The Dispatch — Nº106, March 2023

Our monthly bulletin documenting creative culture in Asia Pacific and beyond. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
Design Antology
The Dispatch
Nº106, March 2023
In partnership with Fifth Black

Fifth Black is an editorially minded creative consultancy that helps design, interiors, architecture and property brands tell their story to global audiences. Working from outposts in Hong Kong, Melbourne, London, Singapore and Tokyo, the Fifth Black team is the authority on design, architecture, art, urbanism and placemaking.

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March means business for the Design Anthology team. We're in the final stretch of production on issue 36, the refreshed Asia Pacific edition, that's due to arrive on newsstands around the world next month — including in Milan for Salone del Mobile — with a few little tweaks. We're also on the road putting our notebooks through their paces and getting some fresh dents in our luggage as we visit new frontiers, meet old friends and host a little gathering here and there. First up: Hong Kong for Art Basel and Art Central later this month. Keep an eye on your inbox — there's a lot more to come in 2023. But for now, enjoy The Dispatch's March excursion.

Sensuality & Subtlety

HJGHER's attentive, mediated renovation of this apartment has created a space with a light touch, considered details and a homely, calming spirit

When a space is well put together, you notice the way light washes into a room, creating shadows in some parts and highlighting surfaces in others. You notice the character of a space — genteel, energising or moody. You notice shapes rather than things — the conical form of a pendant lamp above the dining table, umbrella-like; blobs of curvaceous ceramics, lined on a shelf at the kitchen as an animated backdrop to the habitual routines of preparing, cooking or conversing over food.

This is the kind of home that HJGHER has created for a couple in Singapore. The brief was to improve the apartment's functionality by replacing all the furnishings and to make minimal layout alterations. 'They wanted to create a peaceful and understated ambience with a muted colour scheme,' says studio founder Justin Long.

The former palette was dark, with excessive glossy materials — an aesthetic divergent to the couple's taste. The open-concept master bathroom gave no boundary and peace to the sleeping area, which also lacked sufficient storage. Long retained the existing marble floor but softened it with a honed finish. On this base, he layered warm and natural materials such as timber, linen, honed marble, lime-based plaster and washi paper for a sensibility of quietude and tranquillity. The palette also contributes to the interior's light and airy atmosphere.

'The earthy colour scheme provides a subtle nod to the lush exterior landscape,' Long adds, pointing out the condominium development's verdant environs. This neutral palette becomes an unbiased foil 'waiting to be adorned with personal touches that will mark the passage of time'.  

A wooden trellis on the ceiling of the living and dining is a delightful feature, giving a tempo to the space and acting as an anchor in the open-plan social area. 'It promotes a sense of continuity between the living and dining spaces,' explains Long. Display shelves against the warm, lime-based walls showcase the couple's homewares collected through the years. The concealed master bathroom door, designed to blend into a wall of shelves and storage, opens to a reconfigured space. The existing bathtub was removed and a generous walk-in wardrobe added.

Says Long, 'Through a thoughtful process of contextualisation, we crafted the space to blur the lines with its exterior setting and tailored it to accommodate the unique needs and personalities of the owners, offering a tranquil haven for them to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.'

Text / Luo Jingmei
Images / Jovian Lim

'We crafted the space to blur the lines with its exterior setting... offering a tranquil haven for [the owners] to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.'

Designer Ximi Li's new brand exemplifies a prosaic minimalism

After studying industrial and furniture design at the China Academy of Art and Politecnico di Milano, Chinese designer Ximi Li worked with designers Andrea Branzi and Luca Trazzi in Italy, where he developed a passion for the intersection of cultures and design aesthetics. In 2016, the designer launched his own design brand URBANCRAFT in Shanghai, where he started exploring cultural elements and their historical roots through his own unique design language. A year later, he founded multidisciplinary studio Ximi Li Design.

After four prolific years of working on furniture design, interior design and creative direction projects, and collaborating with brands such as LEMA, Kvadrat and HC28 Cosmo, Li launched Monochrome, a new line under URBANCRAFT. Standing out for its avant-garde outlook and reimagined production techniques, Monochrome explores the uncertainty of materials and processes, deviating from conventional design logic. 

The brand's first collection, Basic, includes aluminium tables, chairs and stools suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings. Thanks to a unique making process that combines manual and industrial production, each piece retains the natural traces of welding, highlighting the ductile nature of aluminium while maintaining consistency in design.

Images / Banye Lin

By the Sea
Kure, Hiroshima

A new cafe in Hiroshima Prefecture makes the most of its natural surroundings

On the second level of the Kure Central Pier Terminal in Japan's Hiroshima Prefecture sits Sambashiya, a new cafe designed by Tokyo-based architectural design office SAKUMAESHIMA. Overlooking the calm Seto Inland Sea, the 67-square-metre cafe's relaxed interior was inspired by the peaceful coastal light, the soothing views of the sea and outlying islands, and the comforting rhythm of ships entering and leaving the harbour.

The idea, according to the designers, was to craft a community-focused space where everyone would feel welcome. Arranged around a open kitchen counter made of wood, the cafe was carefully laid out so that all seats could enjoy views of the sea.

'We wanted to create something different from what was around and available while still respecting what already existed,' says Eikichi Saku, co-director of SAKUMAESHIMA. 'We didn't want the space to be too disconnected from its surroundings — there needed to be a nice balance. It had to be a place with a distinct design identity, but where different types of people could gather and feel comfortable.'

A key consideration for the project was to use local materials. The reinforced concrete base of the original walls and ceiling was retained and complemented with grey Seto plaster — a recycled material made from oyster shells and sand plaster produced by local company Setoshikkui. 'Hiroshima is famous for its oysters, and discarded shells produce a lot of waste,' explains Shotaro Maeshima, Saku's co-director. 'We thought using this material was a great way to incorporate a recycled element into the project while also choosing a material produced locally.'

Countertops and tables made from locally sourced Japanese oak were crafted by the owner's friend, while the low wooden chairs facing the window were created in collaboration with Karimoku. Upholstered with a soft pink textile from Kvadrat, they enliven the space with a gentle pop of colour, their smooth texture revealed by the natural light that pours in through the generous windows.

Sambashiya's pared-down interior was deliberately kept simple to create a light atmosphere and give the space enough flexibility to evolve in the future, with the hope to host events and pop-ups. Outside the cafe, a small kiosk set up by the owner sells oranges and local produce from the area, with plans to expand. 'It's great to visit a place you've designed and created, but we're excited to see how the cafe will grow and develop on its own as it becomes a part of the community,' says Saku. 'Maybe we'll be asked to design a new orange kiosk in the future, that could be nice.'

Text / Nina Milhaud
Images / Masaaki Inoue (Bouillon)

A Facility for Design

Better known for airline cabins, collectable furniture and Apple wearables, industrial designer Marc Newson is the latest in a series of high-profile architects and designers to reimagine Tokyo's usually unremarkable public toilets

Courtesy of the ongoing Tokyo Toilet project, Marc Newson has created a dignified but simple structure in Tokyo's Sendagaya neighbourhood, thoughtfully applying his signature curved forms to an almost universally neglected feature of urban life.

'It's important to me that the toilet feels trustworthy and honest inside and out,' Newson explains. His respect for the city and its residents comes through in the use of resilient and robust finishes, with the design realised under an overpass in a previously unloved location.

Drawing on materials found in shrines, temples and tearooms, Newson wanted the copper roof to 'trigger a subconscious feeling of comfort and peacefulness'. A patina will eventually colour the copper, integrating the structure into the city, so that over time 'it becomes part of the fabric of Tokyo'.

Text / Jeremy Smart
Image / Satoshi Nagare

Art Central
22–25 March 2023
Hong Kong
Art Basel Hong Kong
23–25 March 2023
Hong Kong
Architects, not Architecture (AnA)
9 March 2023
Architects, not Architecture (AnA)
21 March 2023
ARCH:ID 2023
16–19 March 2023
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