'Discovered' in Singapore

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Nong Chotipatoomwan, Thought Bubble, red oak. Photo: Winston Chuang

This month, Red Dot Design Museum plays host to a showcase of the next generation of design talent. A curation of designs from the original London Exhibition, Discovered Singapore presents a visionary group of young creatives in an extraordinary display of furniture, objects and sculptural works in wood.

Conceived by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Discovered Singapore provides a platform for new creatives and an opportunity for talented emerging designers to show their work to the public and the industry at Singapore’s premier design venue.

Selected from the original global line up of 20, the 10 designers exhibiting in Singapore this May worked alongside design mentors and AHEC’s global manufacturing partners to each develop an object made from their choice of four sustainable hardwoods: American red oak, cherry and hard and soft maple.

Throughout the project, designers were supported by AHEC’s technical experts, and mentored by established designers Nathan Yong (Singapore) and Adam Markowitz (Australia).

This collaboration has resulted in a highly diverse selection of objects, ranging from functional furniture such as cabinets, tables and seats to more abstract, sculptural works that inspire reflection. Taken as a whole, Discovered represents how experiences of a changing world have impacted each designer’s personal and creative journeys.

Here are some examples of the work shown:


Above: Nong Chotipatoomwan, Bangkok, Thailand, Thought Bubble, American red oak

A nostalgia for travel and social interaction guided Chotipatoomwan’s creative thinking through her project. Physical transitions were replaced with changing states of mind, and the physical realm merged with the psychological realm through domestic space. The designer looked at furniture created for relaxation, and landed on a rocking motion, which became the basis for her chair, offering a mix of relaxation and repetitive movement to enhance mindfulness. She used red oak for the chair because she was fascinated by its grain. ‘It’s quite expressive and I was interested in its porous nature.’



Kodai Iwamoto, Tokyo, Japan; Pari Pari, American red oak. Photos: Tim Robinson

For his project, Iwamoto researched traditional Japanese techniques, such as uzukuri (giving texture to wood by scrubbing) and chouna (chiselling the surface with an adze), and then started experimenting directly on the wood, peeling its layers to create a new veneer. Working with red oak, he peeled it by cutting the panel’s edge and removing the surface by hand, resulting in a jagged effect where the texture of the grain emerges. These imperfectly textured panels became the starting point for a design exploration that led him to a round table shape, using the subtle material as a base to create the effect of an ancient tree trunk.


Trang Nguyen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; The Roof Stool, American cherry, red oak, hard maple. Photo: Winston Chuang

Nguyen looked at traditional Vietnamese roof tiles for her project, creating a collection of nesting stools that replicate the way the tiles overlap to hide the connecting structures below. Her simple stool design is inspired by traditional temple architecture and Vietnamese dresses, and features pins made of contrasting wood at the joint, which remains hidden when the stools are stacked and is revealed when they are in use. ‘I chose three different types of wood; cherry, red oak and maple, because of their colour differences,’ explains Nguyen. ‘By randomly using two of the species for the pins and another one for the rest for the stool, users can explore the various timbers when they unstack each piece.’ As people have been spending more time at home, her design is imagined to provide additional seats, while creating a beautiful composition when not in use.



Ivana Taylor, Adelaide, Australia; Reframe, American hard maple, cherry and red oak. Photos: Tim Robinson

Taylor’s own experience of solitude led to extensive periods of reflection, ultimately inspiring her to change her approach to designing and making. For this project, she aimed to ‘design a contemplative sculptural object that triggered reflection on the multi-layered nature of any experience, including isolation’. A recurring theme of her research featured ways of framing a view at different scales, and the resulting design is a sculpture made from a series of small carved objects that layer to create a composition acting as a ‘sculpted path for light’. Working with three woods, Taylor was interested in exploring different material hollows, cutting each layer to expose the wood’s grain.



Vivienne Wong, Melbourne, Australia; luxta Me (Beside me), American cherry. Photos: Tim Robinson

Dancer-turned-designer Wong looked at non-verbal communication as the starting point of her project, approaching the task from a personal point of reflection and knowledge. ‘I wanted to translate my previous understanding of how we can connect and communicate,’ she says, and looked to create a piece to nurture strength, intimacy and connection. Invisible physical boundaries and the creation of textures through light formed the basis of the project, which developed into a coffee table featuring interlocking echoed forms, where the functional joinery also became a decorative motif for the piece. Wong chose American cherry because of its grain and colour. ‘It has a beautiful warmth in its pinkish, red hue,’ she says. ‘I felt that supported everything I was trying to put into this piece.’ Her design’s name (using the Latin word for ‘beside’) represents the desire for human connection and closeness that guided the process.



Duncan Young, Adelaide, Australia; Shelter Within, American hard maple. Photos: Tim Robinson

Young focused on the materiality of timber, and how this organic material can help us connect with nature while confined at home. ‘For those in dense urban environments, lockdowns have impacted our physical and mental strength by limiting the biological need humans have for being in outdoor spaces,’ he says. He looked at studies analysing the positive impact of nature on physical and mental health, and in response created a modern cabinet of curiosities as a pillar to nature, for the user to engage with the natural world while at home. Featuring a solid carcase with discreet joinery and a moiré-effect shelf (a design inspired by the historic symbolism of the cabinet as a theatre), the simple plinth includes two glass sculptural elements handmade at Young’s studio, refracting and distorting the light to evoke the effect of walking beneath a canopy of trees. Young used hard maple to create the carcass. ‘It’s such a pared-back timber,’ he explains. ‘It has a gentle grain structure and I thought the lightness would soften the heaviness of my piece’s form.’




Mew Mungnatee, Bangkok, Thailand; Corners Lamp, American soft maple, cherry. Photos: Winston Chuang

Mungnatee’s emotional response to the objects surrounding her took in the relationship between form, light and shadow, and with this project, she explored this connection through geometry. Her lamp designs, inspired by pagodas, are based on a bulb casting a shadow over surfaces below thanks to an intricate grid composition featuring wooden slats and indented corners. She worked with soft maple, because of the manner in which light bounces off its surface (‘The wood has an opalescent gleam,’ she explains) and American cherry for its ability to take stain.

Work designed for Discovered was made by Fowseng, Malaysia and Evostyle in Australia.

Discovered: Singapore is on display at Red Dot Design Museum, Singapore, 16–22 May, 2024

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