Trika - The Journey Of An International Museum Showcase Manufacturer

Trika’s design philosophy is not to design in isolation but to study the construct so thoroughly that engineering and materials come together to deliver the final product. This is evident in their TrikaModern products which were showcased at International Furniture Fair Singapore 2018.

In a highly specialised field where the main supply of high-specification museum display cases comes from Europe and Australia, local multi-disciplinary industrial design and manufacturing company Trika’s entry to this market segment in 2002 must have raised quite a few eyebrows.

A typical museum display case needs to adhere to the conservation aspects of various construction materials and offers an airtight, micro-environment while possessing features such as high-security locking devices and special UV / IR blocking cold lighting.

Designers also have to consider how museum operators are to manoeuvre around heavy glass openings that sometimes weigh more than 200 kilogrammes each. In short, a certain level of skill and precision is needed for its design and production.

Until recently, Trika Singapore was only known among the industry of museum architects, curators and a handful of local conservators. Now its clientele has since expanded to Europe and the Middle-East and it was recently appointed as the official case maker for the Natural History Museum of London.

Founder and Managing Director Steil Tan has certainly come a long way from his first job with fashion retailer Esprit at its Orchard Road branch (now occupied by the Apple store) some 33 years ago. He soon found his penchant for the design of store fixtures when he stayed back regularly to assist Esprit’s visual display team.  In 2002, a close friend approached Steil to ask if he could design a large display case for a royalty of a nearby country. That eventually led to the first commission of designing a vertical lifting showcase for the private textile collections of the royal palace museum of Thailand.

Trika Founder and Managing Director Steil Tan

Fast forward to 2017, Trika now produces high-specifications showcases for international architects and museums for some of the most prestigious names around the region. Steil believes Trika’s attention to detail have helped raised the company’s profile and proudly says, “We are behind every single detail of our showcases. There isn’t a lock or hinge that hasn’t been designed by us. Every smallest component or part is important”.

Trika’s design philosophy is not to design in isolation but to study the construct so thoroughly that engineering and materials come together to deliver the final product. This is reflected in its ability to craft frame-less volumes of glass and ultra-slim profiles with simplicity.

Taking pride in all output that bears its Trika imprint, the design and performance of each showcase system must be perfect and resonate with Trika’s core design values. The drive for perfection is evident in its range of products including document cases (Ramses), pull & slide cases (Cyrus), single view window cases (Elgin). These were crafted and tested repeatedly in Trika’s assembly factory based in Singapore.

Optimisation of construction materials is a core tenet in Trika’s design playbook. It often achieves this without compromising the security or function of its products. A prime example is the Turin advanced modular and demountable cases, now patented and morphed into a high-end wardrobe system, a library and even a room-size glass divider.

Working with different museums across the region does pose various challenges, with some giving detailed briefs while others providing crucial information only at the last moment. To add to the complexity, there are cultural differences, logistical issues, legal and contractual rights, temperamental timelines and language differences to cope with.

Having all the systems completed and in place is just the beginning. The next step is to prepare the company to thrive in different international markets by anticipating and managing potential challenges and opportunities.

What makes the journey so important to Trika? Steil sums it up succinctly, “The bread-and-butter part of the business help to support the experimental creations that fulfil our team. But we are also artisans at heart and see ourselves crafting products that have genuine longevity, fulfilling a standard that remains precious throughout time.”

Success didn’t always come easy and Steil recollects that in the early days, rejections were the norm and even locally in Singapore, foreign brand names have an edge over his company’s in government tenders.

To fellow entrepreneurs those vying for recognition in today’s saturated digital media world, Steil has a calm word of advice: “Be yourself and look beyond your own shores, as recognition only comes when you succeed elsewhere”.

Customers hoping to own a piece of museum-grade display cases are in luck. TrikaModern, Trika’s domestic line of glass display cases with limited customisation features are available for online orders. These were recently spotted at the Trika booth at the International Furniture Fair Singapore 2018 which draws trade visitors from all over the world.

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