Formica X PRODUCE + Superstructure

Laminate is a longstanding material of choice for coverings, with an extensive range of finishes designed to mimic any type of commercially available material when applied to a substrate.

In this project, Formica, the pioneer in laminates, works with design studio PRODUCE to approach laminate as a material itself rather than what it has established itself in.  The project looks at its innate qualities, inherent strengths and weaknesses, and even the production process to discover potentially new application methods for the revolutionary material.

Laminate properties: Laminate is stiff and non-porous due to its resinous layer, making it a high-performance surfacing material.  However, this makes it brittle too. It is also manufactured in thin sheets, while the material gains flexibility beyond the materials it mimics, it shatters if bent beyond its limits. Due to its manufacturing method, the backing of laminates is always oriented in a single direction, making it more flexible in one direction.

We experimented by adapting a woodworking technique used to bend timber, called kerfing, by making many tiny laser-cut incisions in the laminate. By varying the length, spacing and direction of these incisions, we are able to control and regulate the flexibility of the laminate allowing for greater flexibility and tighter curves; and achieve localised and varied curvatures within a single piece of laminate.

Revealing of Substrates
Laminate properties: As a finishing material, laminates are made to conceal the substrate (e.g. mdf or plywood), which is an integral but hidden component that cannot be divorced from laminates.

We chose to see the substrate as a complementary material to its skin.  By varying cut depth and angle

Reduction of Waste
Laminate properties: Laminates are sold as rectangular 4x8ft/4x10ft sheets.  With industrialized processes, wastage is kept to a minimum but it is always inevitable to have defects or off-cuts.

Laminate properties: As an entire sheets, laminates generally can only tolerate one directional curvatures.

By cutting the laminates into strips it allows each individual strip to bend slightly in two directions within its material limitations, which allows the formation of grid shell structures.

The central pavilion at SingaPlural 2018 will showcase three of the techniques explored during the course of this study.

Each individual strip in the pavilion is created by laminating a core of bendable plywood and two layers of Formica laminates – tapping into the tensile strength and flexibility of the Formica, and tempering its brittleness by bonding it with the bendable plywood.  These strips form the base of the self-supporting grid shell pavilion.

The furniture in the pavilion is supported by kerfed laminates formed into undulating surfaces for rigidity. This is then used for various purposes, such as a display table, umbrella stand, and the legs of tables and chairs.  This showcases both the structural ability of laminates as a material, as well as Formica’s range of designs and finishes.


Formica is a leading provider of designed surfacing solutions and is the world’s largest manufacturer of High Pressure Laminate (HPL).  With sustainability a concern for the global community, Formica Group makes it a priority to offer architects, designers and consumers a full range of environmentally friendly surfacing products.  Formica continually strives to create innovative products that promote a healthier environment.


PRODUCE is an award-winning design studio with a focus on developing and actualising ideas for the city through the design of objects, spaces and buildings.  The studio places an emphasis on prototyping to help realise its design visions and takes pride in having its own prototyping capabilities.

PRODUCE won several awards at the recent World Architecture Festival, including the prestigious World Interior of the Year 2017 and the best Display Interior. The studio was also awarded the best retail project of the year at WAF in 2012 and 2015.  In addition, it was the only Singapore firm presented with the Gold Medal at the 2016 Singapore Interior Design Award.

About Superstructure

Superstructure is a BuildLab focused on developing smart solutions and systems for complex geometrical and computational problems. As designers become increasingly exposed to advanced digital tools, freeform and complex designs become very achievable digitally but remains a challenge to bring complex shapes to reality. Superstructure offers acute knowledge in computational design, material systems development as well as precision digital fabrication techniques, to bridge formal ideas with manufacturing and assembly. Experimentation and research are core activities at Superstructure which leads to the development of innovative products and projects5