coffee table

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 February, 2007, 12:00am

Periplus' Tropical Houses books always contain photos of homes that inspire longing or imitation. Its 25 Tropical Houses in Singapore and Malaysia (HK$351) also contains illuminating text. Written by Paul McGillick (author of Alex Popov: Buildings and Projects and Sydney Architecture), the book begins with an essay expounding on why a house is not always a home, but a home is always a house.

McGillick differentiates between residences in Malaysia and Singapore. Both societies, he says, are preoccupied with maintaining links to tradition but this exists more as a memory for the city state (which lost many of its old buildings and market gardens in the 1970s). Like all tropical houses, the remarkable architecture featured provides refuge from heat, humidity and rain. For instance, the Safari Roof House in Kuala Lumpur, by architect Kevin Low, borrows its name from a version of the Land Rover, which has an extra roof acting as a second heat barrier and creating a space for air flow. Another outstanding inclusion is the new but traditional Malcomson-Clayton House in Singapore, built by John Heah. Extensive use of wood affords the home a filigree effect and a soothing tactility.

Once you hear the name Super Potato, you never forget it. The same goes for the company's designs. Founded by Takashi Sugimoto, the Tokyo-based outfit has stamped its modern rustic style on the interiors of restaurants, shops and hotels in Japan and elsewhere (largely through its association with the Grand Hyatt).

Sugimoto's signature look is that of bold displays of natural materials. These include boulders, thick pieces of timber with exposed midriffs and rusted metal.

Highlights, and there are many in Super Potato Design: The Complete Works of Takashi Sugimoto (Tuttle, HK$390), include the Shunju Akasaka restaurant in Tokyo, for which he used wood, bamboo, paper, glass, steel brick and tile. Super Potato also designed Cafe Too in the Shangri-La Hotel, Hong Kong, which whets the appetite with gluttonous displays of food. And it was behind Mujirushi Ryohin (known outside Japan as Muji), the 'no-brand' lifestyle store that opened in Tokyo's Aoyama and now boasts 300-plus outlets worldwide. Super Potato Design includes text by Mira Locher and a foreword by star architect Tadao Ando.