zlgdesign was founded by Huat LIM and Susanne ZEIDLER. Their work revolves around ideas and concepts that go beyond pre-defined architectural pursuits or entities. “We simply want to engage the human experience.”, says Huat. “Yet there is still a little problem I have to solve in my head, and that is that I think architecture is taking a bit too long to becoming like what good art is, generative and always assuming an emotive role. We have yet to make it possible for us to connect to our buildings as easily as we do with art, or music, or things we adore, like our children or our books.”
zlgdesign’s very own approach to design development processes in the organisation is a self-critique on their customised proto-typing and exploration techniques. Huat calls this design intelligence, revisited and built over many years to survive critical investigation and intellectual discourse on all levels of their work. They do away with adapting to or embracing mainstream typology in buildings but take their stance and follow artistic directions set down at the onset of the conceptual phase of design, minus the styling. They’ve always maintained and believe that their Architecture is about people, and never about style or about winning “beauty” contests, although they like competition. Their work embrace [and thereafter adopt and develop to maturity] whatever comes in the way of development of their designs, whether this makes sensible methodology or not. These processes are not ends but means to create something new, something unique, specific and exclusive to the Project. The Duyong project for instance, is definitely of the place, echoing the arts and culture of the fishing village of Trengganu, whereas the AAR Centre contemplates the essence of the site to inform the shape of the built form.
Today’s buildings are designed to fit inside a parameter largely defined by their archetypes. Fortunately, this has become a challenge on zlgdesign’s creative processes as it embraces the concept of non-exclusivity between one building type against the other. It is in this context that zlgdesign work away from mainstream typological sets, in fact they actually design ambiguous spaces or third spaces that exhibit or inherit hybrid functionality in the final execution.
“If it doesn’t engage or connect with one’s emotion, or if it’s just not involving enough, we’ll probably just throw it out the window. We won’t want to take that thing all the way to the end…If it’s not intriguing enough, and doesn’t hold any mystery or surprises then I guess it really isn’t worth developing…the drama isn’t going to be there by the time one is finished with it, not enough to sustain the experience”, says Huat.
zlgdesign’s more minimal work belies warmer and more democratic proposals that can still exhibit simpler but more cutting edge ideas. Other work gravitate towards using elements from the old world placed inside more modern envelopes. The contrast or tension resulting from these associations and juxtapositions in their work is a constant characteristic feature in recent and upcoming projects. These explorations of bringing together things from the past and those brought out of new technology or research has become a constant inspiration.
“God created paper,” Aalto wrote, “for the purpose of drawing architecture on it. Everything else is, at least for me, an abuse of paper.”
On what motivates them to design, Huat has this to say, “Thought is a form of necessary action, a precursor to a possible work of art. And if you can’t imagine it in your head, it’s not likely to get built. Getting that image in the mind’s eye, and then executing it is what it’s really all about. We usually start off with a sketch.”