Serpentine pavilion & Summer Houses 2016

Serpentine Pavilion by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Serpentine Pavilion by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)


This year, the 16th Serpentine Pavilion (10th Jun until 9th Oct 2016) is designed by Danish architectural studio BIG, or Bjarke Ingels Group. In addition to the main pavilion, four 25sqm summer houses inspired by the nearby 18th century Queen Caroline’s Temple are commissioned and built by architects who have yet to build a permanent building in England.


serpentine gallery 2016

serpentine gallery 2016

serpentine gallery 2016  serpentine gallery 2016


From afar, the towering pavilion looks less striking than some of the previous ones. Yet it becomes more intriguing as you get closer… when you realise that the structure is made up of stacked rectangular fibreglass boxes. The ‘unzipped wall’ creates a cave-like canyon, and it is fascinating when you look up inside the structure. It somehow reminds me of Muji’s transparent stackable storage units!


Barkow Leibinger summer house

Barkow Leibinger summer house

Barkow Leibinger summer house

Summer house designed by Barkow Leibinger


Like the main pavilion, the four temporary summer houses around English landscape architect William Kent‘s Queen Caroline’s Temple are also available sale, but at lower costs of £95,000 or £125,000.

American/German architectural practice Barkow Leibinger‘s summerhouse is inspired by William Kent’s other 18th century pavilion that once stood in the park, but is no longer standing. The small pavilion rotated mechanically 360 degrees at the top of the hill, offering various panoramic views of the park. Here, the architects created a curvy structure based on the idea of coiling material in your hands then stacking the coils upon each other.


Kunlé Adeyemi summer house

Kunlé Adeyemi summer house

Kunlé Adeyemi summer house

Summer house designed by Kunlé Adeyemi


Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi designed an inverse replica of the Queen Caroline’s Temple directly opposite it. The structure is made of prefabricated building blocks assembled from rough sandstone similar to those used in the temple. Its clever deconstructed design offers visitors a space for shelter and relaxation.


summer houses 2016

Asif Khan summer house

Asif Khan summer house  Yona Friedman summer house

Yona Friedman summer house

Yona Friedman summer house

Yona Friedman summer house

Top to 3rd row left: Summer house designed by Asif Khan; 3rd row right & bottom three rows: Summer house designed by Yona Friedman


The third house is designed by British architect Asif Khan, whose structure traces back to Kent’s original idea 300 years ago: to catch sunlight reflected off the nearby Serpentine lake annually on Queen Caroline’s birthday. Khan‘s new design comprises 100 white timber staves, white gravels, and a polished metal platform and roof in the middle. Conceived as a Tea House, visitors can sit inside and enjoy sunlight and the surrounding scenery.

The fourth house – and my favourite – is design by the 93 year-old Hungarian-born French architect Yona Friedman. The architect is best known for his theory of mobile architecture that started in the 1950s. His house is inspired by his project La Ville Spatiale (Spatial City) in 1959, which was based on two principles: firstly, a mobile architecture that could create an elevated city space and enable the growth of cities while restraining the use of land; secondly, the use of modular structures to allow people to live in housing of their own design.

Here, the modular structure composed of cubes can be assembled and disassembled in different formations. It also acts as a movable museum and exhibition space, where part of the cubes can support transparent polycarbonate panels and showcase different artworks or objects. I love this structure for its tribal-inspired concept and simplicity, and I find the geometric shapes very enticing especially against the blue sky.


Elytra filament pavilion

Elytra filament pavilion

Elytra filament pavilion  Elytra filament pavilion

Elytra filament pavilion at the V & A museum


Nearby at the V & A Museum, a newly-commissioned outdoor installation, Elytra Filament Pavilion (until 6 November) is created by architects (Achim Menges and Moritz Dörstelmann) and engineers (Jan Knippers and Thomas Auer) at the research institutes of University of Stuttgart.

The design is inspired by the lightweight construction principles found in nature, the filament structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra. Made of glass and carbon fibre, each component of the undulating canopy is produced using an innovative robotic winding technique developed by the designers. The ‘growing’ shelter collects data on how visitors inhabit the pavilion and monitors the structure’s behaviour while it is on display. This is another marvelous pavilion that is not to be missed!




Day out in Southend-On-Sea

southend on sea


Given the proximity of Essex to London, it is surprising how the county is often overlooked by Londoners. Is it because of our biases and stereotypical images of the area and its residents? Londoners would rather visit Kent, Hampshire, Sussex, or Suffolk if they need a short getaway… Essex is quite low on their lists. And from the Brexit results, we can assume that London and Essex definitely don’t see eye to eye in politics.

When my friends and I were planning a day hike/ walk from London, one of them suggested hiring bicycles to cycle along the promenade of Southend on Sea. It only occurred to me then that I have never visited that area before, or most of Essex for that matter. I was quite curious.


southend on sea

southend on sea




None of us have visited Southend on Sea before, and we bought our group saver tickets from Fenchurch Street station – which none of us have used before this occasion either! And just over an hour later, we arrived in Shoeburyness, the mouth of the Thames Estuary.

The day didn’t start off well for us. First of all, the weather wasn’t exactly summery – it was grey, drizzly, and very windy! Then we found out the bicycle hire shop was closed… on Sundays! We had no option but to walk.

In the 19th century, Shoeburyness was a garrison town housing the Royal Artillery and Gunnery schools. Nowadays, the Shoebury Garrison is recognised as an area of national importance and is protected – much of it as a conservation area. Many of the historical buildings are listed and protected by English Heritage as scheduled ancient monuments, while others have been converted into luxury houses.

As we walked along the seafront, we came across the derelict Heavy Quick Firing Battery built in 1899; the military history here is discernible, which makes the area more interesting than many other coastal towns in the U.K. If I were to visit Southend on Sea again, I would probably spend my time here rather than the Central part.






IMG_6400-min  IMG_6402-min

Southend on Sea Central


As we approached the Central part, the subdued vibe was replaced by noisy theme park rides and crowds on the pier. There was also a vintage and classic car show with rows of shiny and well-polished cars on display.

Walking along the seafront esplanade, the scenery reminded me much of photographer Martin Parr’s iconic British seaside images. Although it is more vibrant than some coastal towns like Hastings; the tacky amusement arcades and casinos are sad reminders of the decline of the British seaside resorts over the past decades.

The biggest attraction of the seafront is its 19th century Grade II listed pier – the longest (1.34 miles/2.16 km) in the world. Over the years, the pier had suffered from fire, crashes, collapse and closures; and after continuous redevelopment by the local council, it was reopened in 2012. We found it odd to have to pay £2 per person to walk on the pier, and so we decided to skip it.







Finally, after walking for 11 miles (with lunch and coffee breaks along the route), we reached the calmer Chalkwell and headed back to London by train.

Ironically, as soon as we boarded, the grey clouds above our heads all day suddenly subsided and the sun decided to pop out to tease us! I guess one can learn much about life through nature especially the British weather – which is always unpredictable and inconsistent. And since we are all powerless against it, we have to just accept or even laugh about it, which was what we did on our way back to sunny London.


New designers Part II 2016

Northumbria university products

Lewis power Leon lighting  Kaelin Rose Newton's CitySprout

Top: Northumbria university’s crafted interactive products; Bottom left: Leon lighting by Lewis Power; Bottom right: Kaelin Rose Newton’s CitySprout


This year’s New Designers show Part II was probably the best that I have been to in recent years. Overall the standard was very high, and I think it was more exciting than the DMY International design festival that I attended in Berlin a month ago. The show continues to affirm the outstanding design talents in the UK, and it is always exhilarating for me to see innovative designs that could change people’s lives for the better.

At Northumbria University, the merge of new technologies and traditional craft making resulted in a series of minimalist designs that are innovative, functional and aesthetically beautiful. One of the them is Kyle Abbott‘s ‘Touching Warmth’ –  a personal heater which becomes active when picked up and stroked. The temperature of the object can mimic the warmth and comfort of body heat.

I also spoke to Tom Leslie, one of the two winners of the ‘John Lewis Loves’ awards from the group. His project ‘In Search of Atmosphere’ and the other winner, Lewis Power‘s ‘Leon’ both explore users’ experiences through their interaction with light and objects.


james vanderpant  Bryn Burbidge's SeatLocky

Jaxon Pope's 'modular gas burners

Top left: James Vanderpant‘s touch sensitive modular lighting ‘Helios’ won the Johnson Tiles Associate Prize; Top right: Bryn Burbidge’s ‘SeatLocky’; Bottom: Jaxon Pope/Selce Studio‘s ‘modular gas burners’.


At London South Bank University, there were also some intriguing display like CitySprout‘ by Kaelin Rose Newton – an indoor hydroponic planting unit with removable modular sections and a water reservoir in the base. There are moisture sensors in both levels to ensure that the plants are watered autonomously. The design also functions as lighting, which is perfect for all modern city homes.

Another was ‘SeatLocky’ by Bryn Burbidge, winner of the New Designers Innovate – Helping Inventors Associate Prize at the show. Bryn told me that he came up with the design of ‘SeatLocky’ after his bike and bike seat were stolen. The bicycle locking device consists of 6 cnc’d aluminium hinges which lock together for insertion into the seat tube. It is an elegant looking device, and I hope it will be launched in the market soon.


George Riding's The Wire Series table   DSC_0046-min

george riding's watering cans

Maddie Lamont's Jarrah

winter and kurth  winter and kurth

Top left: George Riding’s The Wire Series table; 2nd row: George riding’s watering cans; 3rd row: Maddie Lamont‘s Jarrah; Bottom: Winter and Kurth’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ 


Winter and Kurths ‘For What It’s Worth’ is a collection of work that debates the value we place on high design and craftsmanship and its perception as a status symbol. One of the pieces is an unique Marquetry table with graphite legs influenced by Junichiro Tanizaki’s essay In praise of shadows in which comparisons of light with darkness are used to contrast Western and Asian cultures. I love the subtlety of their designs and their precise craftsmanship, and I would like to see more thoughtful furniture like this in the market.


KreisBoard by lucas freitas santos  Joshua Akhtar's Baithive

Conor Shimizu Moore's Artemis

jack hubery   Elspeth MacLeod's Mella

Josh James's 'Melt'

Top left: ‘KreisBoard’ by Lucas Freitas Santos; Top right: Joshua Akhtar’s ‘Baithive’; 2nd row: Conor Shimizu Moore’s ‘Artemis’; 3rd left: Jack Hubery’s ‘Experiments in Recycled Plastic’; 3rd right: Elspeth MacLeod’s ‘Mella’ beehive; Bottom: Josh James’s ‘Melt’


Sustainability and recyclability continue to be the key concerns in the design world, and there were some notable projects at the show.

Lucas Freitas Santos‘ KreisBoard is a surfboard covered in 17,000 cigarette butts collected in only 2 days. The toxic litter contains more than 4000 chemicals that pollute our oceans worldwide. I was surprised by the statistics, and I think the project delivers a strong and important message to the world.

Jack Hubery‘s ‘Experiments in Recycled Plastic’ is a collection of colourful bowls made from recycled plastic bottles using rigs and domestic oven.

Similarly, Josh James‘s ‘Melt’ is a kit that enables anyone to turn their waste plastic into beautiful handcrafted objects, at home. It is particularly encouraging to see waste plastic being turned into beautiful and personalised handcrafted objects or stationery. The project also won the ‘’ Award at the show.

The New Designer of the Year Award’s Runner Up, Elspeth MacLeod is a Industrial Design & Technology graduate from Loughborough University. Her Mella is a self-monitoring beehive, allowing the user to check up on their bees whenever they want. The system checks the temperature and humidity regularly, and it aims to reduce direct contact between the user and their bees, and create a healthier environment for colonies to thrive in.

Another bee-related project is ‘Bait Hive’ – a sustainable, low-cost design solution for a foldable bee hive. Josh Akhtar from Brighton University is the second winner of this year’s New Designers W’innovate & Wilko Award. His Bait Hive is designed to be used in a wide variety of locations and is dedicated to swarm capture. It utilises a pheromone to aid in attracting a swarm, and once it enters the hive, a rotating door is used to trap the queen whilst allowing the colony to continue to forage, ensuring the swarm stays in its new location.

I also had an interesting chat with Conor Shimizu Moore from University of Sussex about his ‘Artemis’ growing kit – a new vivarium that features both an aquarium tank, and an open-terrarium environment. Artemis’s open-terrarium features a cutting edge “Shikkou-Nuri” paint technology from Japan that allow users to grow variety of plants from kitchen herbs to even Sphagnum Moss.


amy elisa lowe's hello hospital

DSC_0009-min  DSC_0028-min


Sebastian Ng Lei's insect eating  pierce brennan's handle with care

Top: Amy Elisa Lowe’s Hello Hospital; 2nd left: Robert Sampay’s ‘Dawn’; 3rd row: April Wu‘s ‘Mercury’ is a fun DIY musical instrument for children in poor countries; Bottom left: Sebastian Ng Lei’s ‘The experience of insect eating’; Bottom right: Pierce Brennan’s ‘Handle With Care®’

Amy Elisa Lowe‘s fun ‘Hello Hospital’ is an interactive storyboard which helps children and parents learn about the stages of going to hospital prior to admission in order for them to feel more at ease.

I learned about the existing drug dispensing error of the hospitals from Robert Sampay, whose mother is a nurse. His drug dispensing device, Dawn aims to reduce this problem and provide a safer way to load, track and dispense medication to patients. Patient prescription information is provided through an intuitive bluetooth low energy platform, resulting in an easier administration procedure and enhanced patient safety.

The Mars Chocolate Design Thinking Award winner, Sebastian Ng Lei’s ‘The experience of insect eating’ actually sounds more mind-boggling than it actually is. The sustainable project challenges our conventional view of food consumption in the West. The designer explained to me that his machine can product low-cost and nutritious cricket crackers that are more beneficial and eco-friendly than meat-eating. The concept is fascinating, but can consumers overcome their psychological barrier? I wonder what cheese on cricket crackers will taste like…

For people with OCD (myself included), Pierce Brennan’s Handle With Care® – a door handle with hand sanitiser is much appreciated. If this product becomes widely available, we can finally put away the tissues we often use to avoid touching the dirty door handles!



Bethany Christou's Slow Samson  tilly gibbs


Sarah adams DSC_0080-min IMG_6328


2nd row left: Bethany Christou‘s Slow Samson; 2nd row right: Tilly Gibbs‘ ‘A to Z of New York’; 3rd row: Katie Williams‘ The evacuation of St Kilda’; 4th left: Sarah Adams‘ needle felting work; 4th middle: Emily Dayson; 4th right: I love this Donald Trump illustration!


Shannon Bartlett Smith  Rebecca Chan's komorebi side tables

Shannon Bartlett Smith


Top left and 2nd row: Shannon Bartlett Smith’s Paper cuts; top right: Rebecca Chan’s Komorebi side tables; Bottom: Kate Colin design‘s hand folded lamps


Last but not least, I spent the last 15 minutes of my visit at One Year on chatting to Shannon Bartlett Smith and Rebecca Chan. I was quite blown away by Shannon‘s papercut sculpture, and I found her delicate hand-cut pieces inspired by her hometown completely mesmerising! Meanwhile, her neightbour Rebecca Chan‘s Komorebi side tables inspired by the interplay between light and trees are also unique and beautiful.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy the graphic design section, which was a real shame. But what I saw briefly was encouraging, and I hope that all these UK design students will continue to produce brilliant work.

After experiencing disappointment at the design festivals in London and abroad, I finally feel more reassured after my visit to this graduate show! I only hope that Brexit will not be a barrier for these young talents in the future. I wish them all the best!

RCA graduation show 2016

Javier Gallardo

Autonome by Javier Garcia Gallardo


I have always enjoyed discovering new talents at the annual RCA graduation show in the Kensington campus. This year, however, I was slightly disappointed with the overall show. It is not to say that there weren’t many interesting projects, but somehow they were not as inspiring than the previous years. Was let down by my high expectations? Perhaps.

The project that first caught my attention was Christian Felsner‘s ‘Aktor’, an exploration of deployable structures for organic forms. The material softens when it is activated with electricity and a diverse range of shapes can be achieved through pulling and pushing. The efficient manufacturing process generates minimal waste, and the structure has multiple functionalities and can be applied in health care, packaging, interior elements, disaster relieve and DIY.


christian Felsner Aktor

christian Felsner Aktor  Philippe Hohlfeld Growframe

Top & bottom left: Christian Felsner’s Aktor; Botton right: Philippe Hohlfeld’s Growframe


Philippe Hohlfeld’s ‘Growframe’ GrowFrame is a collapsible hydroponic farm that cultivates food in empty 20 and 40ft shipping containers on the way back to China. Since half of the containers going back to China are empty; GrowFrame aims to turn these containers into the sustainable farms of the future.


Thomas Leech's shoey shoes  IMG_6183-min

Soo Hyeon Goo's pinball

studio ilio the-soft-side-of-steel

Top row: Thomas Leech’s ‘shoey shoes’; 2nd row: Soo Hyeon Goo’s ‘pinball’; Bottom row: Studio Ilio’s ‘the soft side of steel’


Thomas Leech‘s ‘Shoey shoes’ is an exploration of how leather offcuts from the fashion industry can be used to develop a range of children’s shoes. The recyclable children shoes are produced entirely from waste materials, combining new material composites with simplified production techniques. Once outgrown, shoes are returned to the manufacturer and parts are reused wherever possible.

Soo Hyeon Goo‘s pinball table from her ‘a sense of‘ attracted a lot of attention at the show. The project highlights and enhances the potential of sensorial qualities of materials, and it aims to stimulate new levels of sense-driven innovation via providing analogue interactive products. I love the sound produced from this unconventional pinball table!


A sense of_ 01 pinball from soo hyeon goo on Vimeo.


We often consider steel as something hard, but Studio Ilio‘s (Seongil Choi and Fabio Hendry) project ‘The soft side of steel’ explores the alternative qualities of the material. the The project transforms steel fibres into flexible sheets, and creates a series of objects that take advantage of steel and its contradicting states. The work is driven from a blacksmith’s perspective with a tailor’s ideology, and I found the process and results uttering fascinating.


Odds & Ends: Better end of life experiences Lilith Hasbeck and Kay Dale

Project Circular Opendesk  Junction by JooHyun Ryu

zekun Chang  IMG_6162-min

Top: Odds & Ends: Better end of life experiences by Lilith Hasbeck and Kay Dale; 2nd row left: Project Circular Opendesk by Andrea Fischer and Mariana Pedrosa; 2nd row right: community engagement project, Junction by JooHyun Ryu; Bottom left: Zekun Chang; Silk Violins by Luca Alessandrini


‘Odds & Ends: Better end of life experiences’ by Lilith Hasbeck and Kay Dale was the winner of the Age UK Inclusive Design Award. The online service for Royal Trinity Hospice, brings together the fragmented pieces of end of life planning and recommends which documents are relevant to personal circumstances. It helps to break down some of the barriers when dealing with end of life planning and conversations.


IMG_6209-min  ziyang zhang Qilin


Jelka Kretzschmar’s Pick up the Pieces   Yijin Huo's 'Sky blue'

inefficiency machines by waah studio

James Fearon's 'Protein Scaffolding'

Top left: The foyer at the Stevens building; Top right: Ziyang Zhang’s ‘Qilin’; 2nd row: Sam Phong Nguyen’s ‘Neo-Biophilic: Oscillating Landscape’; 3rd row left: Jelka Kretzschmar’s ‘Pick up the Pieces’  3rd row right: Yijin Huo’s ‘Sky blue’; 4th row: ‘Inefficiency machines’ by Waah Studio; Bottom row: James Fearon’s ‘Protein Scaffolding


A rather conspicuous installation was Jelka Kretzschmar’s ‘Pick up the Pieces’ in the foyer of the Stevens building. The project addresses the issue of migration by showcasing a white plaster wall with a hole in the middle, surrounded by gray-painted foam rubble. Visitors were invited to eavesdrop on recordings by refugees inside the hole or in the rubble. It is a sombre piece that is pertinent to the current political situation in U.K.

Yijin Huo‘s ‘Sky blue’ installation displayed a wall of traditional Chinese Ru porcelain vases in various colours. Famous for the ‘sky blue glaze’, the colours of these Ru vases actually reflect the data of the deadly small particulate air pollutant PM2.5 recorded in Beijing’s changing skies!

‘Inefficiency machinesby Waah Studio is an energy efficient devices that offer a convenient solution to the scarcity of resources. In order to make people understand how devices work, a series of interactive objects invite participants to perform repetitive, exaggerated bodily movements to understand the effort necessary to power something taken for granted, like a light bulb.


Ailsa Sinclair

Yiyu lam  jean vatchara's I am listening

Filippo Fontana Magnum

Qian Yuan  The Book Of Wang-Nu Junwen Tan

Top: Ailsa Sinclair‘s ‘Wide awake and jolly as fuck’; 2nd row left: Yiju Lam‘s ‘From the Jungle’ illustrations; 2nd row right: Jean Vatchara‘s ‘I am listening’; 3rd row: Filippo Fontana’s Magnum; bottom left: Qian Yuan‘s ‘∞_Independent Publishing in China’; Bottom right: Junwen Tan‘s ‘The Book Of Wang-Nu’


I really liked the graphics and dark humour of Filippo Fontana‘s Magnum, a comic book inspired by the contemporary figure of the Nouveau Riche in our society. The project portrays the adventures of three characters who each symbolically represent an extreme aspect of human behaviour and our relationship with money.


Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker



Amidst the Brexit storm, a Japanese company of 25 performers brought chaos and frenzy to the Pit at the Barbican; nonetheless it was still more predictable and endurable than the political turmoil that was unfolding during the week.

Part of LIFT Festival 2016, the sold out 45-minute show Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker pays tribute to the Japanese subculture – “otagei” (オタ芸) or “wotagei” (ヲタ芸) – the geeky dance routines performed by superfans to their Japanese pop idols.

Founded by Tokyo-based artist Toco Nikaido, the show is neither theatre nor pop concert; though it is certainly a stimulating form of entertainment that enhances the senses.






Before the show, we were warned about the noise level and water guns, and so we were given rain ponchos and ear plugs as our ‘protections’. Once inside the theatre, it was interesting to see how the entire space – walls and seats – were all covered in plastic sheets!

Aside from the introduction at the beginning, I can’t explain what really went on in the following 40 minutes. I saw the energetic performers danced, sang (in Japanese), jumped, clapped, sprayed water and threw objects at the audience, and ran around urging the audience to join in. It is mad, anarchistic, bewildering, and overwhelming. There is no narrative to the piece, and you are supposed to immerse yourself in the commotion and go with the ride.




As much as I enjoyed the show, I felt that it could have been crazier! Something was lacking for me, and I can’t even pinpoint what it is. However, I appreciated the effort of the performers, especially when they lined up in the corridor to greet us individually as we left the theatre.

As I mentioned, the show is not intellectual, it is a show where you can unwind and act silly, so what more can you ask for when the world outside is even more chaotic than inside the theatre?