and LEED certification is only the beginning. These projects prove that green design is the new frontier.

1. Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos Strikes All the Right Notes With Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia

Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos won a two-phase competition to design this center with their thesis that links music and architecture. Considering the ratio of glass to metal also became essential because of the layers of thermal insulation needed to create a sustainable and easily heated structure. But first Nieto Sobejano decided what the project shouldn’t have: right angles, a main facade, and a discernable front or back. Instead, what emerged was a pattern of “continuous links echoing the trees,” Sobejano says. Read more

2. Sustainably Designed and Architecturally Significant Buildings in Singapore

Not only is the entire 27-floor external facade wrapped in a natural vine covered sunscreen, but the Oasia Hotel Downtown also has four lush sky terraces, 1,793 large planter boxes, and four large structural cores that allow for good cross ventilation reducing the overall energy cost. Designed by WOHA and completed in 2016, the hotel is home to over 33 species of plants and 21 species of creepers. In addition, the 314-room property is notable for its striking interior design by Patricia UrquiolaRead about 7 more sustainable buildings in Singapore

3. Warmth and Modernism Are at the Heart of 3XN’s Design for Olympic House

Two of the most poignant concepts International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach wanted the design to articulate were sustainability and transparency. 3XN certainly delivered; the build is LEED platinum-certified, and has reused 90 percent of the concrete from the previous headquarters that was demolished to make way for the new build. Read more

4. ACDF Architecture Partners With Architecture49 for Mega Project Parq Vancouver

Six stories high, capped with a 30,000-square-foot roof garden, this contemporary structure “is an urban oasis,”ACDF Architecture CEO Maxime-Alexis Frappier says. ACDF partnered with Architecture49 and their response was not a looming hulk but rather a curving, low-rise presence wrapped in a mirrored facade that reflects its surroundings. Aluminum louvers, capturing sunlight, reflect pixelated images of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. The daylight resulting from abundant glazing contributes to the project’s LEED Gold status, proving Parq fits into the global environment, too. Read more

5. Annapolis Residence by Bates Masi + Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Waterfront House

When a prospective client in Annapolis, Maryland, told Bates Masi + Architects‘ principal Paul Masi that he and his wife had recently purchased a house on the water, he really meant it: The residence’s second-floor deck literally hung right over a cove in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the 1970s structure was sorely outdated, located in the flood plain, and didn’t meet current energy codes. Masi’s solution yielded a new, flat-roofed house, raised three feet higher than its predecessor—and LEED-certified to boot. Read more

6. TPG Architecture Makes Headlines With Its Office for the Associated Press in New York

The AP staffers have had a chance to settle into their new digs by TPG Architecture, which have since been awarded LEED Gold certification. As you might expect, good news travels fast. As Carmel says, the office “compliments who we are as an organization.” That includes a bit of spirit, as seen at the perimeter of the café. There the white floor tile bursts into a confetti of colors, as if celebrating the much-decorated news agency. Read more

7. Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Green

For Neri & Hu, this project entailed repurposing and renovating existing structures—including a former warehouse that now hosts a restaurant, a theater, and an exhibition space—as well as erecting new ones, among them a lakeside pavilion containing four of the 20 suites. “The rustic materiality and layered spaces redefine tradition via a modern architectural language,” says Neri. Read more

8. Studio Rianknop Creates Flexible, Sustainable Space for Amsterdam Tech Company

When an Amsterdam company that manages a file-sharing platform decided to move from the city center to a warehouse near the city limits, it shared a few tasks with local design firm Studio Rianknop: Create a flexible space for the company’s staff; make it sustainable; and take advantage of the industrial space in a relaxing, inviting way. In a clever nod to the wires funneling data across the globe, a “cable tree” grows from the lower level with branches powering first-floor public spaces and a tubular chandelier. Read more

9. The Center for Fiction by BKSK Architects Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a LEED Silver-certified building in downtown Brooklyn by BKSK Architects. In the writers’ studio, locally-made custom wool felt panels are perforated with the Center’s logo, an open book. Read more

10. ASID Headquarters Becomes World’s First Space to Earn LEED and WELL Platinum Certification

The Washington, DC office, designed by Perkins + Will, is brimming with features that support health and wellness. One is a circadian lighting system that mimics natural daylight, paired with automated shades that follow the sun’s movement to help eliminate eye strain. The design team also implemented biophilic design strategies, for instance by using a range of natural materials and patterns. Read more

11. Mohawk Group’s New NYC Showroom Embraces Wellness

Located in a former textile factory in historic Chelsea, Mohawk Group‘s 13,000-square-foot showroom was designed by Gensler and incorporates LEED and WELL Building Standard qualifications, fully expressing Mohawk’s company ethos: Believe in better. Read more

12. Huntsman Architectural Group Downsizes McKesson for Maximum Efficiency

For McKesson’s San Francisco office, Huntsman Architectural Group went with undeniably contemporary furnishings. Sui generis, however, is a break room’s custom bench, a repurposed conveyor belt hinting at McKesson’s core business. Which brings us to the fact that the premises are going for Well Building certification as well as LEED Gold. Read more

13. Perkins + Will Creates a Contemporary Office for Nixon Peabody in New York

Perkins + Will designed this space to be easily reconfigured as needs change. A feature stair connects the office’s three levels with show-stopping views of the city, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls help foster synergy between practice areas. It was also awarded LEED Gold certification. In all, the office is a balance of functionality and design statement. Read more

14. Five Global Green Projects Pay it Forward

For Park + Associates‘s own office, minimal intervention transformed a 1960’s former school into a showcase of clean-lined design, thanks to vintage furnishings, a black-and-white palette, and painted-steel arches highlighting the reinforced-concrete barrel vaults. Read about all 5 global green projects

15. SKB Architects Creates Lively Lobby for Key Center Office Tower

No longer merely pass-through places, lobbies have become hotel-esque settings. They entice potential tenants to lease, and existing tenants get a perk that might entice them to stay. Such is the case at the Key Center office tower across the water from Seattle. After purchasing the 23-story building, Kilroy Realty Corporation opted to implement changes resulting in LEED Platinum certification and to transform the immense lobby into a “people place,” SKB Architects senior principal Shannon Gaffney recounts. “That’s our thing.” Read more

16. Mosa Tiles Enliven Venetian Villa by JM Architecture

Italian studio JM Architecture outlined a sustainable agenda to maximize the home’s energy-efficiency. Mosa’s LEED-contributing ceramic tiles, which received Cradle-to-Cradle® Silver certification, join the multitude of eco-friendly features that distinguish the villa, including inlaid photovoltaic panels and radiant floor heating. Read more

17. Venable by Alliance Architecture Wins 2017 Best of Year Award for Large Law Office

Moving to a gleaming LEED Platinum palace in the booming East End, this 117-year-old law firm left behind the endless dreary silos of its former headquarters and embraced a cultural shift toward wellness and ergonomics. Thanks to Alliance Architecture, sunlight penetrates offices with clear glass enclosures, every employee has a motorized standing desk, and the café opens onto a terrace complete with barbecue grills, a fire pit, a bar, and a bocce court. Read more

18. 1 Hotel’s Miami Beach Debut by Meyer Davis Studio

Meyer Davis Studio was charged with transforming the lower eight stories of a 1968 building into 1 Hotel Miami. “We paid homage to the natural landscape of south Florida,” Meyer notes—versus the art deco razzle-dazzle typically associated with the area. Moves large and small rack up points in the quest for LEED Silver certification. Uses of reclaimed wood represent a virtual forest preserved. Dialing down to details, Meyer andDavis specified organic bed linens, hemp mattresses, and clothes hangers molded from recycled paper, while bedside note pads have disappeared in favor of chalkboards. Read more

19. Lotus Square Art Center by Shenzhen Dae Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Outdoor

It’s basically common knowledge these days that installing a green roof on a building helps reduce its energy use, absorb stormwater, and combat air pollution. This practice has become increasingly mainstream in hotter developed land masses known as urban heat islands. One such is Hengqin island, overlooking Macau. That’s where this sculptural verdant roof tops an art exhibition hall. Read more

20. Six Futuristic Projects Sprouting Green Roofs

From reducing storm water runoff and city dust to energy-efficient cooling, the benefits of green roofing go beyond beautification. As costs lower and technology makes installation easier, this environmentally conscious trend is increasingly defining the facades of both existing and new buildings. A 660-foot-long undulating wave of verdant green grass forms a rooftop park at Université Paris-Est’s technology and science center, the Espace Bienvenüe designed by Jean-Philippe Pargade. Read about all six green roofs

21. Kimpton Travels to the Caribbean

Amid the sea blues and sandy whites of this resort, there’s a good amount of green, too: A solar array generates electricity, rainwater is harvested for maintaining the landscape, and air-conditioning is geothermal. Read more

22. Mortenhals House by Stinessen Arkitektur Wins 2017 Best of Year Award for Green

The unusual configuration of this family compound by Snorre Stinessen, comprising multiple cabins, plays with the way that the visitor slowly discovers what’s hidden behind the wooden doors. Even the outdoor areas remain private, with only waterscapes or trees as neighbors. In addition to the aesthetic appeal of the design, it checks off all the eco-conscious boxes: The forest was protected during the building process, all wood was sourced locally, water is used with restraint, and electricity is primarily hydropower. Read more

23. HKS’s Loretta Fulvio Decodes U.S. Bank Stadium, Site of Super Bowl LII

When designing for a Super Bowl–sized audience, there’s no greater expert than Loretta Fulvio, lead interior designer for architecture firm HKS’s Sports sector. When tasked with designing the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Fulvio and her team sought to create experiences that extend far beyond Super Bowl Sunday. In the stands, visitors can feel good about making a positive impact: 91 percent of waste is recycled, composted, or donated, due to the concession stands using compostable packaging. And the entire venue is run on wind power. Read more

24. San Vicente 935 by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Rental Apartment Building

All apartments in this building have balconies overlooking the central courtyard. Its accessibility eliminates the need for interior, climate-controlled hallways, saving on energy consumption. For the solid faces, Lorcan O’Herlihy employed two materials that contrast each other for visual interest and also help to reduce scale. Siding is fiber cement made of recycled content. Screens, which act as a rain-shield system, are slats of ipe harvested from a local, sustainably managed forest. Read more

25. A Bamboo Kitchen Dominates This Super-Green House by Minarc

Built with prefab panels, this 2,500-square-foot structure by Minarc is sustainable to the max. Bathrooms overflow with eco consciousness. In the powder room, wood scraps stack up to form a vanity supporting a sink in recycled rubber. For a truly back-to-nature experience, right next to the soaking tub in the master bathroom, there’s a lush plant wall. Read more

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Digital-Savvy Hostel Coo Opens in Singapore

The humble hostel has seen an overhaul in recent years: newcomers to the genre are sexier, better designed, and with more amenities than ever before. Coo in Singapore channels all three factors, with a fourth for good measure: it lets its guests connect through a digital app, encouraging them to meet IRL and explore the city together—hit a museum, grab drinks, plan a day trip. “To millennials, traveling is no longer a leisure pursuit alone, but an opportunity to gain local insights,” explains Coo owner Silas Lee. “We wanted Coo to embody the convivial spirit of an old-fashioned backpackers community whilst harnessing the power of today’s digital landscape.”

Hunting for the right property, Lee happened upon a four-story building that had serendipitously been a hostel previously: The Plot, designed by Poole Associates and EK Architects. Much on the upper levels would be able to be reused, allowing the project to hit the market quickly. The upstairs guest floors already boasted a host of industrial chic elements, including Poole’s built-in bunk beds in dormitories, and bathrooms that would need little in the way of updating to bring on brand.

06-COO__Singapore-hostel-BISTRO_GUEST-ALCOVE

Digitally printed wallpaper depicts modernist architecture, bird cages, and more. Photography by Edward Hendricks.

Ministry of Design was the firm tasked with instituting new design elements (both online and off), with the bulk of the budget spent on the ground level’s entry, reception, and bistro. An angular mesh screen defining the entry takes cues from the metal gates around the area’s housing estates, while the longitude and latitude coordinates of the hostel’s location, in Tiong Bahru, appear behind reception in cursive neon. The bar’s lighting fixture takes the shape of an abstracted map. “We wanted every part of the experience to tell a story of the neighborhood, but in a playful way,” explains MOD founder Colin Seah. The result is a brand with enough edge to entice your average millennial traveler. In fact, it has been such a hit there are plans to open no less than five additional outposts in the region within the next five years. Coo-coo-cool.

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