Design Anthology: How did you meet the client?
JJ Acuna: Christopher, the founder of Analogue, had just set up shop in Hong Kong a couple of years ago to more closely monitor the production and fabrication side of his business in China. As a quick solution, they moved into a co-working space, but they were quick to transition into their own headquarters in the heart of shopping district Causeway Bay. He reached out to me explaining himself and what he did, and when I saw that he designs and fabricates video game consoles — especially the retro kinds — I was all in 100 per cent. I used to have Ataris, Super Nintendos, Super Famicoms and all that — I didn’t know what he had in mind for the office, but for sure I wanted to be a part of it.
What was the brief to you for the project?
Christopher was very specific about the simplicity of material usage, outlook and programming for the available 60-square-metre footprint and the ideal seat count of ten desks, in addition to not having any any tech visible. Even though what they fabricate is new, because they reference old hardware they still consider themselves a bit of a heritage brand, so they’d rather a space that was considered, humanistic, careful and honest in materiality and form. So, we stripped the space and rebuilt it area by area, only programming and planning the architecture where it was necessary. While our studio’s ethos is heavily underpinned by the concepts of ‘considered’ and ‘humanistic’ design, we also play a lot with colour and texture with our other projects, so even this approach to design is heavily edited for us, but the effect is refreshing and you can really breathe and feel the comfort in working in a space like this.
What’s unique about the building and the location?
The building is a typical mid-height commercial building you can still find in Causeway Bay. It was built in 1964 in the Streamline Moderne style typical of that decade. As is the case with properties of that age, every unit is basically owned by a different tenant, and while it’s sad that the building hasn’t kept its original facade, the different tenancies mean there’s a patchwork collage of finishings on the exterior wall. Our site already came with floor-to-ceiling shopfront glass, which we felt was pretty cool and something we could take advantage of. We could look out into this dense, messy urbanity of vertical shops as a person would look into a fish bowl, and vice versa. We think what we’ve created has a pretty nice effect for both the office workers of Analogue and the passers-by curious to see what’s going on inside. At night the ‘Analogue’ neon sign created by a neon master really gives it a romantic cool perfect for this site.
How did you approach the project in terms of design references or narrative?
Our team looked closely into 1950s and 1960s office interiors to try to connect back to the time when the building was first constructed, so there was a bit of Mad Men in the backs of our minds. Christopher also wanted to incorporate mid-century modern vintage pieces, mainly the Poul Cadovius Royal System we installed in the main working area and in Christopher’s private office, plus a vintage coffee table by Trioh circa 1970s that he has in his office. He sourced both. At first we looked for vintage pieces, but because we wanted low-maintenance and longevity, we worked with a carpenter in Kowloon to create tailor-made desks in hard walnut and brass, and ordered fibreglass chairs with steel footings in casters from Modernica in Los Angeles — the original fabricator of the Eames chairs. For the rest, we just placed classical formwork and mouldings where they were needed and utilised handmade non-glazed Italian clay tiles for wet areas. All the metals are black, and the lighting pieces are subdued. We’re really happy with the overall outcome and tone, and Christopher is thrilled.
How about the custom pieces you mentioned, and the other elements?
We hired two artists; Karol of Start From Zero hand-painted the Analogue logo on the front door’s textured glass, and master Wu Chi Kai of The Hong Kong Neon Heritage organisation fabricated the neon sign in Christopher’s office, which can be seen from the street below, as well as the custom desks. As for the non-custom pieces, all lighting comes from Portland, Oregon via Schoolhouse save for the linear LED pendants, which are from Inserto in Italy. The hand-made tiles are from Ornamenta.
How long did the interior fit-out process take?
The design process began in January 2019 and we just completed the project in December 2019.
Are there any other details about the project you want to share?
This was a fun project for us, and we hope the client loves it and cherishes it. It’s amazing how you can have such a great effect by just making the right moves and the right choices in an intimate space typical of what you can find in old Hong Kong buildings.
We wanted to keep it simple, so we painted the walls white and did the metals in black powder-coat. The wood is an oak from Russia, and is lightly oiled so it still looks a bit raw and unfinished, which we like. Structures are kept exposed to allow for more space, plus we wanted to do a light adjacency to the existing building to marry the concept of old and new with very little artifice.