“I’ve always been interested in transformable designs, smart cities – and of course fabrication, computational design, and how to use technology to make spaces better,” says Otto Ng. “It can be technical but I’m most interested in the human side. Technology is just a tool to make that happen.”
“We want to make better cities,” says Ng, design director of LAAB Architects, which he co-founded in 2013. It’s a goal that goes back to his time at the University of Hong Kong, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Architecture in 2007.
LAAB has earned plenty of attention over the past several years. The practice led by Otto with Yip Chun Hang has a diverse portfolio that ranges from art galleries to public space to residential flats. What unites all of them is an interest in using technology and smart design to create transformable, flexible spaces that are well suited to high-density Asian life.
“It’s so important in Hong Kong,” says Ng. “We design architecture and interior space not only thinking about its three-dimensionality – we also consider time a very important factor. Everyone talks about the sharing economy, but this is sharing space. Different functions can use the space at different times. This is one way we can respond to the spatial limitations in Hong Kong.”
That translates into spaces like the 309-square-foot apartment LAAB designed for a couple in Hong Kong’s jam-packed Central district. Thanks to transformable furniture, sliding walls and programmable lighting, a single small living area functions as a TV room, dining area and gym. There’s even a bathtub that doubles as a daybed.
But it’s also an approach that works for public spaces. LAAB has worked with Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department to design public space, and the firm is also working with private developers to create new parks in the fast-changing districts of Kowloon. “We have art installations [you can play with],” says Ng. “One of the spaces will be almost like an outdoor gallery ready for some temporary art installations. It also facilitates other activities like picnics, spaces for people to hang out with their friends or [stage] some events.”
The goal is to giving people more control over the spaces they use, whether it’s their home or neighborhood park. “We want to make space where strangers can become friends and friends can become families,” says Ng.