APU is a newly founded architectural and design studio in Hong Kong. Its founder, Oskar Ng tells Martine Beale about building a collaborative workspace, giving back to the community, and saving sea turtles.
When and why did you set up Architectural Project Unit Limited (APU)?
I founded it in 2012. I had worked with a variety of established architectural and design practices, but eventually realised that I wasn’t enjoying the creative design process in that kind of environment. So, I decided to open my own office and designed it in an open-studio style conducive to fostering creativity.
Who are the APU team?
Our nine-person team comprises a mix of designers from Hong Kong, Singapore and the US. We believe the input of designers from different cultural backgrounds enhances the success of creating unique designs.
Our recruitment philosophy is multicultural and based on a global view whereby there are no boundaries. Designers from all cultures are welcome to join us.
How does your team work?
I encourage working collaboratively so that the team can brainstorm ideas, discuss different aspects of the project in detail and bring their individual expertise into the working process.
In this way, each member learns more about all the various components involved in each project. It also enhances sharing individual knowledge, which helps the team gain strength as a whole. This then carries into each new project.
What are you currently working on?
We are designing an 8,000sqft property in Clearwater Bay that comprises two houses: one as the client’s home and the other will be put up for sale.
Simultaneously fulfilling the client’s criteria for a private residence and designing the other for the buying market is quite a challenge.
The houses are situated between lush green mountains. The architecture is designed to be in harmony with the surrounding landscape and has an avant-garde style – elements that are expressed throughout the interior design.
Avant-garde in what way?
In this day and age, avant-garde can be defined as eco-friendly and sustainable, and so we have incorporated a variety of these materials into different areas.
Do you work on creative projects outside the architectural realm?
Yes. In April this year we worked on an art exhibition called Canstruction, whereby we created a large sea turtle sculpture from 2,472 different types of canned food. It took us a day to create and was on display for two weeks in a public plaza in Olympic City.
What was the idea behind that?
The aim was to draw the public’s attention to the plight of the Hong Kong sea turtle and raise awareness about their dwindling numbers. And especially engage the young, who probably aren’t even aware that sea turtles once came here to breed in abundance.
We also wanted to highlight the importance of environmental protection: we’d like to see an improvement in the environment and the return of “Made in Hong Kong” turtles.
After dismantling the cans, we donated them to a food bank as a way of giving to those in need and making our own contribution to the community.
Do you plan on doing other similar projects?
Yes. We are currently in the process of working with a lighting supplier to create a project in Ping Shek Estate near Kwun Tong, in East Kowloon.
We’re hoping to supply 100 financially-challenged families and the elderly with longer-lasting energy efficient LED light bulbs in exchange for their regular bulbs.
We’ll ask those who make the swap to write messages on their old light bulbs. We’re hoping to collect 1,000 bulbs and will make an art piece from them for a future exhibition. As architects we can help empower and make a difference to those in need.
Why did you set up your studio in Kwun Tong?
There are great industrial buildings with unique architectural elements that were built in the ‘60s and ‘70s in this area. In recent years, these have attracted a whole host of artistic and cultural services industries which, in turn, has helped nurture these industries.
Government plans to redevelop some of this area will ensure its continued industrial legacy and help create a premium area akin to the Central business district. So, it made sense for us to locate here.
Architectural Project Unit Limited