Works Appreciate
Works Appreciate


IAI Best Design Award-Exhibition Space


Winner name:

Joy Seah (Singapore)

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RACE is a new robotic facility, that exhibits the latest robotics technology to automate existing manufacturing industries.



MOD was commissioned to design the branding and spatial experience for RACE (Robotics Automation Center of Excellence), a robotics facility which introduces interchangeable modular robots to automate existing manufacturing industries and encourages mid-career professionals to overcome resistance to technology.

RACE is characterized by modularity and influenced by aesthetics of precision and dynamism. The black-and-white web of anamorphic art creates a distinct entrance, to a dramatic metallic faceted space, creating a future-forward backdrop to robotics education. The entire web of panels is designed to be wholly transportable, to facilitate moving to a new location in a few years’ time.


When Mr. Derrick Yap, CEO of PBA Systems, first met us in April 2016, he explained his aspirations to open his first robotics laboratory to introduce robots and automate existing manufacturing industries. We were excited to attempt innovating for a new sector.

There were no relevant precedents; existing labs tend to look like clean rooms, bearing a white and bright aesthetic.

Based on the different robots on display at PBA, we tried to imagine what the essence of robotics would mean at an upstream level, and then reapply it downstream.

We felt that it was important for RACE to be a dynamic, future-forward backdrop for robotics education, to excite and incentivise mid-career professionals to embrace new technology.

The question is: “what would a spatial outworking of that ‘robotics’ essence be?”


The inspiration was robotics itself.

The eventual design is characterized by modularity, and influenced by aesthetics of precision and dynamism; like the electronic music “kraftwerk”.

The black-and-white web of anamorphic art creates a distinct entrance and disorients the floor from ceiling. A custom oversized-door pivots open to reveal a dramatic metallic faceted space, creating a contrast that is at once striking yet complementary. The random sprinkle of custom LED strips serves to highlight the multi-directional panels with a cutting-edge aesthetic.

Similarly, the logotype is an expression of a complete form comprised of individual standalone parts.


A major design challenge was to create a dynamic space, yet meet the functional brief (a complex variety of training scenarios, e.g. large lecture featuring 3 main robots, versus small group hands-on training featuring 10 robots for 10 groups).

Also, PBA required the entire facility to be “transportable” as they have plans to relocate in 2 years’ time.


For maximum flexibility and eventual portability for relocation, we introduced a "second" skin”, developed to seamlessly create a dynamic space by deconstructing the ceiling and wall planes into an array of facets.

Each facet comprises stacked layers of hand-cut aluminium hollow tubing; rotating the direction of the tubes with every facet to create a bold multi-directional effect.

We wanted the “skin” to be the main feature, yet act as natural sectioning devices to create enclaves for small group settings.

The aluminium screen cladding cloaks the necessary but unsightly mechanical & electrical services while allowing ease of access for operation.

We tested a variety of sizes for the metal tubes, weighing aesthetics and cost, to ensure that the spacing between tubes was optimized to allow sufficient air from the air conditioners, yet hide the unsightly wires/services visually.

The majority of main metal framework was developed to be demountable from the base structure, for easy relocation.


The response has been both positive and encouraging. RACE has hosted more than 800 guests since the launch, including key government and educational agencies like Spring Singapore, National Environment Agency, Economic Development Board, Workforce Singapore and Ministry of Manpower.

RACE has held 30 training sessions till now, for companies and educational facilities like Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association (SPETA), Building and Construction Authority Singapore, Ministry of Education Secondary Schools, Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Waste Management Association, covering about 400 trainees in total. The classes range from Novice classes, to Robot Safety classes to Automated Solutions Management Training classes.

Ms. Lavanya Karthikeyan, Manager, Precision Engineering, Spring Singapore, articulates that “There is mounting pressure on the Singapore workforce to reinvent themselves, in order to remain relevant, and RACE successfully increases the excitement and motivation for someone making a mid-career switch to robotics, to have that final push, to embrace technology. Robotics isn’t new, however, RACE immediately impacts you with “this is new”, and “this is the future.” The tech vibe is of a start-up and one can sense that upon walking into the space.”  

We are heartened by the positive response. All of this was achieved within tight constraints, for example, a limited budget of S$300,000, a tight timeframe, and the condition that the entire facility had to be “transportable”, for PBA to relocate in 2 years’ time.


RACE Robotics Laboratory was honoured to have been 1 of 6 international projects worldwide, selected to be Overall Winners in the 45th Annual Interior Design Competition, in Chicago, organized by IIDA. Altogether there were 400 entries from 29 countries. The jury’s citation: “A wonderful design for a tech learning space that uses materials to communicate its use. The fact that it can be transported and temporal adds to the complexity of the design.”

In addition, RACE was also named overall winner for Best Commercial Project (Winner) in BCI Asia Interior Design Awards 2018. The jury said, “Amid Singapore’s drive for increasing productivity, and possible resistance to adopting new technology, RACE has done a commendable job increasing manufacturing companies’ motivation to embrace robotics technology. The future-forward tech vibe is palpable and the added challenge of being temporal and transportable, makes the design impressive.”