It’s the green, eco-centric, sustainable and environmentally sound projects that have really caught our eye at this year’s Hong Kong Design Centre’s Design for Asia Awards. A particular favourite was the Panyaden School, south of Chiang Mai in Thailand, designed by the Netherlands’ 24H-architecture. Ticking all the boxes with sustainable architecture, rammed-earth walls, thermal mass insulation and bamboo cladding, it received the HKDC Grand Award.

Another was the architecturally lush Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, designed by British outfit Wilkinson Eyre and landscape architects Grant Associates. It comprises an impressive copse of tree-shaped towers, shell-shaped greenhouses and a 30m-high man-made waterfall, all connected by 20m-high bridges.

And we were genuinely wowed by the chapel at the Palace Hotel Tokyo, which re-opened back in May after a dramatic $1.2 billion reconstruction. The brainchild of Japanese architect Yuji Hirata, the hotel’s wedding chapel – serene, contemporary, karmically sensitive, atypical and enchanting – is the perfect example of modern design in the Far East.

Organised by the Hong Kong Design Centre, a publicly funded, non-profit organisation established in 2001 with the support of the design industry, the annual awards are presented to, not just local architectural talent such as Hirata,
The Oval Partnership or Look Architects, but also designers and brands from around the world that have achieved business success through design that reflects or impacts on the Asian lifestyle.

The aims of the award are manifold but simple: to establish Hong Kong as a centre of design excellence in Asia; to raise the city’s profile as a design hub of creativity and innovation; to drive value and creation through design and innovation; and to promote and celebrate design excellence. All of this with a view to increasing the resourcefulness of Hong Kong’s designers, businesses and people.

The panel of judges selects winners from 18 categories, including product design, communication, apparel and environmental design. This year, the standard is higher and more diverse than ever, ranging from designer labels to small independents and handmade designs, big buildings to simple household products, and shamelessly luxurious to ingeniously practical. Now in its tenth year and a central part of Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week, the HKDC awards continue to show the world that the East is still rising.

Design for Asia 2003 - 2012
The evolution of Asia's leading design awards

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Hong Kong Design Centre’s Design for Asia Awards (DFA) has become a hotbed of local talent. Having started in 2003 by selecting innovative brands available in the region in order to identify ‘good design in Asia’, DFA then shifted its focus to homegrown talent, before more recently considering the specificities of Asian design, from hi-tech mobile phones and websites to low-cost bridges for rural areas.

The number of entries has grown from only 130 in 2003, to over 800 in 2012 – a clear sign of the awards’ success. The Hong Kong Design Centre’s other activities to encourage discussions on local design include publishing a variety of material and organising seminars and lectures on design, culture and creativity.