Q&A with Mikael Teh, The Monocot Studio: Making good design makes me happy

Q&A with Mikael Teh, The Monocot Studio: Making good design makes me happy

Q&A with Mikael Teh, The Monocot Studio: Making good design makes me happy

Word has it you’ve juggled 40 projects at a go before, making you incredibly prolific. Just how do you do it? 

I am extremely lucky to have my dream job. Making good design just makes me happy, as does the ability to apply things that I have learnt throughout my travels into my own projects. The beauty of my job is also that all I need is a laptop and I literally can work anywhere and wherever I go. I get excited whenever I start working on a new project. Even till now, my brain will start thinking and designing before the potential client appoints us.

You’ve said before that you favour the use of plywood in your projects. What is it about the material that keeps you reaching for it constantly? 

I really love the utilitarian nature of it. Its imperfection too — every piece is different and unique, giving it character. It feels like it has more soul as compared to other materials. To us, plywood is almost like natural timber and stone, but at a fraction of their prices. We once used marine plywood to clad an entire beach club in the Maldives, before painting it white. This is probably the most unusual thing we’ve done using it. (Read about The Monocot Studio‘s project of a HDB flat in Telok Blangah Heights that uses plywood.)

Which three designers, from the past or present, do you most admire? Why?

  1. Shigeru Ban, for his ability to challenge the world and make cardboard tubes into architecture materials.
  2. Alvar Aalto, for his creative thinking dated back to a century ago, and yet, all his works are still relevant now.
  3. Norm Architects, for keeping their design real and simple, yet with a poetic and refined approach. 

What are your three favourite buildings in SE Asia?

  1. The State Courts (the original version before the renovation)
The State Courts in Singapore
  1. The House of Remembrance by Neri&Hu
  2. DUO by Büro Ole Scheeren

You’ve previously worked with Studio Milou on the conservation of the National Gallery Singapore. What are some important lessons you learnt there that you are still applying in your practice today?

In our industry, it is important to understand that every single project is a team effort. Therefore, we have to treat each other with respect and kindness.

Mikael Teh is the Principal of The Monocot Studio.