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.”