Being raised in an artistic environment, it is no surprise where Associate Professor Patrick Chia acquired his creative flair that inspired him to venture into the world of industrial design. “My dad was always making something at home, and my mum owned a garment factory in the 1980s and worked with many designers. When I was young, I would cut some fabric or leather and design something interesting,” he shared.
Assoc Prof Chia first gained international attention in 1997 when respected French designer Philippe Starck purchased his Squeeze bench for the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles. This was indeed a laudable achievement for a budding young designer! His collections have since been exhibited and represented by several galleries around the world, and his work published extensively in international publications.
Creative works by Assoc Prof Patrick Chia
From top left (clockwise): Squeeze Bench, Squeeze Design, 1997; Object that does nothing for Time & Style, Japan, 2003; Autumn Sofa for Kengo Kuma project in Shanghai; Fourth and Fifth Autumn Collection for Time & Style, Japan, 2003, 2004
Assoc Prof Chia joined NUS as a part-time academic staff in 1999. In 2006, he established the Design Incubation Centre, a design research lab at NUS which investigates and develops new design tools and processes. The Centre also conducts workshops and develops programmes in the form of exhibitions, workshops, public talks and internships with the aim of communicating the value of design.
Besides managing the Design Incubation Centre, Assoc Prof Chia continues to teach and impart his knowledge on creative design. In April this year, he led a group of nine students, staff and alumni from the Division of Industrial Design at NUS Design and Environment on a collaborative project with the Kyoto Institute of Technology. Titled ‘Exchanged Forms’, the project required the students to exchange images that represent their own culture, and they created a series of design objects based on those images. Seventeen projects from the students of both universities were exhibited at Ventura Project Universita in Milan during Milan Design Week 2018. “The project brought about something new in the way it was executed and we received positive feedback from the press and curators from the different museums,” said Assoc Prof Chia.
With student representatives from NUS and Kyoto Institute of Technology at Ventura Project Universita during Milan Design Week 2018
While the Squeeze collection was certainly one of his most iconic designs and achievement, Assoc Prof Chia shared that the President’s Design Award which he received in 2013 was most encouraging as it recognised his teaching and research, as well as his practice. “I am especially proud of my team and students who had supported me in this journey”, he said.
What words of advice does Assoc Prof Chia have for young and aspiring designers? “It is important to have a continual learning and re-learning mindset, because design is changing so quickly. The skills that we have yesterday might not be enough tomorrow. Soft skills such as collaboration and teamwork are also essential.”