ABOUT THE DESIGNER
Though it’s only been nine years since Joshua Comaroff and Ong Ker-Shing set up Lekker Design, and a year since Lekker Architects in 2014, the husband and wife team has won considerable professional and press plaudits for their reflective, meditative work, whether institutional facilities, master planning services or arts environments, retail installations, private residences and gardens.
“Our design philosophy is centred on the emotive and interpretive aspects of space,” says Ker-Shing who met her husband while they were both at Harvard. “We think about how architecture can assist users to learn and grow. We want to create spaces that allow the user to create. We want to make environments that provoke people to live better and, as a result, to imagine the world that they want to create and live in.”
Joshua recasts this philosophy into a pithy dictum: “Don’t give clients what they want. Give them what they deserve.”
This holistic approach demands that the design must transcend the ego of the architect. In many ways, it helps explain why Lekker was such a perfect fit for The Caterpillar’s Cove Child Development and Study Centre, where, Ker-Shing points out, the true ‘client’ is actually the school-children. “This project was intended to address certain problems that we see in existing schools and to attempt to push local designers to consider more intensely designed environments for children,” she says.
This concern for the wider society, and the architectural and design communities, runs deep, especially in the duo’s lectures, exhibitions and extensive publications.
“While we are interested in forms,” Ker-Shing adds, “we are more interested in the social and imaginative life of buildings. Architects do not build a society in any revolutionary sense, but we do think that buildings, landscapes and interiors have the potential to make a huge difference to the daily lives of the people that inhabit them, by engaging them on a profound and personal level.”
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, this is where Joshua and Ker-Shing’s concern for the wider design community comes into play.
“Singapore needs to make a very conscious effort to continuously foster its younger generation of designers,” Ker-Shing insists. “Yes, we have very strong corporate practices, but it is the SMEs of design, the start-ups, that tend to be the engines of idea-generation. We are always happy to see former employees starting their own practices. For us, it just means a richer community of peers to engage with. At the same time, these fledgling firms are highly vulnerable. We need to support them so that they can survive.”
Advice to Emerging Designers:
“Take your time and plan your moment to go into practice yourself. Architecture is not a young person’s game. There is a mind-boggling number of things you need to be able to do if you want to survive.”