ART4D SPOKE WITH LUKE YEUNG OF ARCHITECTKIDD, A STUDIO KNOWN FOR ITS INTEGRATION OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES WITH LOCAL CRAFTSMANSHIP AND VERNACULAR MATERIALS
Before we begin, I wonder how you would describe the core of your works; how would you define or describe Architectkidd’s architecture?
Luke Yeung: Architectkidd’s projects involve exploring the material culture of the place. I think Bangkok, where most of our projects are, is a city where people make things. So it’s possible to walk down the streets and discover people working with different materials on hand. This common practice of making things is very accessible and can be seen everywhere – it’s really built into the urban fabric of the city. It’s this kind of material culture, which is a testament to a kind of collective resourcefulness that serves as inspiration for us.
What are the design approaches or philosophies behind your studio? Are there any specific principles that you always keep in mind when it comes to designing your projects?
LY: It seems a little obvious to say that physical materials are important in developing architecture, since architecture is about designing physical buildings. But from what I see today, not enough attention is being made when it comes to materials. I think architects really need to be directly involved in materials, not just specifying off-the-shelf products from a catalog or manufacturer, but really spending the time to test and develop, to fabricate and adapt materials so that the right ones are crafted for the purpose and project.
How about architectural practice? Do you have any definition of what the role of an architect should or could be?
LY: I think that if you’re striving towards realizing challenging ideas, you will need to be prepared for some failure along the way. But then from a professional practice point of view, things are not really set up that way since you’re the professional, and you’re not really supposed to deliver unsuccessful results at any stage of a project. Especially when it comes to new materials and techniques, there is always concern about whether a proposed material will be durable or able to perform as expected. To overcome that, we try to implement full-scale mockups during the design process, so that all the people involved, from client to the builders can review the actual results together. Managing everyone’s expectations is a very important role of an architect in professional practice.
A lot of Architectkidd’s projects seem to be interested in exploring and experimenting with something between emerging technology, local craftsmanship and vernacular materials. Could you talk about how you find the way to integrate these different elements?
LY: We’ve been developing different ways to make this happen and they range from being pre-mediated to serendipitous. For instance, during the early stages of a project, digital tools can be useful in implementing experimental approaches, or at least producing various options and permutations. This can open up ideas and lead us to see some new possibilities or combinations. Then on the other hand, many things can happen on site – even something seemingly spontaneous can completely transform the overall design. So we’ve learned to be very observant and agile towards a wide range of scales from the systematic down to the accidental because they all have the potential to be used as ingredients to create new physical and spatial experiences.
Do you think it is important to promote and study more about our local craftsmanship and technical knowledge? Is training the local workers, for example, a process we should do as well?
LY: I’m a big believer of ‘learning by doing,’ so yes it’s important in so far as working well with various different people involved during a project. I don’t see it as ‘training’ workers because as designers you basically have to rely on other people to execute your ideas in the project and therefore its ultimate success or failure. So collaboration is the right way to think about it because it’s really about being able to share with everyone participating, with the goal to create a unified understanding towards the design intentions and outcomes of the project.
Regarding the design scene in this country, do you find it difficult to practice as an architect in Thailand? What do you think are the greatest challenges?
LY: There are typical challenges and issues that designers face which I think more or less exist anywhere you practice architecture. Fortunately, what we do as architects is to create buildings so I think the outcomes are relatively simple in terms of being something singular, physical and tangible. So although sometimes the design intentions may be challenging to explain, I think the key is to find ways to communicate them, and although language is used I think ultimately the visual forms of communication and instruction are the most important in architecture.
Can you talk about the future tendencies of your studio, how do you see or position yourself in the future?
LY: Talking about the future, I think interesting architecture needs to have an eye towards tomorrow. Good buildings have the ability to anticipate and to look farther beyond present needs. This doesn’t mean architecture has to be futuristic in its construction or technology. Sometimes it’s about incorporating elements from the past as well. I think every new generation will bring something important that the previous one has not addressed. So it’s critical to remain passionate and optimistic about social and environmental issues, and to work towards being in a position where you can contribute something towards the contemporary language of architecture today and tomorrow.