Zaha Hadid, OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), Chan Soo Khian, Jean Nouvel and Daniel Liebskind — these names may not be on the lips of the common man but in the field of architecture, they shine as bright as the stars. The five are all informed by the same fundamentals of architecture, but as individuals, have enhanced cityscapes with built works further defined by their own distinctive DNA. While owning an actual property by such impresarios would place you among just a select few, one can still enjoy and bring home their “tiny architecture” — in the form of furniture, lighting and accessories.
CHAN SOO KHIAN
Not quite a household name beyond Asia, but certainly one of its brightest names, Singapore-based Chan Soo Khian snagged the Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award in 2003 for The Lincoln Modern condominium in Newtown and again in 2005, for the Botanika condominium along Holland Road. Other notable architectural works include the Alila Villas Soori resort in Bali and the One KL residential tower in Kuala Lumpur.
His architectural masterpieces optimise the unique lay of the land, accentuating the natural beauty of its surroundings, while drawing on building materials that have been meticulously selected for their rustic texture and resort feel. His multi-disciplinary firm, SCDA, also delves into interior, landscape and product design.
Now in the process of leaving his mark on the New York City skyline, Chan is the principal architect and co-developer of an 11-storey, 22-unit luxury condominium called Soori High Line located at 522 West 29th Street. The project will house 16 private heated pools, which will allow some owners to take a swim in the comfort of their own home, even when the mercury drops.
Chan’s stab at furniture design is evidenced through Italian furniture brand Poliform, which over the years have launched his “Soori” coffee table (pictured in foreground), “Highline” armchair and luxurious “Java” bed. He also designs furniture for his own line called Soori Living that produces a range of modern contemporary furniture for the resort-style home.
Known for her sinuous forms and elongated structures, the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize (in 2004) struggled in her early years to build her reputation in an industry dominated by males.
Born in 1950 and armed with a Mathematics degree, she trained at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where she met other revered architects such as Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis and Bernard Tschumi. After working several years for Koolhaas and Zenghelis at OMA in Rotterdam, Netherlands, she established her own London-based practice in 1980, while at the same time, taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Her fluid forms are not only a challenge to construct, but also attest to the fact that she is one of contemporary architecture’s greatest talents. Her most notable buildings include the Vitra Fire Station in Germany and the London Aquatics Centre. In Singapore, the 150m tall D’Leedon condominium along Farrer Road bears testament to Hadid’s signature style, with its tapered, sinuous form adding a feminine, yet modern touch to the suburban landscape of Holland Road.
Hadid’s unique design DNA extends way beyond buildings. She also designs a dizzying array of products for the home, including for brands such as Magis (the modular “Tide” shelf), Slamp lighting (“Avia” pendant light — pictured on right — with plastic slats that form an asymmetrical shade) and most recently, French crystal brand Lalique (“Visio” and “Manifesto” vases that sport sexy curves). Her most iconic furniture, though, is the futuristic-looking “Moon” sofa for B&B Italia, below.
Polish-American Daniel Libeskind, 70, is perhaps one of the most lauded architects of our time. His design DNA revolves around “emotional architecture” and is quoted as saying: “When I begin a project, I think of the programme, of course, but I also think about how every building needs love. That might sound trite but if you don’t love what you’re doing, if you don’t love your involvement, or if you are simply doing a building for money, for fame or glory, or for the act of creating an abstraction, it’s going to show.”
Libeskind’s creations are sometimes inspired by the mathematics of nature, particularly flora and the geometry of crystals. Notable buildings that attest to his approaches include the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen, Denver Art Museum and the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Libeskind’s first Asian residential masterpiece — Reflections at Keppel Bay — is a stunning 1,129-unit, 160m-tall waterside condominium with six glass towers that was awarded Gold at the prestigious FIABCI Prix d’ Excellence Awards 2013. His second Singapore residential project, Corals at Keppel Bay, is also a waterfront development and is slated for completion in 2018.
Libeskind’s credentials escalated in 2003 when he won the competition to master plan the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre site in Lower Manhattan, New York.
Libeskind’s most recent creation for furniture brand Poliform is a limited series of Corian shelves called “Web”. Its strong visual impact is both striking and commanding while offering practical means to store and display accoutrements.
Founded by Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, the Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning practice is known for its striking buildings that push design boundaries and conventions.
In the mid-1970s, they built the famed Sphinx Hotel in Amsterdam and in the 1980s, gained credo with the construction of the Nederlands Dans Theatre. After a string of large-scale private residences in the the 1990s — including Villa dall’Ava in Paris and Nexus World Housing in Fukuoka — the noughties saw the firm’s status elevated even further by monolithic commissions such as the Prada Transformer in Seoul, a multi-use pavilion that rotates, and the much-lauded Casa da Música in Portugal. If you’re in Beijing, you’ll bear witness to their massive and striking China Central Television Headquarters and in Singapore, The Interlace, a 1,040-unit condominium in the sylvan district of Depot Road. Its 31 apartment blocks are ingeniously stacked into a head-turning form that won it the top prize at the World Architecture Festival 2015.
Additionally, the firm’s research division, AMO, is a vehicle for innovation in the realms of media, politics, renewable energy, technology, publishing and fashion.
Koolhaas demonstrated his finesse in designing furniture when he premiered his collection of shelves, tables and chairs at the Milan furniture fair in 2013. Manufactured by Knoll, the most striking piece is the Dynamic 04 Counter (pictured) — a stack of three horizontal beams that can be rotated into a series of shelves and cantilevered benches. Koolhaas believes that “furniture should be performance tools rather than design statements”.
With awards such as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Wolf Prize in Arts and the Pritzker Architecture Prize, 70-year-old Jean Nouvel is so revered that several museums and architectural centres have presented retrospective exhibitions of his works.
His architectural journey may have started with a failed entrance examination at École des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux in Paris, but he persevered and won first prize in a national competition to attend École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (an influential arts school in France). The highlight of his career came in 1976 when he co-founded French architectural movement Mars 1976. A year later, he co-founded the Syndicat de l’Architecture, a French labour union for architects.
Known for expressing the futuristic design inclination of cities through the use of glass, steel and other cold and hard materials shaped into sophisticated forms, Nouvel’s notable works include the Arab World Institute in Paris, the Cartier Foundation and Lyon Opera House. He also conceived Barcelona’s 38-storey monumental landmark, the Agbar Tower, and the luxurious 156-apartment Nouvel 18 condominium in Singapore’s leafy Ardmore enclave. He is famously quoted as saying: “I put art in the architecture and the architecture in the city.”
Nouvel also designs furniture such as the masculine looking “Soso” chair for Emeco (below right); and the elegant “Simplissimo” chair, cubist-styled “Simple Bridge” armchair (above) and the whimsical “Saint James” chair (below left) for Ligne Roset.