Axial Symphony by Design Systems



Hong Kong studio Design Systems have completed the renovation of a penthouse apartment in Shenzhen, China, including the addition of an undulating lawn on the terrace.

Called Axial Symphony, the home is arranged along several axis and aims to make the residents feel they are at the centre of their home as they move through the property.

The living area features reclaimed boat-building timber.

More about Design Systems on Dezeen: Control room of Hong Kong international airport

Here's some more information from Design Systems:


Axial symphony: Comfort in Order

Logic seems to be residing amongst our subconscious whether we like it or not. In here, the role of a designer is merely to epitomize our need in a living environment.

Any creators of space were well aware of the importance of symmetry in design. As a basic principle of aesthetic judgement, symmetry has become the design fundamental of many architectural masterpieces.

Indeed, property of remaining invariant under certain changes (as of orientation in space, of the sign of the electric charge and of parity) is the essence of a calm interior.

On that ground, the ingredient to a good living environment has become clear: we need beauty and comfort to go hand in hand.

Manipulating axes is the point of departure of this design. Within each functional space, furniture and fixtures are located on an axis that is projected from the most important spatial elements of that zone.

The arrangement keeps the inhabitant, physically or visually, always oriented to the centre of the various spaces. In another word, the person is always the epicenter of a space and never to be overpowered by it.

For example, once enter the bathroom the basin at bathroom is centered to the inhabitants, as the door and the basin are located on the same axis. The water closet is directly facing an aperture, resisting to be stereotypically enclosed.

The landscape at the garden is made of a few undulating mounts of small hills swinging from one side of the axis to another. The person sitting on the sofas of the living room, which are centered to the window framing it, views such playfulness of greenery.

Each element in space is chosen by its ability to work in harness with the inhabitant, hence evoking beauty in its function.

As we endeavor to weave sense into space, a home has stopped being just an environment for living. The design brief was to turn a 150 sq m three-bedroom penthouse apartment into a home for a couple.

Instinctively the number of rooms was reduced in exchange for bigger and more personalized en suite. Each piece of furniture and fixings should feature the individual preference of the inhabitant, while holistically they reflect their lifestyle.

As a result, the inhabitant has become the livelihood of a home. Attention in harmonious details has become paramount to the design, like the nuance of foreground and background, the lightness and weight, smooth and rough, ….. etc. in another word, materials were used basing on their compatibility to spatial function rather than their visual merit.

Such as white terrazzo was used for the flooring of the garden to highlight and expose the beauty of the green; on the other hand, recycled boat-building timber was used in the living room for creating a cozy and well-grounded interior.

Similarly, when choosing for the material for an open kitchen, darkened glass and black marble was used not only to fulfill its practical performance but also to bring a sense of anchorage into an otherwise visually light and bright interior.

A material should appeal to the inhabitant only when its property is fully shown through its function. Ultimately, beauty is just a side product to a comfortable space.

Posted on Monday January 11th 2010 at 5:35 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • jasper

    I really like the overall concept and design. And I especially love the grass… must be really hard to maintain though :p

  • pony

    Interesting design attempt for residential design! At least really try to consider the relationship between user, space and modern fengshui.

  • Cath

    I like the lawn!So special…. It’s my dream house!

  • Cath

    Symmetry is very important in design. That’s why the house make me feel comfortable.

  • BA student

    clear and clever concept, clean and modern design, well done.

  • beautiful.

    but how do you mow the lawn!?!?! =P

  • Paul Sangwoo Kim / James Choe

    everything looks great yet, the GRASS seems like a bad rendition of PETER SAVILLE album art, but again everything else looks great

  • BRian

    I love the concept… and lawn,

    How do you trim it?


  • Richard Ho

    The design approach is rare cos as traditional eastern design, there should be a single principle that govern the layout design. Breaking down a large space into several small spaces with different axis, and still can maintain the unity of the space, I think the design works quite well in this direction, especially in the living room and toilet. The bedroom is just OK and typical, but I like the toilet and lawn a lot.

  • All very pretty, but clod, hard and unpleasant to live in. Therefore, not good design – yet another case of form over function.

  • Make that ‘cold’.

  • Ming

    Cannot agree with Mark Astle. 1st of all, I don’t feel it is cold at all. Not every modern design is cold. I think for residential design, like this case, it is not appropriate for someone to make a comment or conclusion that the design is not good, just because you think it is too “cold”. You might not like it personally, but judging a design from this direction is just like a parent complaining about his kid’s dressing. Not everything that you dislike is no good. Don’t understand why it is “form over fucntion”, I think all forms in this design is quite common and normal, we are not talking about a triangular bed or a circular door. Try to be more rational, I quite like the design intention of axis within different spaces, but not sure weather it works or not.

  • owen

    Less furniture with big space,it ‘s very clean and pure,very enough for a living space.cold???i don’t think so… ‘s not really cold

  • marcus

    after seeing this design and I’ve tried to center myself to the windows or some spaces, it starts to work on me. I become aware of the alignment with the axis of space, quite funny. Not sure this habit good or not really.

  • William

    Does the inhabitant spend more time on the loo than in the bath??

  • I like the earth mounds.

  • graham

    Lovely penthouse with some beautifully tactile surfaces and materials used.

    just one question do all architects talk the way they write? because if they did they must get punched alot because my god do they sound like wankers

  • Fair comment Ming. not every modern design is cold. But this one, in my opinion, is. Think about how you live, how you interact with your living space. And now think about everyone you know, and how they live. CAn you see any of those people living in this house that way it currently is? I’m all for well designed interiors, but I don’t think this one is – it’s designed to look at, not live in. And the bedroom couldn’t be more boring. For a hotel, it might work. For a home..?

  • kevin

    i agree with graham… the project, while beautiful, is not an intellectual exercise and they speak as though it is. exhibit a: “the ingredient to a good living environment has become clear: we need beauty and comfort to go hand in hand.” … MY WORD ladies and gentlemen, they’ve stumbled upon the secret to “good” residential design…

  • Antoan

    I agree with the last three posts (graham, mark astle and kevin).
    1st. It seems like all you have to do is talk like you’re well educated about something. You can get anyone make a pile of poo something great if you only use catchy phrases along with “academical” language.

    2nd. I agree with Mark Astle. But its open for anyone to interpret it. Everybody’s definition is different based on their background in occupation, taste ect.

    And last thing, its a nice design and interesting method to work on. I also love the idea how they use that type of wood and other elements (particularly the green grass). Really neat stuff ! :D

  • owner’s friend

    Mark, following your logic, everyone should go to cinema , or do something very interesting everyweek, and if they are not, they must having a boring life. Every home, every bedroom should “looks” or factually very rich, and if not, life must be very boring if you live there, think about it, Mark, is that really that superfacial and shallow? Or is good design really that single-sided?

    Graham and Kevin, please don’t make it complicated, maybe the wordsing or texts don’t meet your taste or expectations, but I think the axis idea is very striaght forword, simple and clever.

    Just wondering if the owner of the apartment write a comment that she think the design and concept work very well, and she enjoys a lot to see a bright and white world waking up in the morning, but not a “rich” scenery with “a lot of things around”, what will Mark, Graham and Kevin’s responses? May be: Miss Owner, you should not live the way as you like or preferred?!

  • R. Berengena

    Some of the people comment on the language used to describe the photos — that it is stilted and even pretentious. The designers obviously do not speak English as their primary tongue. The wording sounds like someone who primarily uses a Chinese dialect. It’s a noble attempt to translate into English and should be recognized as such.

  • Fizz

    In-house PR guy [studying original plan]: ‘Yes, a very functional, pleasantly aesthetic design but really not that unconventional and perhaps a bit boring. We need to sell the idea more.’

    Design Systems guy: ‘ Well, can we make something of its neat use of space maybe?’

    PR guy: ‘Yeah -wait a minute. Give me a ruler. If we draw a straight red line there… and another there… OK. Now we got a Concept!’

    DS guy: ‘Um -how do you mean’?

    PR guy: ‘Well these lines are at 90 degrees to each other which makes it look a bit sophisticated, so we say this is quite a deep idea. But we need to give the idea some sort of identity.’

    DS guy: ‘How do you mean?’

    PR guy: Something that sounds cool yet hi-tech – Hey, I got it! how about Axial Symphony?!’

    (Visual tip – take out the plan’s red lines, say in Photoshop. Now what have you got?)

  • Jojo

    I’m in love.

  • MCaio

    i really loved that grass!