* DESIGNER OF
THE YEAR 2012

Tan Cheng Siong

Principal
Archurban Architects Planners

Tan Cheng Siong holds a Diploma in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. He founded Archynamics Architects in 1967 and Archurban Architects Planners in 1974.

In the late 60s, Mr Tan’s architecture firm won a URA site tender on design merit, even though the client put up the lowest land price tender. The Pearl Bank Apartments design is now considered a beacon of Singapore’s super high-rise, high-density housing. Mr Tan rose to become Singapore’s star architect of the 60s and 70s; and it wasn’t long before The Development Bank of Singapore appointed his firm to design the first condominium housing estate in Pandan Valley.

He was an active member of the Singapore Institute of Architects in the late 70s and was elected vice president in 1984 and remained till 1986. The National University of Singapore and polytechnics regularly invited him to teach, lecture and present papers. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Mr Tan acted as consultant in various capacities for institutions, government agencies and educational facilities. When China opened up in the 80s, he travelled there with the intention of understanding the country’s urban plight. And he did.

Shenzhen Special Economic Zone invited him to be a member of the Planning Committee — the central body that guided the Zone’s planning and construction developments. It is because of Mr Tan that China has learnt much from Singapore’s experience in housing and property development, and for this they have honoured him the title of “Father of Luxury Housing”.

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Insights from the Recipient

What is the responsibility of a designer to the community or society?

The process and value system in Singapore today dictates a framework of legal and financial exigencies. In that context, I like to think that it is more important than ever that the designer should take full responsibility for what he creates in the community.

As a designer, what will you never compromise on?

A designer needs freedom to perform. For me, independence cannot be compromised.

Where do you want to see design in Singapore go?

A designer must be committed to create higher value, to enrich people's lives, and to transform society. Urbanisation cannot be unbridled. It must be sensitive to human needs. It achieves this through design. Indeed, without comprehensive and humane design, a city has no future.

Advice to Emerging Designers

Today, design spans across the world and touches people from all walks of life. In the built environment and in architecture, young designers are encouraged to excel in graphic, furniture, interior, building, landscaping and urban design.

Specialisation is a natural consequence of keen competition. In order to do well in any part, you need to know the whole spectrum equally well. So, open up, engage with the world and change with the future.

Never feel threatened and always persevere. In your darkest hour, do not wait for the proverbial silver lining. Instead, re-invent yourself, your place and even your surroundings — while keeping close the memory of your family and friends.

Success may often elude you, and may even subvert you when it is achieved. No matter what happens, do not forsake passion. If you do, you will be weakened and be unable to reach your full potential for success.

Citation

Jury Citation

Tan Cheng Siong has been at the forefront in developing residential design in Singapore and China. With a distinguished career characterised by rigour, innovation and a keen interest in providing good living environments, his contributions to the residential development of Singapore architecture is undeniable. At the age of 75, Cheng Siong continues to pursue his passion for architecture when many of his peers have retired.

With a career that spans five decades, Cheng Siong’s portfolio reflects the development of Singapore architecture. In the late 60s, he created the Pearl Bank Apartments, the first super high-rise in Singapore that introduced quality living on the ground while living in the air. In Pandan Valley Condominium, he pioneered the first condominium housing typology in Singapore where community spaces were created for residents. Cheng Siong has demonstrated his ability to skilfully mediate between the distinct characteristics of architectural sites with the function and experience of spaces. His buildings continue to resonate with the everyday users they serve, as well as with the architectural community. Most notably, Cheng Siong also brought the condominium concept to Shenzhen in the 90s, benefiting the Chinese communities with Singapore’s experience in housing and property development.

The Jury recognises Cheng Siong’s exemplary passion, courage and perseverance in creating architectural innovations despite the challenges of the rapidly changing times. The Jury applauds his contributions to the profession and looks forward to the continuing progression and innovation that he has been constantly striving for. His unwavering pursuit of architectural excellence makes him a role model for the younger generations.

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Nominator Citation

TANG GUAN BEE
PRINCIPAL
TANGGUANBEE ARCHITECTS

Having designed both the iconic Pearl Bank Apartments at Outram Park and the Pandan Valley Condominium — two of Singapore’s earliest landmarks that have stood the test of time — are sufficient warrants to award Tan Cheng Siong this year’s prize. Although best known for his urban planning contributions, Cheng Siong’s monolithic works have put Singapore architecture on the international map, especially China. He introduced the condominium concept to China in the mid-90s, and continued to design landmarks in Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Shanghai and other cities in China. Already in his mid 70s, Cheng Siong’s energy and passion for architecture remains youthful and vigorous.

OTHER RECIPIENTS

Hans Tan

DESIGNER OF THE YEAR 2018

Founder, Hans Tan Studio; and Assistant Professor, Division of Industrial Design,
National University of Singapore
Hans Tan Studio

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