“society and culture are constantly evolving and that spatial design needs to evolve alongside it”
The biophilic design, aesthetics and functionality of the projects and a little bit about cinema in exclusive interview with Colin Seah, one of the jury members of the international competition Eurasian Prize 2021.
Winners of the 16th season of the international competition of architecture and design «Eurasian Prize» will be announced on November 19, 2021 in Yekaterinburg. In the 16th season of the Eurasian Prize competition, objects located in 29 countries of the world are presented to the authoritative jury, members of which are experts of worldwide standing in architecture and design, among which is CEO and founder of Ministry of Design, International Design Awards USA Designer of the Year, Colin Seah. The organizing committee of the competition «Eurasian Prize» asked several questions to one of the most respected Singaporean designers.
— Among the MOD’s principles is the avoiding of conventions and redefinition of space. What conventions and standards are you struggling with?
— At MOD, we like to challenge conventions that are no longer relevant or are outdated. We believe that society and culture are constantly evolving and that spatial design needs to evolve alongside it. For instance, in our Citi Wealth Hub, designed for Citibank in Singapore, we challenged the notion of conventional luxury and symbols of wealth, and redefined it spatially by introducing lush greenery through biophilic design, which symbolizes a sustainable and responsible attitude towards wealth creation.
— It applies information technology that assists the designing process of a project or a pencil with paper is still traditional satellites in your team.
— At MOD, to enable us to collaborate remotely over 3 offices, and also work from home during Covid, we have harnessed multiple technologies and platforms. Our designers are ipad-enabled, which we use to sketch and share ideas on platforms such as Miro.
— There are those who say that it’s impossible to be an architect and a designer at the same time. What would you say on this, as the head of a bureau that is recognized in the architectural and design communities?
— I think the foundations of being a good architect and interior design stem from the same place and share many common principles. At MOD, our ethos to Question, Disturb and Redefine is applied across multiple disciplines ranging from masterplanning and architecture, to interior design and branding.
— I want to know how you seeyourself: as a designer or an architect? In your opinion, what’s the difference between professions.
— I see myself as primarily a creator of vivid experiences, a spatial story-teller of sorts. As mentioned above, I see more similarities than differences between an architect and interior designer. However of course there are key differences, one key difference being the legal liability which architects undertake for our projects.
— There are a lot of tasks to be done as an architect, I’m sure you have to follow a strict schedule in order to do everything. How do you rest?
— I’ve learnt to work as a team and delegate. I work with people who are more gifted than myself in the ways I’m not as strong. Together, we complement each other, so not 1 person has to do everything. That being said, being a business owner as well as an architect, there is a lot of stress to maintain bottom lines, either financial or creative ones. I find comfort knowing that I draw my strength from God, the ultimate creator!
— In an interview, you said that in your spare time you watch various films, enjoy nature and art. Can you remember which film impressed you the most? Tell us if the film’s interior designs holds your attention, what is it that draws you to them?
— One of my all-time favorite movies is Peter Greenaway’s “The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover”. Besides portraying a poetic narrative, the movie is pure visual splendor, with the clever use of color in a very inventive and memorable way. It has influenced my attitude towards color ever since, and its influence can be seen in many projects such as Sho-U restaurant and BBH office.
— How do you keep the balance of aesthetics and functionality in projects? Is there any way that makes it possible to make space comfortable and beautiful?
— Generally speaking, I regard both aesthetics and function with equal importance (of course there are some spaces, where one is more critical then the other) and push all our designs to be a delight to experience and use, which is challenging at times. I think there is a false perception that design is all about aesthetics, and that function and pragmatics is a separate thing.
Good design is strong in both these departments. Take kitchen or bathroom design for instance, there are so many examples of aesthetically beautiful kitchens/bathrooms that are great to look at but absolutely a nightmare to use because they did not balance pragmatics with beauty. I think this is bad design.
— There’s the greening of architecture going on in the world, humans are turning more towards recyclable materials, helping reduce harmful emissions, polluting substances in the atmosphere. Does your bureau apply green technologies in your projects, where you find them and on what principle you seek partners?
— Yes, we do adhere to sustainable buildability matrixes like LEED certification for most of our projects. Also, we go beyond that and introduce biophilic design were appropriate, e.g. Citi Wealth Hub
— An active working project now is the Indigo Hotel in Taiwan. It is filled with various interesting elements: rainwater harvesting system, trails and gardens.Is it true that mankind became tired of vibrant city life and spiritually returning to mother nature or is this just to change the mood around here?
— I think it’s a bit of both. Change is always welcome and it evolves cyclically over time. However, meaningful change emerges when the impetus for change goes beyond the yearning for novelty, and more as a response to a real problem or issue.
— You’re on the jury for the Eurasian Prize. In your opinion, what do independent competitions give to the architectural professional community? Your bureau has more than 100 awards, why is it useful to participate in competitions for you and MOD?
— Generally speaking, I think international level competitions give a studio a chance to benchmark itself against the very best in globally, and is a helpful barometer to gauge how relevant or creative you projects are.
— In conclusion, do you have the opportunity to address the participants of the Eurasian Prize Contest, which would you like to advise or wish them?
— I wish them all the best, and that their visions for what good design is, will be relevant for our contemporary context.
— What can you say about the mission of design and architecture in 2021, what is it for you personally? What is the importance of solving today within the profession?
—To build sustainable and engaging experiences which enrich and support culture and community.
Illustrative materials provided by MOD