Interview: Chris Lee of Asylum

What appealed to you about working on the Horse’s Mouth project?
Our client was a long-time collaborator so we had an understanding about what we wanted to achieve. They own three associated establishments: Uma Uma Ramen, which had to look casual, Horse’s Mouth, which is a little mysterious and fun, and formal kaiseki joint Yoshiyuki. The project was challenging because we had to integrate three very different spaces and make it work.

What influences did you draw from in designing the space?
We looked at temple roof tiles because of its origin in kaiseki cuisine but also wanted to add a little sparkle to the space with color. That’s where the origami flowers came into play; we had to find enough people to fold thousands of them!

What’s foremost in your mind when you’re designing a secretive space?
The space cannot be too large or it’ll feel faked. Secretive places have secret entrances that lead to small spaces so that the secret can be kept intact.

Do you think secret bars are here to stay in Singapore?
Well, it depends on the quality of the bars. Good bars will always be around because the secret gets out. Bad bars should remain a secret.

What were the projects Asylum worked on in 2012 that you’re most proud of?
Horse’s Mouth and Yoshiyuki of course, plus the Johnnie Walker house in Beijing and a pop up store for Hublot.

Any exciting projects coming up?
We’re working on the branding of a major art museum that’s opening in 2015 and a few hotels in Jakarta.