LAAB Directors Otto Ng (left) and Yip Chun Hang (right). Image by HENRY T.C.

Smart Design Studio and LAAB Architects on Practice and Process

  •   16 March 2022

Every architecture and design practice has their own way of working and each is different, however, all have one thing in common, collaboration, communication and the ability to translate design to excellent projects or products.

In the 2022 INDE.Awards, The Design Studio celebrates the innovative process of design whether that is by an architect, designer or modern hybrid and recognises that every studio creates its own process.

The 2022 INDE.Awards jury will review an entry to The Design Studio category and judge how a practice encapsulates a visionary attitude in delivering method, innovation and service. Whether small or large, an outstanding practice will have honed its internal processes to reflect a tried and true way of working that garners the best from its people and delivers projects that are fully resolved for its clients.

Charles House, by Austin Maynard Architects. Image by Peter Bennetts

In the art of running a team that are truly visionary in both design and execution, category partner Woven Image come from a place of experience. As partner of The Design Studio at the 2022 INDE.Awards, Woven Image supports design at its core, understanding the integral contribution of a practice to achieve best architecture and design. Since 1987, Woven Image has been supplying sustainable and design-led acoustic finishes and textiles to the built environment and, through the combination of knowledge, its people and passion for product innovation, Woven Image is a leader in its field and supports design excellence.

“Visionary design can only exist in studios that nurture creativity – in its people, approach and processes. For Woven Image, this is what makes this category so exciting – we can’t wait to be inspired by the best Design Studios from across the region,” says Abi Eskdale, International Marketing Manager for Woven Image.

Wild Rocket, by Produce. Image by Derrick Lim

Over the years the winners of The Design Studio category have included some of the Indo-Pacific region’s most esteemed practices such as Austin Maynard Architects, Australia, Studiomake in Thailand, Produce from Singapore and LAAB Architects located in Hong Kong. Last year, The Design Studio accolade was awarded to Smart Design Studio, Australia.

While these practices are situated around the region, each studio demonstrated to the jury of the year their individuality and excellence. Many embrace multiple disciplines in their practice and have developed new ways to interpret design such as LAAB Architects or, in the case of Austin Maynard Architects, who investigate design in residential, retail and the commercial sectors pushing the boundaries with every project. While at Produce, materiality and hands-on working techniques of fabrication are integral to process, while the work of Studiomake extends the dialogue of “design and make” through the incorporation of a workshop into the practice.

Each studio has discovered the wider ideas that surround the art of design while adhering to principals such as sustainability, culture and location.

Arbutus, by Smart Design Studio. Image by Romello Pereira

As the 2021 The Design Studio winner, Smart Design Studio (SDS) is consummate. With a diverse range of projects from master-planning and public, commercial, cultural and retail spaces, through to multi and single residential, SDS produces elegant and timeless design. To achieve excellence, the Studio is divided into five separate specialist teams that work together sharing knowledge and expertise for the greater good.

William Smart recipient of The Design Studio in 2021 commented, “At Smart Design Studio our architecture is inspired by pure Modernism, but believe not that “form follows function” so much as “form has a function.” Our forty-five plus team all design with rigour, but we find that applying layers of significance, embedding hidden meaning and building up surface texture adds poetry to the finished design, be that of a multi-storey building or the interior of a private home. To achieve this, we work from the macro to the micro, from the entirety of the overall structure, right down to the hinges on doors, millimetre-precise joinery or the colours on bedroom walls. It is this passion for, and constant pursuit of, outcomes that are both detailed and resolved that sets SDS apart.”

Smart Design Studio, by Smart Design Studio. Image by Romello Pereira

LAAB Architects, on the other hand is a collective of 35 architects, artists, designers, engineers, makers and sociologists specialising in spatial innovations. Founded in 2013 by Otto Ng and Chun Hang Yip in Hong Kong, the practice approaches architecture through the process of making, taking into account place, culture and respect for the natural environment.

“Cultivating a happy studio, a creative home, which we believe is the impetus of creativity, collaboration, and thoughtful designs. Rather than a design firm, we always think of LAAB as a shared platform that encourages ideas and innovations among different designers, thinkers, and makers,” said Otto Ng Design Director and Yip Chun Hang, Architecture Directors of LAAB Architects.

f22 foto space, by LAAB Architects. Image by HENRY T.C., Otto Ng

So what’s to come in 2022? How will the design studios of the Indo-Pacific respond to a world that has, and continues to, rapidly change? Our jury will be looking for those that look further and aim higher than the rest, where all elements of their practice show a commitment to creating a better world for all.

“Good design is sustainable design, in the broadest sense of the word,” comments Abi Eskdale, of Woven Image. “As the way people come together to work, learn and play continues to adapt, so too must the spaces they occupy. Never has it been more important for studios to foster sustainable thinking at an individual, practice and project level. Woven Image hope to see these studios honoured by the INDE.Awards in 2022.”

The Guan Yin Pavilion, by Studiomake. Image by Borvornbhun Vonganan

So now is the time to celebrate and showcase your practice by entering The Design Studio in the 2022 INDE.Awards. It’s a moment to be recognised on the regional and global stages and shine a light on your studio, people and work.


Entries to the 2022 INDE.Awards close on 31/03/2022 at 23:59 AEDT. Entries can be started, modified and submitted here and should be entered according to the Awards’ category criteria.

The Design Studio category is proudly partnered by Woven Image.