The articulate host of the architectural travel show on Channel News Asia, City Time Traveller, and founding principal of the Singapore-based urbanism, architecture, design and research firm Pomeroy Studio, Professor Jason Pomeroy has studied a variety of cities in his quest to reveal the human side of design. He designed the first zero-carbon and negative-carbon homes in Southeast Asia, and believes in a motto of “Distil, Design, and Disseminate” – using lessons learned from the past to design for the future.
Have your travels changed or enhanced your perspective on design?
It isn’t everyday that you get to explore 18 cities in a five-month period! It’s like cramming years of architectural education and research over a long weekend! I’ve had the privilege of travelling the world extensively, but the more you travel, the more you realise how little you actually know, which is an amazingly humbling experience. The two series of City Time Traveller have allowed me to bring my architectural observations to a broader audience. At the same time, my urbanism, architecture, design and research firm combines design and research – a balancing of creative vigour with academic rigour!
You created the first zero-carbon home in Southeast Asia, Idea House, and followed it up with a negative carbon home, B House. What have you learned from creating these two designs, and what’s next?
The great thing about both those properties, the Idea House and the B House, was that many of the techniques we used to achieve their carbon zero and negative statuses were actually first developed by our ancestors hundreds of years ago. Many of the passive design techniques used in the Idea House (Malaysia) were drawn from the traditional Malay Kampong houses that were built before the advent of electricity – and therefore air-conditioning. They were designed in a way that would maximise natural ventilation, such as high roofs that would allow the air to circulate, and open verandas surrounded by foliage that would cool the breeze as it passed through the house.
Another major learning point is the importance culture and tradition plays in designing the built environment. At a basic level, eco-architecture harnesses the sun, wind and rain to reduce energy consumption. However, Pomeroy Studio goes beyond this, and draws on the essence of local culture and tradition to create environments that positively impact people’s lives.
While we have explored what is possible on land – through the Idea House and B House – and what can be done in the air – through skycourts and skygardens – I now want to explore the viability of expansion onto water. With rising real estate costs in urban centres, and massive urbanisation leading to overcrowding, alternative spaces need to be found to house and sustain growing urban populations.
Water accounts for two-thirds of the earth’s surface, and I am exploring how we can create waterborne communities that can expand and contract according to socio-economic need. These ideas shall be crystallised in my next book, Pog and Play (ORO Editions), written during my tenured professorship at Universita IUAV di Venezia, in arguably the most famous waterborne community, Venice. Bangkok has a rich heritage of developing onto water – particularly with its floating markets. There are lessons to be had in the book, and we look forward to applying these strategies in Southeast Asian cities, which are perfectly positioned for this sort of development.
You’ve authored Idea House: Future of Tropical Living Today, and more recently, The Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat… but for yourself, what books do you see as must-reads or eye-openers?
As an academic, I’m a prolific reader. For my books, academic papers and for when I’m researching for my TV series, I read a lot of classic reference material regarding the history of cities and architecture – such as David Watkin’s A History of Western Architecture. But when I’m reading for fun, or to glean lateral sources of inspiration, they can often be found outside the sphere of architecture. I’m currently reading The Craftsman by Richard Sennett. He’s one of my heroes. He discusses the meaning of craft and explores craftsmanship in different industries ranging from goldsmithing during the medieval ages through to how Stradivarius became a master craftsman of violins, violas, cellos and double basses during the 18th century. I find it eye-opening to be able to find parallels between my craft, as a green architect, with the thought processes of other industry professionals historically.