Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer O&O STUDIO Ltd ("OSL") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

OSL : Suzanne Li: Suzanne studied at The University of Nottingham in the UK with Bachelor and Master Degrees in Architecture. She joined Arup London after graduating in 2006, where she was one of the Lead Architects for BSkyB Headquarter in London, winner of the RIBA London Sustainability Award. She was also involved in several other award winning projects including Plantation Place, Battersea Power Station Regeneration, and King Abdullah Sport City in Saudi Arabia. After relocated to Shanghai in year 2011, Suzanne was co-leading the Shanghai Arup Associates’ multidisciplinary design team for the past 5 years. She delivered several key projects including the winning scheme of Shanghai Loop footbridge, the Chengdu New Airport short-listed scheme and the New Film Soundstage in Taiwan. She also led the Arup Associates’ Team on the RIBA Shanghai Window Projects for two years in a row. Suzanne is an ARB registered architect and has over 10 years international experience delivering world-class and award winning projects in the UK, China, South East Asia and the Middle East. She has diverse range of project experience across a variety of sectors at different scale with particular skill on technically driven typologies including Science & Industry, Media Broadcasting and Aviation. Suzanne moved back to Hong Kong in 2017, co-founded O&O STUDIO with Eric Chan in 2018. Eric Chan: Eric studied at The University of Nottingham with a MEng Master degree and graduated with Diploma in Architecture at The University of Westminster with Distinction. In 2007, he joined and spent over 4 years at the highly acclaimed London practice, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) where he qualified as an Architects Registration Board (ARB) registered architect. He was involved on several award-winning education, conservation and residential projects in the UK and South Africa. He had also contributed vastly to public architectural events and public consultation programmes. Moving from London to Shanghai in 2011, he joined the world renowned Safdie Architects, the practice led by the 2015 AIA Gold Medal recipient, Moshe Safdie. Eric was one of the Safdie’s Team Leaders in the 24billion RMB Capitaland mixed-used development, Raffles City Chongqing (RCCQ) project, leading and managing the Conservatory façade and interior design, as well as Podium Roof and Skylights design. With over 10 years international experience and as a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Chartered Member, Eric also holds a CIBSE membership and has developed a strong interest on integrating sustainability into project delivery. He was part of the AHMM Environmental Group which was awarded the AJ100 Most Sustainable Practice Award. He also has strong passion analysing client’s brief and vision and collaborate with other creative professions. Eric is also very keen on exploring architectural space through photography. His award-winning work has recently been exhibited and published in London, Copenhagen, and the USA. After spending 5 years with Safdie Architects, Eric moved back to Hong Kong in 2018 and co-founded O&O STUDIO with Suzanne Li.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

OSL : We love the time and fun when collaborating with others, inspiring each others to create new ideas. But the most interersting moment would be working with kids. They always suprise us with the most pure, fantastic and exciting thinking. That's why O&O STUDIO ultimately want to focus on community and kids related placemaking projects in the near future.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

OSL : Suzanne and Eric have been designing award winning buildings for more than 10 years. In 2018 we set up O&O STUDIO based in our vibrant home city Hong Kong, providing consultancy services in architecture, interior design, pop-up installation and masterplanning. While the design-led studio encompasses a diverse range of international experience in the building industry, having delivered projects across different scales and sectors and for a variety of stakeholders and clients, we ultimately want to put our focus on community and kids related placemaking projects in the near future. We want our spatial creation to not only perform by itself but as importantly as with the context and the end users, particularly for our next generation.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

OSL : We would say, a good designer is about time and effort. For a great designer such as the true design legends that we have worked with in the past before we set up our studio, is about talent and wisdom. You learn so much from them, on the way they write, on the way they think, on the way they draw, and on the way they present.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

OSL : We would see what kind of “values” the design will bring. The added “values” to a new design is crucial making it successful or not, in which This “values” cover many broad aspects within, such as aesthetic, practicality, sustainability, client’s business and end users experience. It means nothing to a client of end user if a design looks cool but being impractical.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

OSL : We would certainly love to design for kids. Not only our own kids, but for kids from around the work who needs better care and in special need.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

OSL : Our first completed project, Mooncraft bar in Shanghai, is a very good example showing our design approach. We took a bold step by providing the Client a “total” design strategy by first initialising an appealing branding idea and integrating with the architectural and interior design as a single identity. It is uncommon for an architectural/interior design studio to provide such “total” design services. However it is our strong belief that this will help creating an even better and convincing design, targeting to be a unique bar that stands out and sustain among the other competitors by attract new and returning customers, as well as tourists.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

OSL : We worked with several legends from around the work in the past years before we set up our studio. In the UK we worked with AHMM (Simon Allford, Jonathan Hall, Paul Monaghan and Peter Morris) and the team. It is a really fruitful few years there as the practice is so well set up with a strong foundation. The way they approach design, business, finanace and PR etc are all the aspects that we can learn from. During our time in Shanghai we worked directly with Michael Kwok (Chair of Arup East Asia) and Moshe Safdie and Chris Mulvey of Safdie Architects. It is the personal charisma, wisdom, talent, they way they design and present to the clients, that we can again learn so much from all these aspects.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

OSL : “Originate – As We Envision, Originate – As We Create” In O&O STUDIO , we do not provide standardised formula. We believe that each project has its own origin. The design proposal should be originated from a critical and cohesive process of strategic and visual thinking through to the end users’ evaluation, thus informing the next even more successful project. “Out and Outer” is the work ethos of O&O STUDIO . We are fully committed to our clients with thoroughgoing attitude towards every commission, from its beginning to completion and occupation. We distill client’s brief and create unique and articulated resolutions for each specific circumstance. We establish close relationship with the clients, the wider stakeholder, and the project team to realise a successful project. With our achievements in photographic productions, we are also aspired to symphonise photographic essence to inspire the crafting of spaces and identities. We originate our design that performs through its composition, materiality, and spatial layering.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

OSL : Professionalism. Being an architect is not only to be a designer but it is also a profession. We should always remind ourselves to be a professional architect. This is crucial whether you set up a studio on your own or work for a company.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

OSL : Having completed our first project, Mooncraft, we are close on completing several other projects in China and Hong Kong, including a lingerie flagship store at a very prominent location in Shanghai, as well as a coffee roasting workshop in Hong Kong. We are eager to share more in the very near future.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

OSL : Taking public transport with my camera, seeing how people around us live on our earth. There is always something inspiring happening immediately around us.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

OSL : We would love to share every bits and pieces, the problems and joy and we have faced in every one of our project.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

OSL : We have not thought about being famous. As architects, this is our profession and we are putting a lot of effort at the moment to build up a good foundation for O&O STUDIO as we want to let our current and future clients know getting to know more about our philosophy.


Mooncraft Bar

Mooncraft Bar by O&O STUDIO Ltd

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