(Design for the Unio sales gallery in Kuala Lumpur by Sky Creation + (above); and Fabricwood. PHOTO: PAN YI CHENG)

Local interior designers can now look forward to participating in a new design competition developed strategically to nurture Singaporean and Asian talents.

A massive undulating plywood structure, a winner at the recent Singapore Interior Designer Awards (Sida), stands tall over the Herman Miller section at multi-label furniture store Xtra in Marina Square.

Named Fabricwood, it stretches across the 140 sq m space taken up by the designer brand, bent into giant arches to create the illusion of a cave.

Designed to mimic the fluid nature of fabric, the installation was conceived by head designer Pan Yi Cheng from local design firm Produce studio.

"We wanted to create an effect that is very soft, as opposed to what people usually think about plywood, which is that of a hard, inflexible material," says Mr Pan, who worked with an eight-man team from the studio on the design.


(The winning structure at Xtra)


The structure was inspired by two of Herman Miller's signature products – plywood furniture and ergonomic chairs. Xtra hired the firm to design the installation which was completed in September last year.

To create the waves, Mr Pan, 37, drew from a traditional tailoring method known as darting – folding and creasing fabric to shape it – to ensure that the plywood pieces fit together without cracking.

For their efforts, he and his team bagged the gold award at the inaugural Sida on Wednesday.

The team was one of 61 winners announced at the awards ceremony, picked from more than 300 entries received from more than 10 countries, most of them in Asia.

Launched this year by the Society of Interior Designers Singapore, the award has two main categories: completed and proposed works. These are split into smaller categories according to the type of project. Gold, silver and bronze awards, as well as two honorary mentions, are handed out in each of these bands.

Winning designs ran the gamut from unique retail spaces to a retail kiosk topped with a giant top hat and stunning home interiors.

Nine of the winners were teams from Singapore.

This is proof of Singapore's design standards, says Mr Keat Ong, 41, president of the Society of Interior Designers Singapore. He heads design firm Nota Design Group. "It shows we have the talent to compete. When you look at it in terms of the proportions of our country size, I think it's a fantastic start."

The 23-year-old association, which comprises more than 150 members from professions within the industry, set up the award as it felt that there was no "international award out there from an Asian perspective", he says.

The preliminary rounds of Sida were judged by a team of eight well-known Singapore designers. The subsequent round involved an international team of judges from different design backgrounds.

The association aims for Sida to be an annual event. Planning is underway for next year's award, which will have a new category for works by design students.

Current winners are looking forward to next year's edition.

Chief designer Astley Ng from local design consultancy firm Sky Creation +, says he is keen to participate in the competition next year too. His proposed design for two show units and a sales gallery in Kuala Lumpur won three awards this year.

Mr Ng, 41, says: "Like all design- related awards, this one helps to open doors for us and it shows that our calibre is on a par with the rest of the world."


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Article by Cara Wong, originally appeared in The Straits Times