ABOUT THE DESIGNER
When DP Architects was founded in 1967, Singapore was barely two years old and if the island-state can be said to have a recognisable urban silhouette today, it’s because so many of its buildings were completed by the firm. Suntec City, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Resorts World Sentosa and Singapore Sports Hub all bear DP’s imprimatur.
Its 1,200 staff is spread out in 15 offices around the world working on a broad portfolio of design services that range from architecture and urban planning to infrastructure design, landscape design and project management.
If there is a common denominator to be found in DP’s work over the decades, it is an ever-evolving regard for sensible solutions that are grounded by the client’s needs and the natural setting of the project.
The design for Sunray Woodcraft Construction’s headquarters, for example, is anchored in the bifurcated notion of tropical architecture and industrial space. As Angelene Chan, DP’s deputy CEO and lead architect on the project, puts it, the building morphs from the ideal of “the typical, open-sided, corrugated metal roofed warehouse commonly seen in the region into a design that is highly efficient and aesthetically appealing”.
Obviously, any transition of this nature must take place in a disciplined way.
In that regard, if there is a lesson to be gleaned from DP’s work, it is the importance of listening closely, researching extensively, and being innovative. Angelene warns against formulating premature solutions before conducting comprehensive research. “Before doing anything,” she says, “one must listen closely to the client to understand their needs. Always take cues from the users, the context, the climate. It is only through the probing of the problem with the right questions that the best solutions will emerge.”
Angelene also makes the point that DP’s enduring success comes from an appreciation of Singapore as a society founded on an ethos of rationality that embraces technology and a forward-looking mind-set.
Part of that rationality involves a recognition of just how connected the world has become not just as a result of communications technology but the dissolution of physical barriers and distances by cheap travel. As a result, many of the issues faced by Singapore are now also shared by the rest of the world. From this perspective, bringing the Singaporean design scene to the next level requires what Angelene describes as a “critical understanding of how these universal issues need to lead to globally applicable prototypes”.
“The President’s Design Award neatly dovetails this understanding by fostering an awareness of emerging ideas and trends through a range of design disciplines. It is a way to celebrate thoughtful design that advances critical thinking in a way that will benefit the community,” says Angelene.
Advice to Emerging Designers:
“Always take the time to understand the issues carefully and critically. True innovation comes from a deep understanding of the fundamentals as well as the forecasting of potential issues.”