Hunn Wai is a London-born Singaporean designer who has evolved his quirky personal design sensibility through international study, first studying industrial design in Singapore, complementing these skills with a spell in a German university and finally undertaking the highly-acclaimed international masters programme at Eindhoven’s design academy. After completing his studies, his work persistently received a number of prestigious awards presented in places as diverse as the Netherlands, Singapore and Japan. So, it’s not unexpected that he was also then able to work with established design studios known for their innovative work, particularly in the Netherlands.
Understandably, his playful and quirky approach to design shows the full spectrum of influences, perhaps the most notable of which is the sense of humour and unrestricted approaches that are often evident in contemporary Dutch design. Hunn Wai’s work also shows a certain penchant for recycling; cutting up extant pieces of second-hand furniture to produce something entirely new in which the spirit of the original remains highly evident, a kind of residue that adds to the new discussion.
For example, in a project for one of China’s hippest design galleries, his design for the ‘Ping Pong Table’ was launched in 2009. Drawing on earlier experiments with recycling furniture, the ping pong table is at once an amusing take on multi-use furniture. A work table, dining table and, of course, a working piece of leisure apparatus, the conflation of practical uses to include the rather passé game of ping pong, traditionally so beloved of many nations devoid of the resources to go in for more glamorous (and expensive) sports stands as a kind of defiance of dominant aesthetics. The table literally becomes a discussion for social structures, social values and their relationship with taste.
A similar clash of aesthetics is also evident in works such as his family of ‘Tre di Una’ chairs. Here, the traditional rustic elements of extant wooden chairs are literally melded together with bright globular plastics, almost as if the original chair has been cannibalised by some high-tech organism.
However, 2010 has seen a significant development with Hunn Wai joining forces with Italian designer Francesca Lanzavecchia to form Lanzavecchia + Wai. This new collaboration unveiled its debut collection at Salone del Mobile 2010 at Ventura-Lambrate in Milan and was immediately noted as one-to-watch.