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Wynk Collaborative designs holistic spaces imbued with a sense of place

Wynk Collaborative designs holistic spaces imbued with a sense of place

By Sophie Cullen

For thousands of years, truly great designers have practised the concept of holistic design, an idea that goes beyond a simple client brief to create spaces better connected to the world in which they sit. Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci, with his all-encompassing approach to design, sculpture and architecture is the most well-known practitioner of the approach, but it’s found across the globe from the likes of Philippe Starck in Paris to Neri & Hu in Shanghai. And if you’re on the hunt for examples closer to home, one firm stamping its mark on the Singapore scene is Wynk Collaborative.

The secret lounge at Wynk Collaborative's Habitat by Honestbee project

Design is so much more than just a pretty face

Art, design and architecture blur boundaries in the projects conceived by Wynk, a firm established in 2011 by National University of Singapore alumni Leong Hon Kit and Si Jian Xin. With spatial design at the core of their approach, the pair – both of whom have an NUS Masters of Architecture – look beyond the confines of individual disciplines and towards creating illuminating spaces that touch the very soul of the users they are designed for.

Hon Kit explains: “I first got interested in design during my teens when I came across Wallpaper magazine at the bookstore. The magazine was a confluence of art, design, architecture and lifestyle, and this holistic approach to design has stuck with me till today.”

This universal attitude towards design can be seen across the many projects the firm has worked on in Singapore and further afield. One simply needs to examine the numerous residential and F&B spaces they have created to witness interconnected elements that elevate homes and restaurants not merely to become beautiful spaces, but functional and deeply enjoyable places to be.

Sounds simple? It’s not.

We’re better together

“I think that taking a holistic approach to design allows us to see a project from many different perspectives, not just through the lens of architecture and interior design. We become more aware of things like the human-centricity of the space, and how the space functions together with the content that it is designed to carry, and what role it plays in terms of business operations and cultural production,” Hon Kit points out.

Jian Xin continues: “Collaboration then allows us to understand and also learn from different fields. Ultimately, seeing things from different perspectives allows us to design better.”

In terms of style, a Scandinavian aesthetic permeates a number of projects by Wynk Collaborative, no doubt a lingering influence from Hon Kit’s semesters away in Norway and Sweden coupled with Jian Xin’s experience in master planning and interior design, and both agree that this trend is here for the long run.

“The current popularity for the ‘Scandinavian’ look will definitely be around for some time, owing largely to its soft and easy palette of light coloured wood, pastels, and neutrals, which is easy on the eye, and also allows a huge latitude for personalisation, as opposed to some styles that might have a more fixed look,” believes Hon Kit.

The pair agrees that social media and online influences such as Pinterest have allowed a number of residential design trends to propagate and flourish. Hon Kit says: “I don’t think trends really go away any more, but they do evolve over the years. A good example would be the industrial look that was quite popular some years back. It’s not as popular now, but it is still around and has evolved from something more hard-edged to something softer. Many elements of it still linger and bleed into spaces with styles that may not scream ‘industrial’.”

In a broader sense, residential design trends have evolved from just adapting different styles associated with living spaces to incorporating elements associated with hospitality and F&B projects.

Jian Xin, Wynk Collaborative

And vice versa too. Case in point: Habitat by Honestbee, a 60,000 sqft tech-integrated retail and dining destination designed to function as an IRL extension of the brand’s grocery app. For this project inside an enormous warehouse in District 5, the duo was inspired by the idea of an open-air market that also incorporates elements of a bookshop, a cafe, and even a home.

“Habitat by Honestbee is probably our biggest and most high-profile project to date. There was a lot of blood and sweat that went into it and it was a huge challenge to design for something that is unprecedented in Singapore and the region: combining elements of retail, technology, F&B, hospitality and logistics into one space, stretching the perception of what each component can be in relation to the others,” says Hon Kit.

Jian Xin adds: “I also think it showed that we could tackle projects which were bigger and less conventional.”

And if all it takes is a little bit of defying convention for innovative, designed spaces that push boundaries and create a multi-sensory experience for users, we’ll take it.

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