Build Republic: cutting edge Hong Kong design!

We’ve recently been through the awesome trends displayed during the Milan Design Week 2014 and the Salone Satellite involving more than 650 young designers and 1.700 companies from all over the world. It’s been awesome to visit the interesting solutions displayed by Build Republic, a design studio based in Hong Kong defining itself as a designer network led by Jervis Chua. He’s a visionary designer awarded in many international architecture prizes who revolutionized several industrial brands.

Jervis Chua

Jervis Chua

Jervis agreed to have a talk with us about design, Build Republic and the most interesting innovation spots in the international design community. And you really can’t miss it!

When did you decide to launch Build Republic?

I decided to launch Build Republic after I visited SaloneSatellite for some consecutive years since I started living in Milan from 2010 to 2013. Every year I saw that there’s an increase of participants from China, Korea and Taiwan. All of them were very passionate about their designs and also passionate about contributing to their countries design scene. It disappointed me that there were no designers from Hong Kong. Surely, Hong Kong as one of the most diverse cosmopolitan city in the world have a lot of great stories to tell through design, I felt like it desserves to be told. So I decided to start Build Republic with the hopes that it can at least be one voice of design about Hong Kong in Salone.

We noticed a good increase in international visitors and professionals visiting the exhibition and the Salone Satellite. How would you describe your experience attending the Salone Satellite?

I really enjoyed this because it provided a wide variety of audience that allowed me to get feedback from different cultural perspectives. I got to assess whether it’s possible what works in Hong Kong’s cultural context could potentially also be relevant elsewhere.

We’ve been amazed by the UOOK solutions you showed in your booth. What’s the philosophy behind your projects? What’s your point of view on the latest design trends? What’s the most interesting design concept you’ve seen this year?

Our philosophy for doing this project is to pursue what Hong Kong Design is at present and what it can be looking forward. Beyond designs that refers to Chinese archetypes, history or stereotypes like dragons, chinese characters or window patterns.

Our approach for the UOOK solutions is to look at how people in Hong Kong live and what problems we can solve.  Hong Kong is known for it’s premium real estate spaces so naturally space needed to be used very efficiently. So we came up with the UOOK side table/stool. It’s a furniture piece that can grow as your lifestyle grows. For example, when a family of 2 becomes a family of 3, you naturally will need some more storage spaces. In a typical Hong Kong scenario, you normally have to throw away old furniture to make room for new solutions because nobody has any extra space. With the UOOK side table, you don’t have to throw away anything. Instead you buy more pieces and stack them up to build a shelving unit for extra storage. Then if you ever host a party, you can temporarily take the stack of UOOK down to use as stools for guests.


The 2nd product of the UOOK solution is the UOOK wall organizer. We’ve notice that Hong Kong like any other high desnity city, is constantly changing and adapting its space for better usage efficiency and walls are a commonly unused spaces. We also realized that the product should be something that can be modified very quickly, the user should be able to iterate on its function because life changes constantly. Looking ahead, we think desktop 3D printing will be the perfect solution, because all of a sudden you’re able to get something custom made to the exact form or function that you need, right on your desktop. In the future, the relationship of the customer and the designer would be like the old days of going to your local blacksmith.  Designers would be able to sell you a solution instead of a fix product. The designer can then constantly refine this solution and the customer can download the revision as if it’s a software update or a software upgrade. We wanted to highlight this scenario instead of the product itself that’s why we deliberately designed the wall organizer to be highly focus on function with a very understated design.

I think the trend will be technology, eventually everything will be categorize in the technology industry. That’s why for me the most interesting concept is the Momentum by Kappes [check it out on DesignBoom and the video on Vimeo], eventhough it’s not directly relevant to Salone del Mobile since it’s not really a furniture piece. The challenge is to open up your imagination and find a way to implement technology and relevance into furniture, so that it can be more than just another chair, because the world don’t really need another chair.

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What trends are going to reshape the design industry and the home furniture market?

Technologies have been reshaping many industries and it’s about time it reshapes the furniture industry too. It could be embedded technology that allows better comfort or embedded sensors for better posture, but I think 3D printing will definitely have a big impact. Many designers and manufacturer are exploring how to take advantage of 3D printing and eventually somebody’s going to figure out the business model that will change everything!

What’s the future of Build Republic? Are you working at new projects? How would you picture Build Republic in the next two years?

Build Republic will continue on working to contribute on defining “Hong Kong design”. We’ll keep working hard on finding answers on Hong Kong design is beyond looking to our past. Our ultimate dream is that one day people can refer to Hong Kong design like everybody could easily refer to Scandinavian design, British design or Italian design.

Tell us about the best results you achieved with Build Republic, the hardest troubles you faced and…the funniest experiences you’ve been through since your foundation.

Being such a young studio, our first milestone was Salone Satellite. So this is naturally our best result so far. The hardest part is getting factories to buy into our vision, because what’s important to them is not design, but rather whether I can prove to them that our design will make them money.

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