Tiah Nan Chyuan, director of multi-disciplinary design firm, FARM, chooses not to walk the beaten path. Instead, he focuses on singularly unique challenges in every project FARM takes on.

Tell us about FARM’s design ethos and principles

Our work is quite diverse, and I think it’s more interesting when the different fields of design overlap and we can find more interesting opportunities. We’re not what you’d call domain experts; we are not focused solely on, say, office design, hospitality design,healthcare, or residential– we work across all of them. When we’re not limited to one area, we are able to share the ideas that we’ve learnt across different projects and scales. 

Probably very early on, we’ve been involved in new areas such as coworking spaces, and co-living spaces. We are also seeing an emerging trend of hybrid spaces– something like the Core Collective. [The Core Collective is a wellness and fitness space, with a ‘under one roof’ concept. They currently have two locations; one in Dempsey and Anson Road]. That’s the kind of projects which we find really interesting to work on, because it spans across traditional fields, and we get to work with interesting owners and entrepreneurs; and I think we can bring the kind of diverse expertise and experience that we have [to the table]. I think we would find non-traditional problems fascinating. 

Design, to us, is a tool to solve problems. So it’s not so much about whether I can [design] a very luxurious interior or have the most expensive fittings. From a design point of view, we probably wouldn’t take on those kinds of projects. 

But say, if you want to talk about the future of banking, or, what would the future of the office look like– these are the problems that we see design having a productive input, beyond just an aesthetic response. 


Tell us more about the Core Collective, and some of the projects FARM has worked on.

After having worked on some co-working [and co-living] projects, we felt the trend would need something new in order to thrive. Core Collective was one of those concepts, and this concept works. If you understand health as a kind of a holistic approach, then you need to target everything related to health; so [Core Collective] is a collective of people coming together to focus on the core of your health. I think that’s the kind of thing that we find interesting. And since then, they’ve taken off and opened a second unit. We were happy to work with the founders on that; we did the branding and the interior design for the first outlet. 


We were also involved in Lyf [a coliving space with its first space in Funan Mall]. The client came to us, with a vision of a millennial-focused coliving product. We pushed for the definition of this product beyond the millennials, which is defined by age. At that point of time, we were thinking a bit further– to maybe target an audience defined by shared values, not age. Things like curiosity, freedom, and creativity; because once you define your brand and product by its shared values, it transcends age and deepens the brand.

How have things changed, especially in these times of a global pandemic?

I think the most immediate impact, post-Covid, is the workplace, and we’ve had conversations about the future of the home. And there’s a lot of literature that you can read about people speculating what that would be. 

I think fundamentally, the way we live and work is being questioned and interrogated to some extent. I feel travel and hospitality have been very much affected but it will go back to where it was before because ultimately it is a physical experience– you cannot travel online. 

But our home and office is where everything will be fundamentally adjusted. Institutions like schools… will they change? Yes and no, although with a huge uptake in digital learning, education will still need to happen in a physical space.  So it perhaps forces designers to be more focused about what is needed in a physical setting. 

What do you see is interesting, in these times; or perhaps where would the opportunities lie?

[I feel] that this is an interesting time for design; where design has been pushed– and rightly so– to solve real problems versus purely aesthetic considerations. 

And I think a lot of these conversations will surface, and I think this is a window for when design becomes more meaningful than ever, and a window for designers to contribute positively to shaping the world around us.