Designer of the Year 2013
Richard K F Ho
Principal Architect
RichardHO Architects

Contact:
[email protected]
View the video about the Designer

Biography

Richard K F Ho is the principal architect of RichardHO Architects, a practice he set up in 1991. After more than three decades in the practice, he has honed his approach to design. Richard prefers to rethink the meaning of spaces. He reinterprets how spaces relate to one another and let them speak, and not worry about how the building should look like. Style has never been a priority in his works.

He feels that there must be more to architecture than just being a tool. Early on in his career, following three years of practising in Singapore, he went to continental Europe in order to get out of his skin and comfort zone, as well as to learn. He wanted to seek the craft and passion of the practice. For him, architecture is an expression of life. It is also a reflection of the people who use the space.

Deeply inspired by Louis Kahn, Richard believes the process of creating architecture begins with realising the “immeasurable” with “measurable” means and skill into a built form, in order to achieve the “immeasurable” again. The value of architecture should be assigned to the intangible enjoyment of the spaces. Architecture needs to have meaning.

Residential projects are interesting to him, because there is a need to cater for the lifestyle of clients and to give them something to aspire. Richard tries to maintain sustainability in his works. All his projects are naturally ventilated. Clients who appreciate that quality, commission him to do subsequent projects.

For Richard, designers need to constantly question their contribution. The priority should be to maintain a design ethos. It is a given that the practice of architecture is to do good work. It is also important for architects to have the courage to say “no”, to understand self-worth and not be open to exploitation.

Outside of work, three major contributions to the fraternity define Richard’s commitment. His contribution to the architecture community through committee and public service; active participation in shaping conservation of local architectural heritage; as well as his contribution to architecture education in Singapore.

He believes that the education of young and upcoming talents is crucial to long term objectives: to achieve the best living conditions for future generations. The teaching of architecture is to show the way to see things. It invigorates him to be in tune with the younger generation because the architect needs to understand the changes in order to design for people. Knowing what drives the younger generation helps him keep abreast of and in touch with the times.

RichardHO Architects has been practising four-day work weeks since 2009. Richard believes that all architects need to quieten down to think clearly in order to design. Most of his team members use the “set- aside” time to focus. It is quality time for design work to excel. He has not seen anyone abuse the system. Their work environment is very close knit and they operate like a family.

Richard K F Ho’s advice for emerging designers:

“You have chosen a noble, albeit difficult, profession. The fundamental core of our profession must be a genuine interest and concern for the people we design for – their long term interests and aspirations must come first, not your ego.”

JURY CITATION

Richard Ho is one of the most respected and recognised architects in Singapore for his body of work. Displaying great sensitivity to the history, culture and climate of sites and places, he has an innate talent to create architecture that has resonance with those who use the spaces, and to rekindle memories of the past.

Richard is also an active and exemplary mentor who has devoted himself to teaching and cultivating the next generation of architects through his position as adjunct professor with the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore, and as advisor to young designers.

The Jury applauds Richard’s steadfast contribution to the architecture profession, as practitioner, mentor and role model.

NOMINATOR CITATION

KHOO SEY KEAT
PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT
EZRA ARCHITECTS

Richard Ho graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture (Honours) in 1982 from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and was awarded the Board of Architects Book Prize for Best Overall Architecture Student Final Year part I. He worked first with William S W Lim and then with Kerry Hill Architects and was registered with the Board of Architects in 1985.

He left for Europe in 1985 to seek an overseas experience, first in Austria and then in 1989, he moved to Milan, Italy, to work with Aldo Rossi, Pritzker Prize recipient in 1990. Richard returned to Singapore in November 1991 and established RichardHO Architects that year. Since then, his practice has consistently produced architecture works of high quality. A number of these works have received local and international awards for excellence in design and are published widely in Asia and Europe.

One of the most outstanding design projects that was completed under Richard’s visionary stewardship was the Redemptorist Monastery in Thomson Road, Singapore. The architectural layout re-interprets the typical Catholic monastery’s courtyard- cloister configuration by putting the priests’ residence in two wings which frame a circular three-storey structure with the refectory (dining room) on the ground level, the library on the second and finally the chapel at the topmost level – Richard’s interpretation of the embodiment of man’s daily struggle to achieve harmony with his body, mind and spirit. Every priest’s bedroom has a large bay window which focuses on this circular structure and reminds them of their daily devotion to seek spiritual nourishment for their body, mind and spirit. I was his assistant architect on the project and I remember how he would insist that the monastery must project humility, and he convinced the Rector of the Monastery and his building committee to agree to using humble materials like timber and bricks and avoid expensive marble and decorative items. Even the altar in the chapel, donated by Richard himself, is but a simple slab of concrete.

This monastery complex was awarded the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Design Award in 2006 – the highest accolade for excellence in architectural design in Singapore. Richard has also won the SIA Design Award twice before in 1995 for a beautifully crafted conservation terrace house in Koon Seng Road and again in 2001 for a residential bungalow in Frankel Avenue that was regarded as an exemplary project in contemporary tropical living harnessing natural ventilation when almost every other house is air- conditioned. He was also awarded Honourable Mentions in the SIA Design Awards of 2001 (two conservation shophouses at 81 and 83 Kim Yam Road), in 2010 (NUSS Guild House in Cluny Road) and again in 2012 (a conservation terrace house in Cairnhill Road).

Being Singapore-born and bred, Richard displays great passion in contributing to the Singapore urban environment through participating in several appointments in professional bodies and committees. He has been elected by his fellow registered architects to the Board of Architects (from 2012 to 2015) and has been appointed by the Minister of National Development to the URA Conservation Advisory Panel (from 2012 to 2014).

He was also previously appointed by the Minister to the Architectural Design Review Panel. He was a Council Member of the Singapore Institute of Architects from 1993 to 2001 – his last post being first vice-president – before he decided to dedicate more of his time to teaching at the Department of Architecture, NUS.

Richard has never been reticent in voicing his critical opinion on national development issues and educating the general public on architecture and design sensibility through the numerous articles he wrote, interviews he gave and publications that he has made (he was chief editor of the Singapore Architect magazine from 1996 to 2001). Richard once said in an interview: “architecture and modernity will have more meaning and relevance to the people if we could build on our traditions and values to achieve a city which is uniquely Singaporean. This will not only connect our past and heritage with our future but will also give meaning and presence to a much-loved landmark.” I believe this statement from Richard epitomizes his zeal in contributing to a spiritually richer Singapore for future generations and also underlines his design philosophy. It is no wonder that he is highly regarded as a pioneer and one of the most sensitive architects for conservation projects as demonstrated by the numerous awards he has won.

In 2011, his practice was awarded the URA Architectural Heritage Awards for the restoration and conservation of a terrace house in Cairnhill Road. This house was restored with the beauty of conserved timber construction, a naturally lit courtyard and yet infused with contemporary design features that add to the holistic beauty of the project. Richard has previously been awarded two URA Architectural Heritage Awards in 2010 for a lovely single storey colonial beach mansion along the east coast of Singapore; and for a three-storey conservation terrace house in the city. He also won the same Award in 2009 for the NUSS Guild House, where a two-storey colonial black-and-white house with timber floors was carefully restored in the midst of a lush tropical landscape.

Richard’s deep concern for the history and architecture of the city was duly recognised when he was awarded the Gold Medal in the ARCASIA (Architects Regional Council of Asia) Awards in the year 2000 – the first Singaporean architect to be accorded this honour. The ARCASIA Architecture Awards is an Asia-wide award programme held biennially to acknowledge architectural work of excellence in Asia. In the same year, Richard was also awarded an Honourable Mention in the Kenneth F. Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architecture Design Award programme, an international architectural award which sought works of architecture that created a quality environment for the people and contributed in a holistic way to their well being.

Besides a busy schedule in his practice and contributing to various professional bodies and committees, Richard also finds time to teach in the Department of Architecture, NUS, for the past 20 years, initially part-time from 1992 to 1998 and since then as adjunct associate professor in the Honours and Masters degree courses. He is also advisor to the students’ The Architecture Society, NUS. Many of the architecture graduates, including myself, can attest to his teaching ability and dedication in passing to his students his knowledge and passion for architecture. I am indeed grateful to have shared some of my formative years in architecture, both as a student and as an architect, with Richard.

I firmly believe the President’s Design Award for Designer of the Year is a fitting tribute to Richard Ho who has devoted 30 years of his life to honing his craft and sharing it selflessly with the public, his clients and his students.