Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd. (LEAD)

Professional in Architecture Design.

About Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd. (LEAD)

  • Winner of Architecture Design Award.
  • Specialized in Architecture Design.
  • Original Design.
  • Highly Creative, Diligent and Innovative.
  • All Designs
  • Architecture
Golden Moon Public Event Space

Golden Moon Public Event Space

Architecture Design


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Interview with Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd. (LEAD)

Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
Kristof Crolla 高仕棠 is a licensed architect who combines his architectural practice “Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd.” (LEAD) with his part-time work as Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong and a Visiting Professorship at the University of Saint Joseph, Macau. After graduating Magna Cum Laude as Civil Architectural Engineer at Ghent University in 2003, he practiced in Belgium at Bureau Buildings & Techniques and independently designed and built his first project, House for an Artist. He moved to London in 2005 to attend the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London (AA)’s Master of Architecture program Design Research Laboratory, from where his student work with team “Sugar Inc.” was exhibited at the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale. Following this he worked for several years as Lead Architect for the Pritzker prize winning Zaha Hadid Architects, while teaching in parallel at the AA and other institutions worldwide. He is the founder of the International Workshop Series (IWS) which organise workshops worldwide exploring digital design and fabrication in architecture, and has been invited as a jury critic, lecturer and tutor in numerous institutions throughout Europe, China, Chile and South Africa. Kristof Crolla is currently based in Hong kong where he received the Perspective “40 Under40” 2012 – Architecture Award. Sebastien Delagrange is an architect, designer & graphic designer and is a founding partner of LEAD. He studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture's Design Research Laboratory in London (AA-DRL) after completing his architecture degree in Belgium. He gained his professional experience at Zaha Hadid Architects office before heading down to Rotterdam to join Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Sebastien is currently based in Belgium where he continues LEAD’s architectural exploration through international workshops and various architecture projects.
Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd. (LEAD) is a young Hong Kong & Antwerp based architectural design and research practice, founded in March 2011 by Kristof Crolla & Sebastien Delagrange. LEAD explores how architectural innovation can stem from the strategic integration and combination of contemporary design technology and highly contextual and project-specific parameters. Through its work LEAD rethinks the premise of digital design by anchoring the paradigm in a strong materiality: static preconceptions of space, geometry, materiality, building practice and construction technique are abandoned to allow for the creative exploration of new design & building methodologies in direct response to client briefs and project contexts. LEAD’s scope covers a wide range of scales and its services stretch from initial design through construction up to project realisation. Within its first two years of operation LEAD won the Hong Kong Global Design 2011 Excellence Award for their Shine Fashion Store, received the 2012 Design For Asia Bronze Award for the Dragon Skin Pavilion, and received the Perspective 2012 40 under 40 Award. LEAD is best known for their recently built “Golden Moon” Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Wonderland 2012 in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. LEAD combines practice with research by organising and teaching in an International Workshop Series (IWS) with now 18 editions completed worldwide in countries as varied as Chile, Finland, South Africa and China.
What kinds of works do you like designing most?
Architecture. Buildings that are not just the most pragmatic solution to a given problem, but that allow for many layers of added value.
What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
I don’t really have a favourite building, but was extremely pleasantly surprised when visiting John Hardy’s Green School in Bali, Indonesia, last fall for a workshop with my Hong Kong students. He built an entire campus from only bamboo, using the most unusual and unexpected geometries at a gigantic scale. The spaces were in perfect harmony with their surroundings and produced a most unique and pleasant working environment. In that complex their Millennium Bridge was my favourite, as it merged a unique and inventive tectonic system with a very practical problem in generating a beautiful structure.
Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
The formal / geometric / spatial opportunities of an innovative construction method
What makes a design successful?
If it presents the user with a situation he/she never anticipated beforehand.
When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
Assuming that practicality / functionality is a given, I question what the underlying intentions of the designer was when starting to work on the project, and how well he achieved those in the final design.
How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
The future of the design lies in the merger of the unlimited possibilities of virtual working environments and the realities of the physical.
When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
We participated with a furniture piece in a small event in Hong Kong which asked visitors to swap and exchange used goods as a way to counter the hyper-consumerist nature of Hong Kong. Our next exhibition will be in Macau this May where we will work together with architecture students on the construction of a bamboo pavilion and an adjoining gallery show.
How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
We never think of our work as following a particular style. We constantly explore what we find interesting, hence the name of our office Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design. As part of this we are definitely influenced by the tools we use, as today the exploration through digital design and fabrication tools is unprecedented and virtually inexhaustible.
Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
We live in Belgium and Hong Kong, but spent time in the UK, the Netherlands, and have worked with our International Workshop Series in over a dozen countries worldwide and we travel extensively. Seeing how different cultures operate gives you a wide palette of experiences to draw from when tackling design problems.
How do you work with companies?
We operate internationally, but always closely collaborate with local partners for the design development and implementation of our work. Different cultures have different construction and building traditions with which' depths we are unfamiliar, so by teaming up with local specialists we assemble the required knowledge to implement our work.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
For each project we set up a design and construction system. Rough hand sketches are instantly translated into systematic 3D computer models and procedural computer scripts. Using dozens of renders, physical models, mock-ups and 3D prints for physical testing, we iteratively upgrade the system. Once all the parameters, limitations and opportunities of the system are known we start designing the final project.
What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
1. Apple MacBook Pro 2. The paperclip 3. BIC pen 4. Gibson SG guitar 5. tailor-made suit
Can you describe a day in your life?
Most days differ greatly, but all contain a bit of sports, a lot of designing in the office or working with students, reading and researching, casually playing around with new design & fabrication tools, meeting to friends, and coffee.
Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
There is no greater critic than yourself. Dare to listen to yourself and hold yourself accountable.
Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
I recently became very interested in 20th Century engineers doing unique architecture, and in traditional building techniques for complex geometry.
Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
Our workweek lasts for a few months and then we take a very very long weekend to recharge.
What was your most important job experience?
Designing and building the Golden Moon Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern
What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
Architecture. Its impact on users is all-encompassing and profound.
What are your future plans? What is next for you?
Scaling up our project size: we would love to do a cultural building somewhere.
Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
We are participating in a few exciting competitions at the moment. Hopefully we’ll be able to share good news on that soon.

Extended Interview with Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd. (LEAD)

Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
Kristof Crolla 高仕棠 is a licensed architect who combines his architectural practice “Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd.” (LEAD) with his part-time work as Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong and a Visiting Professorship at the University of Saint Joseph, Macau. After graduating Magna Cum Laude as Civil Architectural Engineer at Ghent University in 2003, he practiced in Belgium at Bureau Buildings & Techniques and independently designed and built his first project, House for an Artist. He moved to London in 2005 to attend the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London (AA)’s Master of Architecture program Design Research Laboratory, from where his student work with team “Sugar Inc.” was exhibited at the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale. Following this he worked for several years as Lead Architect for the Pritzker prize winning Zaha Hadid Architects, while teaching in parallel at the AA and other institutions worldwide. He is the founder of the International Workshop Series (IWS) which organise workshops worldwide exploring digital design and fabrication in architecture, and has been invited as a jury critic, lecturer and tutor in numerous institutions throughout Europe, China, Chile and South Africa. Kristof Crolla is currently based in Hong kong where he received the Perspective “40 Under40” 2012 – Architecture Award. Sebastien Delagrange is an architect, designer & graphic designer and is a founding partner of LEAD. He studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture's Design Research Laboratory in London (AA-DRL) after completing his architecture degree in Belgium. He gained his professional experience at Zaha Hadid Architects office before heading down to Rotterdam to join Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Sebastien is currently based in Belgium where he continues LEAD’s architectural exploration through international workshops and various architecture projects.
What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd. (LEAD) is a young Hong Kong & Antwerp based architectural design and research practice, founded in March 2011 by Kristof Crolla & Sebastien Delagrange. LEAD explores how architectural innovation can stem from the strategic integration and combination of contemporary design technology and highly contextual and project-specific parameters. Through its work LEAD rethinks the premise of digital design by anchoring the paradigm in a strong materiality: static preconceptions of space, geometry, materiality, building practice and construction technique are abandoned to allow for the creative exploration of new design & building methodologies in direct response to client briefs and project contexts. LEAD’s scope covers a wide range of scales and its services stretch from initial design through construction up to project realisation. Within its first two years of operation LEAD won the Hong Kong Global Design 2011 Excellence Award for their Shine Fashion Store, received the 2012 Design For Asia Bronze Award for the Dragon Skin Pavilion, and received the Perspective 2012 40 under 40 Award. LEAD is best known for their recently built “Golden Moon” Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Wonderland 2012 in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. LEAD combines practice with research by organising and teaching in an International Workshop Series (IWS) with now 18 editions completed worldwide in countries as varied as Chile, Finland, South Africa and China.
What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
Architecture. Buildings that are not just the most pragmatic solution to a given problem, but that allow for many layers of added value.
What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
I don’t really have a favourite building, but was extremely pleasantly surprised when visiting John Hardy’s Green School in Bali, Indonesia, last fall for a workshop with my Hong Kong students. He built an entire campus from only bamboo, using the most unusual and unexpected geometries at a gigantic scale. The spaces were in perfect harmony with their surroundings and produced a most unique and pleasant working environment. In that complex their Millennium Bridge was my favourite, as it merged a unique and inventive tectonic system with a very practical problem in generating a beautiful structure.
What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
The formal / geometric / spatial opportunities of an innovative construction method
Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
If it presents the user with a situation he/she never anticipated beforehand.
What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
Assuming that practicality / functionality is a given, I question what the underlying intentions of the designer was when starting to work on the project, and how well he achieved those in the final design.
How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
The future of the design lies in the merger of the unlimited possibilities of virtual working environments and the realities of the physical.
If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
We participated with a furniture piece in a small event in Hong Kong which asked visitors to swap and exchange used goods as a way to counter the hyper-consumerist nature of Hong Kong. Our next exhibition will be in Macau this May where we will work together with architecture students on the construction of a bamboo pavilion and an adjoining gallery show.
Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
We never think of our work as following a particular style. We constantly explore what we find interesting, hence the name of our office Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design. As part of this we are definitely influenced by the tools we use, as today the exploration through digital design and fabrication tools is unprecedented and virtually inexhaustible.
What helped you to become a great designer?
We live in Belgium and Hong Kong, but spent time in the UK, the Netherlands, and have worked with our International Workshop Series in over a dozen countries worldwide and we travel extensively. Seeing how different cultures operate gives you a wide palette of experiences to draw from when tackling design problems.
What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
We operate internationally, but always closely collaborate with local partners for the design development and implementation of our work. Different cultures have different construction and building traditions with which' depths we are unfamiliar, so by teaming up with local specialists we assemble the required knowledge to implement our work.
What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
For each project we set up a design and construction system. Rough hand sketches are instantly translated into systematic 3D computer models and procedural computer scripts. Using dozens of renders, physical models, mock-ups and 3D prints for physical testing, we iteratively upgrade the system. Once all the parameters, limitations and opportunities of the system are known we start designing the final project.
What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
1. Apple MacBook Pro 2. The paperclip 3. BIC pen 4. Gibson SG guitar 5. tailor-made suit
What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
Most days differ greatly, but all contain a bit of sports, a lot of designing in the office or working with students, reading and researching, casually playing around with new design & fabrication tools, meeting to friends, and coffee.
How does design help create a better society?
There is no greater critic than yourself. Dare to listen to yourself and hold yourself accountable.
Where do you think the design field is headed next?
I recently became very interested in 20th Century engineers doing unique architecture, and in traditional building techniques for complex geometry.
How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
Our workweek lasts for a few months and then we take a very very long weekend to recharge.
Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
Designing and building the Golden Moon Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern
What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
Architecture. Its impact on users is all-encompassing and profound.
What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
Scaling up our project size: we would love to do a cultural building somewhere.
When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
We are participating in a few exciting competitions at the moment. Hopefully we’ll be able to share good news on that soon.

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