Home & Decor (Singapore) - - 30th Anniversary Special - PAN YICHENG

I n Sin­ga­pore, we live in hous­ing, not houses, Pan Yicheng tells us. “A house is where you can de­cide how you want to live vis-a-vis the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment. Whereas hous­ing is a given – rather than ex­pressed as the noun, it is used like a verb: ‘I house you.’ I want to free peo­ple from be­ing housed.”

The con­ver­sa­tion with the cre­ative lead of de­sign stu­dio Pro­duce un­folds like this, in a se­ries of in­sights amid talk about its work. The stu­dio’s claim to fame is that it de­signed the ply­wood struc­tures for Xtra’s Her­man Miller shop-in-shop. Yicheng had de­signed the rst shop-in-shop in 2012 while he was at for­mer rm PAC; the sec­ond in 2016 was by Pro­duce.

In fact, de­sign­ing the 2012 Her­man Miller pavil­ion led to the gen­e­sis of Pro­duce, which he and three friends started the year af­ter. “I found it dif­fi­cult to nd pro­to­typ­ing ex­per­tise in Sin­ga­pore,” says the 38-year-old. “In or­der to do projects that are be­spoke and com­pu­ta­tional, we re­quire fre­quent phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment through pro­to­typ­ing. So learn­ing from this project be­came the idea for Pro­duce, a de­sign stu­dio that is set up along­side a work­shop, where we are able to in­cor­po­rate the process of fab­ri­ca­tion into the de­sign process it­self.”

The de­sign stu­dio adopts this same sculp­tural ap­proach in its res­i­den­tial projects. “In most of our in­te­rior projects, we are al­most plac­ing an ob­ject or cre­at­ing a build­ing within the space. In a way, I be­gan to see in­te­rior spa­ces as con­text­less, al­most like a tab­ula rasa, in which I can cre­ate my own nar­ra­tive and im­bue it into an ob­ject.” This is ev­i­dent in its projects, such as Cop­per House, a plas­tic sur­geon’s res­i­dence in which eas­ily tar­nish­able cop­per was used to clad the in­te­rior spa­ces, in de­lib­er­ate con­tra­dic­tion to a job that pur­sues per­fec­tion.

Be­cause the “way of liv­ing” in mass hous­ing is pre­de­ter­mined by oth­ers, Yicheng finds that own­ers are usu­ally dis­sat­is­fied with the space they bought. Thus he would pro­pose an over­haul to the plan, as a way of “free­ing” them from be­ing housed. “I start by max­imis­ing the avail­able floor space. Se­condly, be­cause the for­mat is a given, I would like the client to have the flex­i­bil­ity of re­or­gan­is­ing the space. I will in­tro­duce a dual or mul­ti­ple plan, which can change the use of a space from a liv­ing room to a guest room for ex­am­ple, which al­lows for two life­styles to be lay­ered onto the orig­i­nally fixed plan.”

Fun­da­men­tally, what’s at the back of his mind in ev­ery project is the philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion of how hu­mans live, in re­la­tion to space, and the form of liv­ing that he hopes to cre­ate for the clients.

Pro­duce hopes to in­crease the scale of its works, to even­tu­ally do ar­chi­tec­ture, although in­te­rior de­sign would not be a lesser pri­or­ity. Yicheng be­lieves that, in the fu­ture, more com­pu­ta­tional de­sign and dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion will be in­cor­po­rated into the prac­tice of ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign, and he reck­ons that the de­sign stu­dio is well placed to re­alise its ex­per­i­men­tal struc­tures on a larger scale.

While he be­lieves that ev­ery de­signer has a style, Yicheng does not think it can be quan­ti­fied in words, nor does he think it im­por­tant to, as long as it is be­ing con­veyed vis­ually.

How style can be sub­stan­ti­ated, more im­por­tantly, would be through con­sis­tency in his or her body of work, which is why he tends to be se­lec­tive about the jobs he takes on.

“Oth­er­wise, you would be com­pro­mis­ing along the way,” he says, “and lose the chance to­wards cre­at­ing your style.”

Sculpt­ing in­te­rior spa­ces with a unique nar­ra­tive

A con­do­minium apartment in Balestier, Cop­per House is a plas­tic sur­geon’s res­i­dence, with in­te­rior spa­ces seg­mented with cop­per-clad walls.

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