Interview with the Architect – Influence of City Image by the Background of Architect
How does the background of architect help build up a city’s identity?
This article mainly focuses on “Singapore Conference Hall and Trade Union House‘‘ to look into the background of architects in relation to architectural design.
(fig 2. A local architect’s opinion towards competition entry; Source: “Lim Chong Keat Interview”, In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections videos, 3:40, 2018, https://www.westkowloon.hk/en/insearchofsea/lim-chong-keat-interview-2524)
Malayan Architects Co-Partnership won the competition with 3 major architects whose background differ from each other – Chen Voon Fee (a Malaysian Architect), Lim Chong Keat (a Malaysian born in Singapore and educated in the US) & William Lim (a Singaporean born in Hong Kong and educated in UK, US).
One of the architects Lim Chong Keat expressed his idea about his identity and belonging. At the time when Singapore faced dramatic political changes and became Independence, Lim Chong Keat, representing those who studied overseas, hope their knowledge and talent would be useful when they return to their homeland (Singapore or Malaysia). These architects educated professionally overseas and proved to find back their identity when they return to the homeland, regardless of the political status .
In my opinion, Singapore’s nationalism was supported by talents with international background and government’s orientation towards modernism. The role of those local architects is to fasten the transition of architectural style from colonial architecture towards modern architecture. With their mix backgrounds, they ease out the tension between the government and multi-ethnic groups that it becomes easier to accept the design decisions.
Eventually, shaping its ‘regionalism’ akin to ‘international modernism’. For example, in Conference Hall design, it played with modern features yet preserving some local touches — its grid layout plan created an openness that is different from the intimate colonial building but the roof design preserved the features of traditional housing (explained in another article).
In this case, if local architects were not invited while global starchitects were hired to make office buildings at the beginning, local architects would be discouraged to join any competition entry and national projects, losing Singapore’s historic and cultural connection with common public immediately.
Therefore, architects’ background can be an attraction for multi-ethnic group’s belonging and recognition or branding for a global city .
Eventually shaped a city’s image and influenced identity’s recognition.
1. Chong Keat Lim, “Lim Chong Keat Interview”, In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections videos, 2018, 3:40.
2. Contemporary Singapore Architecture (Singapore: Singapore Institute of Architects, 1998), 5.