Born in Hong Kong in 1958, Chi Wing Lo studied architecture at Harvard University in the United States before settling in Athens, Greece, where he runs a global architecture, art and design practice. In addition to designing furniture for Italian manufacturer Giorgetti, he creates sculptures that he calls "artefacts from an imaginary civilisation". Lo returned to Hong Kong recently for a show of his work at the Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery.
How did your sculptures come to be? "It was like a monastic exercise. Every morning I sat in front of a blank piece of paper before sunrise and set out for myself an exercise to see what I could draw. I drew what I would want to excavate if I were an archaeologist: I only dig [for] what I want to find. These objects are an attempt to understand what I really like deep inside without any reference to function."
How does sculpture affect your approach to furniture? "The sculpture (such as that pictured top) came before the furniture (below), and I think the attitude behind it carried through. I've done 45 collections of furniture; and whenever I present a new range I look back and put it together with my earlier ones. If I don't see them as a family, I reject them. If you look at the pieces from 1995 and the pieces from 2012, they belong together. I work according to a process of accumulation rather than replacement."
You have only ever worked for one manufacturer. Why is that? "Many Italian designers work for different companies and they end up in competition with one another. I stay away from that because designing furniture is only a part of my practice. I was very privileged because the first time I worked [for Giorgetti] I wasn't really given a brief and I produced something so difficult to make and so expensive. I used maple, which wasn't widely used in Italy at the time. I did what I wanted to do. I think that innocence helped me make a little corner for myself where I don't have to look at the general trend. That helped me get into the Italian design circle as a Chinese designer. If I had designed the same thing as everyone else, I wouldn't have been accepted."
How are your art, design and architecture works related? "I never mix them up, particularly art and design. Art should never determine design. Design has its own parameters - it has to be technically sound, durable; the choice of material has to relate to the piece and its function. But artistic dimensions can be hidden in design."
Chi Wing Lo's "Vision of a Civilisation" will run until Friday at the Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery (20 Ice House Street, Central, tel: 2580 0058).