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Combining flowers and technology, PHKA Studio from Bangkok

Breaking boundaries of tradition by creating beautiful, meaningful and unique floral installations

written by: Thursd. | 28-02-2020

PHKA studio

We at Thursd. love to inspire our readers with interesting stories about all different aspects of the floral industry. We can’t wait to get to know more about PHKA Studio on a personal, innovative and creative level. We’d love to take you along on a journey that represents flower designer studio PHKA Studio. Combining flowers and technology to create the most extraordinary installations by using existing space as a context to narrate floral design with an architectural approach.

 

PHKA Studio Installation

 

The work of PHKA studio excels by the apparently complex designs and architectural approaches. How did you connect to floral design from this design angle? How did this start?

Since our background is in architecture so our approach is to narrate floral design using existing space as a context. We try to think of how flowers affect space as a whole, which is the same as architecture to its surroundings.

You do not only use flowers but many other materials and objects. How do you blend this together in a way that it works?

As a designer, we are familiar with combining various materials together. For flower and plant materials, we always think of the relationship between them and their containers, which has to compliment each other. The container itself could be anything rather than vases – sets, objects or customised vessels constructed of materials.
PHKA quote

 

You were at Flora Madrid this year with a beautiful installation. Can you tell us what it was like to stand there and what was your starting point with the installation that you made?

We did installations here and there but Festival Flora is something else. Being there amongst world’s leading floral artists and designers – Mary Lennox, Thierry Boutemy, Lisa Waud, and Flor Motion, and getting to know their work approaches is a whole new experience for us. Also; the festival’s reputation, the scale of each installation, number of visitors, and Cordoba’s vibe during the week are all very special. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people travelling to see our installations.

 

PHKA installation collage

 

Under Flora’s theme – The Trip, we came up with the concept of ‘time freezing’ to storytell ‘trip of cut flowers’ as they travel across the globe, to be utilised for only a short period. During their trip, they have to remain in the best condition – stay the same, in contrast to us human which our trip means to learn something new and change ourselves. The final form is strobe-photograhy-liked placement, which flowers are pre-calculated and precisely installed on ropes.

Does the fact that your background is much more design and engineering and technology mean that you also have a different way of working than most florists?

We think so. We have artistic’s improvisation and use less instinct. We would be more comfortable with careful planning ahead, no matter if it is big or small setup. We also love to incorporate some other technologies into our work as can be seen in Blooming Tune and The Fouette Flower. It is fun to combine different disciplines together and learn something new, which could be result in a new approaches to each installation.

 

Phka Studio Quote

 

We see that you make many 3D drawings and visualizations prior to a floral installation. Can you take us into your creative process and working method and tell us how you work?

At the design phase of every projects, a team that consists of designer(s) and florist(s) would discuss of the concept we going to propose, with the use of references and materials board. The project will then develop using different approaches and equipments, for an instance, it could be a designer-led project which florist helps on flower selection or alternatively a florist-led project with designer help with creating ‘container’.

 

PHKA Studio Team

 

Visualising the design, in form of perspectives or sometimes models, help team and clients to understand the floral installation in its site. On this scale of installation, there could be third parties involve, not limit to only client client, possibly structural engineer, lighting designer, technician, musician, or even tea specialist. We thus have to work collectively as one team to execute it and everyone has the same clear picture of what we are doing, in the most detailed way as possible.

We see that you incorporate a lot of artificial light into the designs. How important is lighting in your designs and how do you apply this?

In specific projects, lighting plays a very important role. Flower is a small delicate material that could disappear in large space if light is wrong. Designers and florists in different places might have different perspectives on this. Melbourne has brighter sunlight and stronger contrast in specific seasons , comparing to London or New York. There are no seasonal changes here in Bangkok and natural light will be the same all year round so we have to think with how light affects flowers during the day and night, or sometimes in the interior space instead.

 

flower installation

 

In what way do you choose the fabrics and materials for a design? Where do you get inspired and guided by?

We try to limit our material sourcing down to things that have ‘temporary’ quality. It shall be sustainable, not complicated to play with, lightweight, and not expensive. Simple materials or found objects are always preferred since we also taking an effort to reduce material usage and produce more waste.

Some of your designs are huge. Are you working on a project at the same time with a very large team or are there various projects running together?

Our studio is currently running by 15 members, in different roles; ranging from designer, florist, detail designer, engineer, to studio administrator. There could be few projects running concurrently and we have to form teams of 3-5 people each, relating to nature of each project. On special projects, it could require larger team up to 10 people.

 

PHKA Studio

 

Are your customers also more design and architecture minded?

Not all of them are but we fortunately have these several clients who understand this kind of design service, and realise our specialisation. They would enjoy the whole process by exploring new things with us.

 

PHKA studio Quote

 

PHKA Studio is based in Bangkok in Thailand. In what way does the city or country influence your way of designing?

Talking physically only , it could be said that Bangkok lack of living quality – congested traffic, insufficient public infrastructure, pollution problems, and so on. the city itself, on the contrary, offer us arrays of problems and weird stories that flowers can be used as a media to identify, highlight, or play with.

For example, a paradox of prostitution which is investigated in ‘Abandoned One’; whether it shall be legal or illegal, moral or immoral, acceptable or not. ‘Lost but Found’ explored what was happened to Bangkok neighbourhood under dictatorship government while ‘Minute to Forever’ told the contrast story of urban life and traditional floral craft. All of these installations are context-related.

 

PHKA

 

How would you define the flower market in Bangkok? And is PHKA Studio different in the choices it makes when it comes to flowers?

Apart from having no proper physical flower market in Bangkok since it has been regulated, flower trade still very active, via online channels, for both local and imported flowers. Comparing to neighbour countries including Singapore and Hong Kong, their flower industry could be better in system, but Bangkok might has advantage of diverse natural resource we could select from.

 

 

We always try to find alternatives to imported cut flowers, sourcing more plant materials directly from local suppliers or farmers (so-called slow flower in United States) or encourage using more naturally-grown flowers. It would be bored if you use all the materials imported from overseas, thinking of what people elsewhere in the world would love to see from Thai floral designer.

How do weddings and other types of events in Thailand differ from those in the rest of the world?

Thai weddings are quite large comparing to other countries. Number of guests could be up to thousands and that means larger scale of floral decoration for such event. New generation anyway would go for smaller and more sustainable wedding which is a worldwide movement. Any other events might be the same. Apart from the scale, Thais do have specific sets of beliefs or sometimes superstition about flower. For an instance, tuberose will be used only in funeral since they give a scent only in the evening, time for funeral.

 

Collage PHKA flowers

 

Where do you buy your flowers (name of the wholesaler/trader)?

We do flower purchase from various traders and local suppliers, including Hilverda De Boer (via Flower Land and Kunming), Tropical Thai Flowers, Penlert De Fluer, and other local suppliers.


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