Howard Chung and Irene Cheng founded HIR Studio to allow their design philosophy to see the light of day – to create visionary designs that embody their core values. The duo's projects vary in scale, from interior designs for residences, offices and commercials to public installations, small architectural projects and works of art
You have previous experience overseas and in Hong Kong. What inspired you to set up your own design studio?
Working in different places has broadened our vision of architecture. It's fascinating to see the most diverse ideas come together under a shared belief. Our city deserves more like this, so this is for ourselves, as well as our culture.
From where do you get your inspiration?
We're inspired by the past and present. The traditional crafts, materials and arts of a city are sources for contemporary interpretation, and we often explore how spaces get activated and communicate with people in real time. We research by sketching, conversing and writing, followed by numerous design options that may cross-breed and grow. We also collaborate with some workshops in town, where we can make real mock-ups with drills and saws, and test the materials in the early conceptual stages.
Does training in architecture help your creative process?
Training includes studying and working. Irene studied at the Bartlett, where the definition of architecture is broad. Making a building may not even be the end product of a project – it's more about the design process and providing diversified solutions to the questions. We still do that at HIR, reminding ourselves that any construction is only a means to creating an atmosphere and experience, but not necessarily the only focus. After graduation, we worked at Foster + Partners, Adjaye Associates and Aedas, where we explored new solutions and pushed boundaries – in concepts, constructability and building details. We still design with loads of options at different stages, and critique each one of them with the most objective and open mind.
We research by sketching, conversing and writing, followed by numerous design options that may cross-breed and grow
How does technology play a part in your design?
HIR believes that design should represent the ethos of its time. We are inclusive about using any technology that may enrich the user's experience, whether it's a smart-home system, or sensors for digital interactions. We also make use of the latest technology to test and visualise our design options before they get realised. What technology cannot replace yet are the primitive and tangible touches that everyone loves.
As members of the creative and design force in Hong Kong, how would you rate the standard of Hong Kong design? How can local designers gain more exposure overseas?
There are so many talented designers in Hong Kong. But design is not always prioritised in many renovation projects or new-builds in town. This is evident in many private residential developments, public facilities and even museums. It's absolutely good to let local designers gain more exposure overseas, as it will help us to build up a much stronger identity. This may be done by holding overseas exhibitions and by gaining exposure in publications as well as online.
You participated in Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC)'s DesignInspire and Happy Innovations exhibitions with the installation The Adaptive Flock last year. How was the experience and reception?
Working with HKTDC was a fabulous experience. The public interacted with our work as we planned, and asked us lots of questions regarding the concepts. We were also privileged to have a chance to present the idea to the Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Let's see if our proposal to build interactive bartering facilities in open parks will be given a green light in the near future.
It's absolutely good to let local designers gain more exposure overseas, as it will help us to build up a much stronger identity
How does DesignInspire play a part in raising awareness about Hong Kong design?
It helped the public learn more about public installations and designers' social contributions to the city. It's only when the general public knows more about good local design that we can raise the bar for our built environments. We look forward to more collaboration with the HKTDC.