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Thread: 10 Singapore Architects

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    Default 10 Singapore Architects

    Jan 6, 2007

    Creative constructions

    Architecture became a high-profile venture last year, with controversial design proposals and numerous design awards. Life! picks 10 Singapore architects likely to change the landscape this year

    By Tay Suan Chiang, DESIGN REPORTER

    ARCHITECTURE was a hot topic in 2006, with the two upcoming Integrated Resorts (IR) in Marina Bay and Sentosa fuelling public interest in design.

    For the record, Las Vegas Sands won the bid for the Marina IR while Genting International won the Sentosa site. Their resorts, designed by Canadian architect Moshe Safdie and American architect Michael Graves respectively, are expected to be ready by 2009 and 2010 respectively.

    Mr John Ting, 52, the immediate past president of the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), notes: 'The design proposals for the IRs captured people's imagination.'

    This was especially evident in the feedback for Frank Gehry's proposal for the Sentosa IR, which did not win the bid. The American architect's design of a 90m-tall twisted steel-and-glass structure resembling sails divided the public, with some loving its boldness and others decrying its incomprehensible structure.

    Veteran architect Tang Guan Bee, 63, says 2006 will also be remembered as a year of awards.

    The SIA held its 8th Architectural Design Awards, recognising work by local architects. The SIA-Getz Architecture Prize for Emergent Architecture was also launched. Getz is a building material supply and service provider. The award will be given biennially to an architect who contributes to new directions in Asian architecture.

    In November, architects once again came into the spotlight with the inaugural President's Design Award. It is the nation's highest honour for designers and will be given annually to the finest Singaporean talent, products and projects.

    Mr Ting says that unlike fashion, which changes each season, architecture takes a longer time for fruition as buildings take more time to be completed.

    He and Mr Tang note that 2006 was a year in which architects were mostly involved with small residential projects and design proposals.

    'But with the property boom and the IRs, these are signs that the tide is changing and there will be more work for architects,' says Mr Ting.

    So, who are the biggest names in Singapore's architecture scene now?

    Life! Design enlisted the help of the SIA to come up with 10 architects to watch out for in 2007.

    The SIA, which has more than 1,000 members, is the national organisation representing architects here. The 10 professionals featured on our list are all award-winning architects.

    SIA president Rita Soh says the works of all 10 'show that Singapore architects have come of age and can compete in the international arena'.

    Still, speak to architects and a common grouse is that when it comes to big projects, there is still a bias among developers for foreign architects. Mr Ting says that it takes time to convince clients that local architects are just as good.

    But things seem to be changing, as 'we have local architects working together with foreign ones, so that is a start', he says.

    For example, local firm DP Architects is working with Michael Graves on the Sentosa IR. It also worked with Japanese architect Toyo Ito on the $290-million VivoCity shopping mall and with British firm Michael Wilford & Partners on the Esplanade project.

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    Default Re: 10 Singapore Architects

    Jan 6, 2007

    10 Singapore Architects

    1&2. Wong Mun Summ, 44, and Richard Hassell, 40. Founding directors of Woha Architects. Wong is a National University of Singapore (NUS) graduate and Hassell graduated from RMIT University

    Years of practice: 17 for both

    Recent awards: President's Design Award 2006 - Design of the Year for Church of St. Mary of the Angels; Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) International Awards 2006 for a house on Rochalie Drive; SIA Architectural Design Award 2006 for condominium project Gilstead Brooks.

    Their take on local architecture: Every place has opportunities and weaknesses. The opportunities in Singapore come from the huge range of materials and techniques available due to being a trading port, and being a developed country surrounded by developing countries.

    The weakness of local architecture is a lot of replication and repetition of designs, which add to this feeling of placelessness.

    We should take advantage of the mix of East and West, expensive materials and low-cost labour, to create wonderful architecture that is impossible to replicate elsewhere.

    For instance, in Singapore you can use timber and stone for complex decorative screens that require intensive labour to assemble. You can design handrails using on-site stainless steel welding, or make details that use several different trades - metal, stone and glass. These would be impossible to build in Australia or Europe, for instance, due to the labour costs and rigid separation of trades and warranties. We are designing an apartment building in Sydney and it is quite impossible to do anything there with any kind of significant labour component or mixing different trades.

    There is a community of practitioners and organisations and some are doing very good things, and others are not. What matters is creating the conditions where good work, and diverse work, can happen.

    Their style of architecture: The client is always a huge part of the project - there is no architecture without clients. We don't have a house style, we are interested in what emerges from the project brief, the client, the site and the climate.


    3. Siew Man Kok, 44

    Principal architect of MKPL Architects (seen here with partner Cheng Pai Ling, 54). He graduated from NUS

    Years of practice: 17

    Recent awards: SIA Architectural Design Award 2006 for Glentrees condominium; ULI Awards for Excellence: Asia Pacific 2006 for Glentrees condominium; BCI Top 10 Architects in Singapore 2006.

    His take on local architecture: There are too many restrictions and rules that stunt creative ideas. There is also not enough public education on what makes good architecture, and this is partly why there is a misconception that local architecture is not as good as foreign imports.

    As almost all plush jobs are given to foreign architects, there are no opportunities for local architects to cut their teeth on their home ground - although many regional developers are wooing Singapore architects.

    Singapore clients are beginning to see the value of good design, but only in how it can help to sell their development and not for its intrinsic value of improving the way we live.

    His style of architecture: The firm is too young to have a definite style. We like to experiment on what modern architecture in a tropical city like Singapore can be like.


    4. Yip Yuen Hong, 47

    Principal architect of Ip:Li Design. He graduated from NUS

    Years of practice: 18

    Recent award: SIA Architectural Design Award 2006, for a house at Sunset Place

    His take on local architecture: Local architecture tends to look alike. For example, houses here look sleek, rich and uninteresting. We are still not daring enough to be ourselves.

    Rather than depend on others to say what is good taste, home-owners should decide for themselves the look they want for their homes, rather than copying trends or their neighbours.

    Generally, there has been improvement in some aspects of local architecture over the last two decades. The quality of materials used has improved. But whether or not local architects have made improvements in designing buildings that reflect our culture, climate and context is still questionable.

    His style of architecture: Hopefully timeless, subtle, understated, simple yet lifting.


    5. Richard Ho, 49

    Principal architect of RichardHO Architects. He graduated from NUS

    Years of practice: 24

    Recent awards: SIA Architectural Design Award 2006 for St Clement's Monastery for the Redemptorist Fathers; SIA Architectural Design Award 2001 for 13 Frankel Street; Arcasia Architecture Gold Award 1999-2000 for 12 Koon Seng Road

    His take on local architecture: Local architecture is mainly driven by profit and fashion. There is insufficient concern given to issues of the urban landscape, history and environment.

    We are more concerned with productivity and fast economic returns, and conservation becomes just another opportunity to make more money.

    Our architecture is too Euro-centric. We are too ready to copy the trends of the West. It does not sufficiently address our South-east Asian climate - how else do you explain the proliferation of curtain-wall facades and huge glass-roofed atriums in our tropical climate?

    His style of architecture: I respond to the concerns of the user, the brief, the site, the climate and the history of the location. That's why I have 'no style'.


    6. Phan Pit Li, 43

    Senior vice-president, education division of CPG Consultants. She graduated from NUS

    Years of practice: 17

    Recent awards: USA DesignShare Awards 2006 (Honour Award) for NUS High School of Mathematics and Science; USA DesignShare Awards 2006 (Citation Award) for rebuilding of Chung Cheng High Her take on local architecture: We always seem to be building in a hurry, and the pre-occupation with order and prescribed guidelines can get in the way of innovation and new ideas.

    What we are doing right is increasing the opportunities to engage with our water edge and create meaningful public realms. For example, the rejuvenation of the riverside and the future plans for the waterfront will help create a stronger and more unique identity for Singapore.

    Her style of architecture: I don't have a particular style. Each project varies according to its purpose and context.


    7. Chan Soo Khian, 44

    Principal architect of SCDA Architects. He graduated from Yale University

    Years of practice: 11

    Recent awards: President's Design Award 2006 for Designer of the Year; SIA Architectural Design Award 2006 for The Ladyhill, Sandalwood and Heeren Street shophouse; SIA-Getz Architecture Prize for Emergent Architecture in Asia.

    His take on local architecture: You see too many badly proportioned neoclassical houses, overtly Balinese houses and period houses copied from other countries.

    Homes should instead reflect our local climate and context.

    Singapore is a progressive place to practise architecture. We are an open economy.

    We accept foreign talents on our shores and we export our talents overseas as well. This encourages cross-fertilisation of ideas.

    His style of architecture: The answer varies from time to time. It is difficult to name a particular style.

    I would say my designs respond to climate and place, and strive for clarity, simplicity and integrity.

    I like to use materials in a clear and direct way.

    It is not style per se, but rather a consistent way of putting together a building.


    8. Tan Kok Hiang, 46

    Founding director of Forum Architects (seen here with partner Ho Sweet Woon, 44). He graduated from NUS

    Years of practice: 19

    Recent awards: SIA Architectural Design Award in 2006 for Assyafaah Mosque; International Architects' Salon 2005 (China, Beijing) Award for Innovative Architecture for Assyafaah Mosque; Architecture + Awards 2004 in Dubai for Assyafaah Mosque.

    His take on local architecture: Singapore's recent prominent public buildings, such as the Esplanade, Supreme Court, National Library and Singapore Management University, are still not of the calibre that would receive the kind of world accolades befitting our abilities, resources and opportunities.

    This is despite enormous effort in the selection processes of the best design proposal. We have to take a very serious look at why. Are we taking enough risks? Is the clientele sufficiently able to challenge famed architects to do their best? Are our processes cohesive or divisive?

    His style of architecture: We do not design to a style. We try to respond as authentically as possible in defining a problem as well as looking for its solution. This produces works that look dissimilar. If a style is discernible in our work, it is not our fault, it would be something that others have read into.


    9. Martin Goh, 38

    Principal architect of WM Architects. He graduated from NUS and the University of Melbourne

    Years of practice: 11

    Recent award: SIA Architectural Design Award 2006 for Renew Rebana, a semi-detached home in Upper Thomson Road which uses a lot of wood

    His take on local architecture: My pet peeve is Singapore's lack of craftsmanship and its mindset towards materials as well as technology, which can be frustrating.

    We lack skilful builders and contractors who take initiative and pride in executing their works. Also, architects are not given enough respect, trust and freedom.

    However, the SIA, Urban Redevelopment Authority, DesignSingapore Council and other agencies are promoting greater awareness and importance of good architecture, and this is an encouraging step.

    His style of architecture: Architecture is not about style and trend. Rather, it should be a design that is timeless and is still valid 10, 20 and even 50 years later.


    10. Sonny Chan, 65

    Principal architect of CSYA Architects. He graduated from the Northern Polytechnic of London and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in Britain

    Years of practice: 43

    Recent awards: SIA Architectural Design Award 2006 for Robertson Blue; Malaysian Interior Design Award 2005 for Hotel Maya; Best Buildable Award 2004 for 37 Coronation Road West

    His take on local architecture: There is a transplanting and uncritical acceptance of successful foreign examples. There is a lack of appreciation and reverence for our heritage and building stock of a multi-racial society and a colonial past upon which local architecture can be founded.

    There is now recognition and funding for the development of the arts and design scene of which architecture is one of the elements. I look forward to the maturing of society which embraces architecture as an immutable part of living.

    His style of architecture: Architecture is not about fashion or style. It has to do with the context in which it exists and if it is to be relevant it must respond to the climate, culture and technology while satisfying the client’s brief.

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