Booming Business

Michael Cheung (born 1967) studied design and advertising at the University of Hong Kong. After graduating in 1987, he went on to work at various international advertising agencies, including Grey Advertising, J. Walter Thompson, and Leo Burnett. In 2000 Cheung started his own studio and gallery, the Institute of Matter (www.instituteofmatter.com). He is now working on adding more pieces to the No Peace No Boom collection, which will be shown at Colette in June.
Since opening in 1997, Colette, one of Paris’s first “concept stores,” has become a must-visit destination. Here you can find limited-edition Nike sneakers and the latest books on graphic design in a space that acts as a retail shop, a gallery space, and even a water bar. When I visited the store earlier this year, I saw a collection of blob-shaped products that were not quite art sculptures and not quite design pieces. Intrigued, I tracked down their Hong Kong-based designer Michael Cheung and asked him to talk about the design of his No Peace No Boom chair.

After sketching the initial concept, I rendered certain elements like the color and the gloss on the computer. It was only when we made the clay model that we were able to preview the entire piece. When we gave the model maker our sketches and renderings, some of the angles didn’t come out as smoothly as I liked. We used the clay model to figure out, for example, how many bubbles were needed, and what it would look like in 360 degrees. We’d add or take off clay to figure out the final design.

I wanted the chair to be seen as a piece of art as well as a design object. And though the chair has a function, it’s not entirely user-friendly. I wanted people to see the piece and interact with it—asking, “What is it?”—and then realize that you can remove the top and sit on it.

The final piece is made of injected-plastic fiberglass. We’ve selected fourteen colors that we like, but each piece can be custom colored. There are six other pieces in the collection (three containers, a low table, a stand, and a book container).

I came up with the idea of creating a series of sculptures/design objects in 1998. The late 1990s were characterized by a time of negativity with the economic downturn in Asia, especially in Hong Kong. Designers had very short-term plans, and many had lost their jobs. Originally I wanted to do a piece that would reflect that feeling. I thought, What kind of shape would this take?

Because I’m against war, I imagined a world where everyone could have a job and family, and I thought of transforming the shape of an atomic bomb explosion, which of course has a very negative connotation. I started playing with the shape, injecting some vibrant colors and adding a peaceful message that we would have “no peace” unless we had “no boom,” to turn a negative idea into a positive one. I thought of just calling it Boom, but I felt it didn’t have as much meaning, so I stuck with No Peace No Boom.

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