K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, Leica and Hermès are just a few of the impressive clients Otto Ng has collaborated with since starting LAAB – laboratory for art and architecture – in 2013.
“I’ve always been passionate about design and technology, and I think architecture is the coolest combination of both,” says the architect, who was born and raised in Hong Kong. Together with business partner Yip Chun-hang, Ng has grown LAAB from a two-person team to 35 current employees who range from architects, designers and engineers to sociologists, something that’s untypical for architecture firms.
“The multidisciplinary background of our team enables us to work on a wide range of projects, including public spaces, visionary architecture, transformative interiors and art installations,” says the 34-year-old, who studied at Hong Kong University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he specialised in sustainable design and smart-city concepts.
“At LAAB, we don’t follow a dogmatic design approach nor a particular style. Instead, our designs are firmly rooted in the cultural and environmental contexts of each individual project.”
A case in point is the Small Home Smart Home project. In 2016, LAAB shot to international fame when it converted a 309-square-foot space into a multifunctional home for a Hong Kong couple and their three cats. The YouTube video of the project subsequently went viral with more than a million views, as people around the world marvelled at how a high-tech home had Rubik’s-cubed itself into a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, cinema and gym.
Another example of LAAB’s creative thinking is the Garden Restroom at Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui. While most public toilets in Hong Kong would send germaphobes running, this nature-inspired outdoor facility was designed with smooth, curvilinear wooden walls for privacy and plenty of natural light and greenery for a relaxing greenhouse experience.
LAAB’s latest groundbreaking work at the new art-filled K11 Musea includes the Theatre Oculus, an organic vault sculpture inspired by classical cathedrals at the top of a 33-metre-high grand atrium, and the rooftop Nature Discovery Park, an urban garden with farm-to-table dining and experiential learning among its attractions.
Over the years, LAAB has been recognised for its innovation and fresh approach to architecture with multiple accolades, including a Good Design Award from Japan, a Design for Asia Award and an HSBC Youth Business Award, but Ng remains humble and focused.
“To me, success is a process – a state of perfection that’s constantly evolving,” he says, citing the Swiss architectural practice Herzog & de Meuron as one of his many inspirations. His top tip for budding architects is to “define your own success and go for it”.
So what’s next for LAAB? “We’re working on a number of commercial towers dedicated for innovative hotels, co-working spaces and co-living spaces,” Ng says, keeping the exact details tightly under wraps. “We’re also working on a photography space in a heritage building – we can’t say more, but it’s going to be another cultural destination.”
Outfit: Ng’s own | Watch: Richard Mille RM 020 Tourbillon Pocket Watch | Location: Artisan Lounge