After the introductions, the four international design experts took to the stage, each speaking for twenty-minutes, then answering questions from Lulu Hsia for ten-minutes. Their topics, addressing design and social responsibility, ranged from education to business and culture.
First up was Dutch designer and visionary Ad van Berlo, founder of VanBerlo, founding partner of IQ+ Innovation Capitalist, and part-time professor of Entrepreneurial Design of Intelligent Systems at Eindhoven University of Technology. He introduced his theory of ‘Creative Equity’, which is his vision for how creatives can enhance their value. One of the ways designers can reap higher returns on their innovation, he said, is to bring people and technology closer together rather than simply focusing on making things that are aesthetically pleasing.
“Let’s open the doors, because there’s more knowledge outside our company than within. Let’s find all those smart people. We know a little about AI, but there are so many smart people out there, so let’s invite them in.”
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“The idea for us was how to engage people who want to appreciate the culture, and have a bit more money to spend, and are tired of staying in business hotels, looking for a different experience. Stylish, worldly, independent people,” he said.
“I was very inspired by the 1927 movie Metropolis and brutalist architecture,” he later said of his inspirations. “The skin of the space we didn’t touch. Even the truss is original, 120 years old.”
Concern for the natural environment was never far from Lee’s mind as well, as he sought to utilize reusable materials wherever and whenever possible, and to do things in-house.
“The water is all bottled by the hotel. All the mugs are created by our own potters. Everything is sustainable, from the toothbrushes to the showers.”
Like Bakos before him, Lee also drew attention to the fact that going forward, design should be about reusing what is already available; not about destroying what’s already there and building atop the old foundations.
“Everything is new in Singapore,” he said of his home city-state. “Everything is modern and boring. The idea of reusing a building without interjection is good. You want to keep the integrity of the space, but you want to say something to the modern-day user.
“They might not know the building from 120 years ago,” he said of his multi-award winning hotel, “but today it’s their space. Slowly it will become a trend where clients say it’s not trendy to keep redoing things.”