6 August 2020
It would be fascinating to compare the goals of designers and architects when they established their studios at different points through recent decades. How would the mission of a studio that was set up in, say, 1990 differ from one set up in 2000, 2010 or (dare we say) 2020? What would that say about our priorities, our challenges, and the agency of designers and architects?
Every year since their formation in 2017, the INDE.Awards have recognised the vision and efforts of leading young design talents from around the region with The Prodigy award category. For this honour, Indesign Media Asia Pacific editors and the team behind the INDE.Awards select fearless experimenters who demonstrate their progressive attitudes with work that charts its own course.
Something really stands out among all four Prodigies of 2020: an attitude of practising specifically for and with their places in the world – be that inner Melbourne (Flack Studio); Singapore, Chiang Mai and Bali (Goy Architects); regional New South Wales (Regional Design Service); or Greater Jakarta (Rafael Miranti Architects). As a sign of the times, this focus on meaningful local imperatives couldn’t be more on point.
Says Jason Bird, Creative Director at category partner Luxxbox, “The nominees each have such a unique design vernacular that speaks of their location, which makes them an excitingly diverse quartet. It is evident that this new crop of designers and architects are using their knowledge of local materials, climate and culture to produce innovative designs – which helps to educate clients and the market generally about the importance of referencing locality and individuality in products and projects.”
The partnership with The Prodigy category was a natural fit for furniture and lighting manufacturer Luxxbox, which has always considered itself to be a brand that is looking for fresh and innovative ideas in design via product materiality, usability and technological advances. “We were taken by the synergy of our ethos with that of the award, in that it acknowledges emerging designers who are setting trends and thinking forward in their practices,” says Jason Bird.
The Prodigies of 2020 all embody a number of the characteristics that INDE.Awards judge Koichi Takada was looking for in this year’s awards – for example, awareness of our social responsibility as architects and designers; designing with the intention of preserving cultural values and identities; and designing for the future. For Takada, these aspects are right up there with the need to drive change with regard to the warming climate. He says, “There is a whole rethink, across the industry, of how we operate – a rethink of, not just the outcome, but the process and being more educated and responsible.”
With this in mind, the Jury’s evaluation and comparison of The Prodigies of 2020 was surely a challenge, as each one has an agenda for making positive contributions to their context. For Flack Studio, that means a strong emphasis on community engagement – within and outside design circles. “We believe design should be accessible to everyone and that is Flack Studio to the core,” says founder David Flack.
Beyond a deep engagement with project stakeholders, Flack Studio also invests heavily in community with artist talks in the studio, creative collaborations with community kids, open studio days, support for a local kids’ play centre, and more. Says Flack, “In the current environment we find ourselves in with COVID-19, the architectural and interior design industry needs to work together to provide comfort and inclusion from a world asking for answers.”
For Goy Architects, a primary driver of their regional Southeast Asian practice is a dedication to vernacular architecture and crafts, and the seeding of ideas and methods across borders – always with mindfulness to the architecture profession’s impact in spatial, social and environmental terms.
Says founder and Principal Architect Goy Zhenru: “With close collaborations within the region, it is timely for each nation to learn from one and another and share solutions from their built environments. By integrating local vernacular wisdom with new technologies, we can avoid repeating design mistakes, innovate new solutions and be smarter in our design processes. And we believe by doing so, there will be a ground-up rejuvenation effect on the heart and soul of the local community.”
Operating from a studio and gallery space in the Australian town of Corowa, Regional Design Service has a mission of driving community awareness of design and how it can enrich all facets of regional and rural life. “Too often we witness delivery of substandard or ‘adequate’ projects to rural and regional communities, rather than those that engage and enable users – such as those we see in urban areas. This is because architecture is often designed and delivered to an engineering model, rather than one pertinent to the project at hand,” explain Design Director and architect Phillip Nielsen and Director of Business Aaron Nicholls.
Many of the studio’s projects don’t result in ‘architecture’ per se. “For us, regional and rural progressiveness doesn’t look like ‘the Bilbao effect’; it’s about small, considered change that enriches community pride and ownership,” say Nielsen and Nicholls.
In Indonesia, Rafael Miranti Architects work with the belief that good design does not necessarily require the most advanced techniques or newest materials. “We value good, honest unpretentious solutions for everyday life, and not creating trend-driven design outcomes. This has always been our deepest core value as designers,” explain Principal Architect Rafael Arsono and Managing Director Margareta Miranti.
Spurred by Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage, they move toward sensitive new expresisons of tradition as well as an improvement of building standards and more sustainable, regenerative approaches. “We had always wanted to make some form of contribution to our country,” they say, with a view to doing more work in regional and rural areas outside Jakarta.
One of the Prodigies of 2020 will be crowned ‘Prodigy of the Year’ by the INDE.Awards Jury. Who will it be? “Peer and industry recognition is such an important component of a designer’s journey,” says Jason Bird of Luxxbox. “It can be a very isolating process bringing a product or project to fruition when you are relying on your own instincts on what will work and what won’t. How better to gain confidence in your ideas and feedback on direction than to be honoured by those working in the design industry around you?”
Who will win INDE.Gold? Join us and the region’s top winners at the free INDE.Awards 2020 Digital Gala this August 13. Register here.