Designer of the Year 2013
Yip Yuen Hong
Principal
ip:li Architects

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

Biography

Yip Yuen Hong is one of the founding partners of ip:li Architects. Born in Singapore, he graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture, National University of Singapore, in 1987. He worked at William Lim & Associates, Housing & Development Board and Arkitek Tenggara II before starting HYLA Architects with Han Loke Kwang and Vincent Lee, in 1993. Yuen Hong is a registered architect with the Board of Architects and has honed his skills under mentor architects such as William Lim, Tay Kheng Soon and Liu Tai Ker. After two decades of practice, he has worked on a wide variety of projects both locally and overseas, as well as taught at LASALLE College of the Arts and National University of Singapore.

In 2002, Yuen Hong founded ip:li Architects with partner Lee Ee Lin. His architectural practice is primarily driven by his curiosity about the world and his solution-based approach to design. As the firm matures, he realises that a singular idea is much more powerful than an amalgamation of ideas in one project. His work seeks simplicity in form, space, program, material and budget, while resolving issues in a single brushstroke. That simplicity is also reflected in his minimal palette of finishes and details. It takes rigour in the design process, to achieve his desired level of focus. The result is often poignant and articulate, yielding architecture that is quiet, simple, soulful and timeless.

For Yuen Hong, architecture practice is an explorative search and a personal journey. He seeks something inspiring to look forward to in every project. He finds it through setting out an explorative idea to achieve in each project. His works primarily fulfil the trust of the client, the reality of cost and what clients want. Beyond which, he injects an “unreal” notion to explore, such as a daydream or a childlike perception. These explorations form an escape and a sanctuary that keep him going.

Yuen Hong humbly maintains that he does not set out to build or break new ground. He just seeks satisfaction doing what he wants to do. Architecture has always been his passion. To him, design is not about making or creating beautiful things, it is half science and half art. There is the practical science and that which can move the user. He needs to create something that is timeless and relevant. From time to time, other forms and disciplines of design that are more instantaneous intrigue him. Unlike architecture, which takes time, these disciplines are about feeling the pulse of the moment.

He constantly motivates himself through questioning and reflections. Of late, he finds architecture that is accessible by few people too indulgent. He begins to develop a consciousness that it should instil meaning and work for the community. He starts to ponder what it means to be meaningful or socially responsible and questions how it is achievable in the context of Singapore. For him, there is a need to constantly reflect on what it means to grow up and build in affluent Singapore.

Yip Yuen Hong’s advice for emerging designers:

“Perhaps architecture is not everything, there’s more to life than architecture... The education to be an architect is rather good. It prepares us to tackle anything in life: being able to zoom out to macro issues and zoom back into micro details. If architecture should be everything to you, then we have to bear in mind that it is not just about design but it can and should do so much more. What this is, you have to figure out yourself. I myself am still trying to figure that out, especially so practising in Singapore.”

JURY CITATION

Yip Yuen Hong’s pragmatic yet inventive architecture is a novel approach to Singapore’s tropical climate and the sustainable lifestyle. Rooted to the quintessential vernacular typologies of dwelling in Southeast Asia, he considers the weather and climate to create an expression of local identity.

Stemming from singular ideas, Yuen Hong explores construction and materiality, achieving emotional aspirations. Simple ideas as well as the innovative use of inexpensive materials connect and relate the landscape to the built form. Through the years, Yuen Hong is constantly evolving in his experiments in architectonics and he serves as an inspiration in the search for a local identity. His unbridled dedication in supporting architectural education is admirable.

The Jury recognises Yuen Hong’s exemplary passion and sensitivity in pursuing his architectural ideals and translating them into beautiful works characterized by discipline and consistency.

NOMINATOR CITATION

TANG GUAN BEE
PRINCIPAL
TANG GUAN BEE ARCHITECTS

Since he started practising 26 years ago, architect Yip Yuen Hong has demonstrated his belief in sustainable architecture, with culture and climate in mind, resulting in homes that recall the kampung rumah (village house) spirit. In all his projects – small in scale, big in ideas – Yuen Hong has always included clients, climate, context and landscape as a part of the spirit.

This is truly the Singapore identity. His brutal raw works always with liveable spaces, allow inhabitants to express themselves; and nature and plants to creep up the raw concrete walls instead of manicured landscaping. This approach to “breathable” architecture is unpretentious and admirable. Call a home a rumah again; or a villa or bungalow.

Yuen Hong is also on a personal quest to find an identity in the architectural landscape of Singapore. He was born, raised and educated here and the need for a voice in architecture here seems to be gnawing at him for many years. He knows this search will probably take a few generations more before we come close to finding this voice but this question has to be asked sooner or later. Yuen Hong seems to be one of the few instigating the search. But he is doing this with architecture that is very personal and humanistic as he believes architecture, no matter what, is for people and their aspirations. The architecture that comes out of this engages the people using it. It is never just a pure artistic pursuit but always very grounded in reality. There is no disconnect between dream and reality.

His architecture, even as it seeks to satisfy the soul, is never excessive. He believes that the building industry in Singapore is too excessive and expensive. His belief is that architecture in Singapore can still be uplifting without being exorbitant. A simple, inexpensive palette can still assume a charismatic patina that is of low maintenance and merges with the landscape, so that this landscape and architecture eventually becomes one.

Some of the awards Yuen Hong has received include the SIA Architectural Design Award for Individual Houses Category for 6 Sunset Place in 2006. He also received the President’s Design Award 2011 for Design of the Year for 26 Cable Road. In 2012, he was awarded Building of the Year, SIA Architectural Design Awards, for 19 Sunset Place; in the same year, the house also received the Design of the Year award for President’s Design Award 2012.