Two designers, each from distinct countries put their disparate design philosophies into creations that startle the eyes without forgoing practicality.
Homegrown designer Voon Wong and Malaysian-born Benson Saw are the creatives behind the moniker VW+BS. They have a 13-year partnership in the field of product design and interior design. While the layman may not be familiar with their work, design purists are familiar with the duo’s Loop lamp designed in 2004 for Italian lighting company Fontana Arte. It is made up of two steel discs where the top part can be swivelled to shed light and closed to omit light. The luminaire is both light and sculptural and remains an object of desire for design aficionados. Its design didn’t go unnoticed by the international crowd which was later nominated for the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award in the same year. “The light really took us to places and got the design community talking about it and we are still known as the design duo who designed the Loop lamp. I guess it looks so iconic and is a simple engineering feat that is practical and chic,” enthuses Wong.
More notably, Wong snagged the President’s Design Award in 2012, another credo to the duo’s unrelenting work and passion. Wong studied architecture at the National University of Singapore and pursued his further studies at the Architectural Association in London. He worked and mingled with some of the United Kingdom’s best-known architectural practices and also tutored at the University of North London. However, much of his commercial experience was gained by working in Singapore.
Wong even worked as an architectural assistant at Zaha Hadid Architects in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995. During this tenure, he was recruited to be part of the competition team tasked to work on the winning design for the Cardiff Opera House. But lady luck was not on his side and the building was never erected. From 1995 to 1997, Wong founded VX Designs with Ian Chee and their union produced high-end buildings and refurbishments of residential projects in London. Thereafter, Voon Wong Architects was formed with an emphasis on exclusive residential and commercial projects. There were also notable projects designed by Wong such as the redevelopment of numerous historic residential buildings in London, a hotel extension in Australia, remodelling of houses in China and Singapore, not forgetting set designs for the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
VW+BS has come a long way and their current practice focuses on residential and commercial projects in London and Singapore. The duo’s design tour de force seems unstoppable: They snagged the OXO Peugeot Design Award for lighting. This includes a series of lights with integrated electro-luminescent wires. Wong’s other acclaimed works include Virgin Atlantic’s cabin design that integrated the various disciplines of his expertise in product, lighting and interior design. The project caught the eyes of several editors and has been featured in periodicals such as Wallpaper, Designboom and The Business Times.
So for budding designers, Wong had this to say: “Love what you do. See the world through the eyes of a child. Find your own voice. Burn the midnight oil. Keep your eyes open and ears to the ground. Look before you leap and practice, practice, practice.” Here’s a passionate duo committed to making great products for lay people and creating engaging environments for clients all over the world.
For more on the duo, check out pages 22 to 25 of Issue 21.