The Big Reveal: Cairn by KIMXGENSAPA

Moon Kim and Tsewang Gensapa the two designers behind, KIMXGENSAPA, walked away the crowned champions of MADE’s Emerging Talent Award, 2016. Responding to a small-spaces design brief, with an aim of creating a piece that would work in an urban apartment, the pair produced their winning side table, Cairn. The design draws inspiration from the bamboo steamers familiar to them from childhood as well as the Kowloon Walled city in Hong Kong, which they spotted when they watched the film Hong Kong Express. We caught up with Moon Kim about their design approach for Cairn, the importance of a versatile outlook and her experiences with close quarters living.


Hong Kong Express

The original idea for the Cairn unit came about after Moon and Tsewang saw the film Hong Kong Express. “The film is shot in Chungking Mansion - a very punky and strange place. We started doing some research and found out about the Kowloon Walled city, an area of apartments that were all stacked on top of each other - illegally. It was demolished in the 90s because there were a lot of problems regarding space and population control. We thought it would be cool to take the element of vertical structures, compactness and stackability, into our design process.”  

Finding Inspiration

Even though they’re a team, Moon and Tsewang find inspiration in different ways. While Tsewang takes to Instagram, Moon prefers to disconnect. “If my head is feeling heavy, I’ll watch a film or read a book that isn’t related to design. There might be a paragraph or sentence that I really like and I’ll try to draw some sense out of it.” When they do browse online, they love Design Milk, Design Boom and Dezeen. “We also go to different company websites, like MADE, Moroso and Moooi.”

Bamboo Steamers

“Our design was also inspired by the bamboo steamer. We wanted it to be compact, space-saving and multifunctional. We took inspiration from the form, and the circular lines and curves of the bamboo steamer. But I have actually never used a bamboo steamer in my whole life.”

Career ambitions

Moon’s dream career couldn’t have been further from where she is now. “When I was in Korea, I wanted to become a soldier.” Having grown up with a conservative father, she wanted to defy his expectations. “My life was affected a lot by my Dad, who used to be quite sexist. He would say ‘girls shouldn’t be this’ and ‘guys shouldn’t be this’ and I was sick of hearing it. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to be a soldier and I’m going to show you that you’re wrong. I also thought it would be cool to live a life of discipline.”

Close quarters

The Cairn unit is designed for urban living, and it’s safe to say Moon is more than familiar with living in a cramped urban space. “After graduation, I was working in a design company in Milan on an internship. I lived with a girl who was a fashion designer in a one room studio apartment. Everything was just there in that one room. When I moved in with her, she started keeping her stuff stacked one on top of another. In the end, there was a whole wall covered in her materials. That experience gave us some ideas when we were working on the design brief.”

Enter the Emerging Talent Award 2017 here.

Article written by: Helena Murphy
Photography by: Trent McMinn

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