Curiosity leads the way, a chat with Kelvin Ho from Akin Atelier


Curiosity leads the way, a chat with Kelvin Ho from Akin Atelier

Creating his architecture and design firm Akin Atelier in 2005, Kelvin Ho and his team have worked across a diverse portfolio that spans across retail, residential, restaurant and even stage design for The Australian Ballet. Responsible for some of the most recognizable spaces in Sydney, from Merivale’s Coogee Pavillion and Totti’s in Bondi to some of our favourite retail destinations like Bassike, Incu and A.P.C it’s hard to miss the mark that Akin has left on our modern city-scape.

There is a running thread of thoughtfulness amidst luxury that is evident in all of Akin’s projects, one that warmly invites the user in to the space and never fails to delight. Though, their true expertise might be capturing the essence of their clients in the spaces they create, giving form to their stories authentically.  

We spoke to Kelvin about his honest design approach and found ourselves truly surprised and inspired by his unconventional design influences.

In your own words describe the design ethos behind Akin Atelier - has this evolved over time or have you followed the same path as when you first began?

I’ve always been led by curiosity, finding what makes a client unique and articulating that through spatial design. This idea has always led the studio’s approach to design and is something we aim to cultivate and promote within our team of designers.

The spaces you create have an immersive and emotive quality - is there a particular space or place that has had such an impact on you that it has influenced your design vision?

Looking back, there isn’t one place in particular that has had such an impact on me or my vision as a designer. What I’ve become hyper-aware of is how important it is to create a space that is true to the context and its purpose - anything else comes off as faux and forced.

What has been your most memorable project and what can you tell us about it?

Designing a set for The Australian Ballet’s Filigree & Shadow was a really rewarding process. Working within a new creative discipline was enriching and challenging and definitely contributed to my growth as a designer.


Our rugs have been included in a number of the spaces you have created for Bassike. How important are furnishings to your final design and are they part of your consideration throughout the design process?

Furnishings are a huge part of the narrative we are creating for a space or a brand. Furniture selections are an important part of our design process as these go hand in hand with the surrounding architecture to complete the vernacular of a space.

Outside of architecture, where do you draw unexpected influence?

Skateboarding has always influenced the way I view architecture & design - I actually wrote my thesis on skateboarding. The sub-cultures within hip-hop and punk rap music from the 80s. I find the experimental DIY productions of the 80s particularly interesting in the way they’re so rudimentary – there’s a truth in their simplicity that you don’t find in the over-produced music videos of today. The same concept applies to design in many ways.


What is your favourite material to work with? What characteristics or quality does this material have that you connect to?

I’ve spent a while thinking about this one – and is the reason I was so late getting this interview back to you. The way we at Akin approach materiality is so much about the project or the client rather than our studio design aesthetic. We will always explore a vast and unique mix of materials to punctuate our clients’ brand or personality. That said, I do lean toward timber across furniture and materiality – it possesses warmth, honesty, and is such a versatile and adaptable material. Most weekends I’ll be in the garage building something out of timber. I also love that working with timber is a mostly tactile/hands-on way of working rather than big machinery.

When creating a home, what are the most fundamental elements?

Honesty in the design is a critical element of our design development when we’re working on a residential project. A residential project should articulate the qualities & needs of the client for the space to translate as a home with soul. A home should also feel intuitive to a degree, so spatial planning is a given a lot of thought and reflection during the planning stages.


There is this additional layer to the way we work with materials and the way we style our homes that is uniquely Australian and pertinent to our lifestyle

How do you describe Australian design? Is our aesthetic loaned to us, or do we have our own design identity?

Australian design totally has its own signature. We do look to global influences to inform our aesthetic, but there is this additional layer to the way we work with materials and the way we style our homes that is uniquely Australian and pertinent to our lifestyle-particularly in a coastal or urban context.

What does the future hold for Akin Atelier?

We have been working more on residential projects which carries a lovely emotional connection to the work as well as the relationship between our studio and the client, but still working with some brilliant clients on retail & hospitality projects including a project with the AGNSW.

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