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.
KHOO SEY KEAT
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.