Architecture and design practice openUU (pronounced "open you, you") was founded in 2011 by Kevin Lim Chin-kwok (son of artist and architect William Lim of CL3), Edward Yujoong Kim and Eddy Man Kim. The trio have created a reputation for warehouse designs, including the one for their own (bottom), in an industrial building in Wong Chuk Hang that they share with Lim senior. Last year, the openUU team was named among Hong Kong's top 40 designers aged under 40, by Perspective Magazine, and won United States magazine Interior Design's 2012 best-of-the-year award for the first phase of a warehouse conversion, that of the Osage gallery in Kwun Tong.
How did the company start? The friends had been collaborating on a number of Hong Kong projects while based in the US. Yujoong Kim (28) was working full time for a design firm, Eddy Man Kim (26) was studying for his grad school programme and Lim (27) was working unsociable hours in a restaurant. They decided it was time to start out on their own. Finding the design industry saturated with graduates and with the US economy in the throes of recession, they made the move to Hong Kong.
What's with the name? "We started out as Umami Utilities," says Lim, "but we felt a need to make it easier to identify with. We wanted to literally 'open' it up to people. Then so many people commented positively on our old logo we decided to incorporate it and openUU was born."
How do they approach their work? "Functionality reverberates through each project," says Yujoong Kim. "That's our main approach, but we think it's also important that any client relationship is as personalised as you can get. That's the only way we can figure out the changing functions and needs of the space we're designing."
The team designed a "self-organising object", a platform that functions as a bookshelf, room divider, storage and seating area within the warehouse space they share with William Lim's art collection and this has been a launch pad for further design assignments.
What kind of projects has openUU been working on recently? A huge range: the Osage conversion in Kwun Tong; the Chinese International School cafeteria; the Andes Premium Catch sustainable seafood store in Shanghai; Fofo Privat, a private dining room in Hong Kong; and a penthouse in Causeway Bay belonging to an entertainment industry tycoon.
"We also do a lot of other smaller projects on the side, just to try and make a contribution to the creative industry here," says Eddy Man Kim. "We're working closely with the Hong Kong Arts Centre, doing some basic design work, brand consulting and interior design. We're always interested in how design, even in a small way, can play a positive role."