New generation of Singaporean architects recognised for their community and green-centric design

Mr Lawrence Ler is part of a new crop of architects identified on Friday (Dec 1) for creating quality urban environments under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 20 Under 45 initiative.
Mr Lawrence Ler is part of a new crop of architects identified on Friday (Dec 1) for creating quality urban environments under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 20 Under 45 initiative. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - A knack for building welcoming community spaces and employing green design have emerged as two key qualities of Singapore's new generation of architects.

Take the work of Mr Lawrence Ler, 39, who led the team behind the popular Henderson Waves Bridge.

Since it opened 10 years ago, the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore has become a photography hot spot and a popular area for the community to gather. Part of the attraction is its eye-catching structure which gently weaves across Telok Blangah Hill and Mount Faber.

Mr Ler, who is with RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, is part of a new crop of architects identified on Friday (Dec 1) for creating quality urban environments under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 20 Under 45 initiative. There were 56 architects vying for the 20 spots.

The scheme, now in its third edition, recognises 20 locally registered architects under the age of 45 who have contributed towards "shaping a distinctive and highly liveable city".

URA chief executive Lim Eng Hwee said: "These 20 architects have contributed towards our iconic architecture. Their sensitive environmental and community-centric approach to designing our built environment contributes towards our vision for a distinctive and liveable city."

Mr Ler, who was one of the 20 selected, said the success of Henderson Waves Bridge sparked off his desire to create more community-centric spaces. His portfolio includes the ITE Headquarters and ITE College Central at Ang Mo Kio, which integrates lush landscapes, extensive green walls and a continuous canopy.

He added that being named among the nation's elite architects is "very affirming. The scheme is a good platform to recognise good design in Singapore that can transform lives and communities."

Other community-centric projects include Mr Jerry Ong's Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital designed by Mr Tang Kai Vern.

Redhill's Enabling Village by Mr Phua Hong Wei was also praised for its reinterpretation of Singapore's "modern tropical language of lines, shades, integration with landscape with a rustic, back to basic, and kampong-ish flavour", said Mr Tan Shao Yen, the president of the Board of Architects and one of six panellists.

The Enabling Village is a community space that combines retail, lifestyle and training to better integrate disabled people.

Mr Tan said: "The approach is very apt, as much as it is heartening is to see Singapore architecture defining and being defined by community engagement, inclusiveness, and the celebration of everyday life by common folks."

The 20 Under 45 initiative is also a platform for the architects' work to be showcased.

Mr Lawrence Wong, National Development Minister and Second Minister for Finance, officiated the event at the URA Centre Atrium and launched an exhibition on the architects and their work.

Mr Wong said: "The work that architects do is important and it has a very real impact on the lives of Singaporeans.

"Poorly-designed cities can easily become a high-rise concrete jungle that is stressful to live and work in whereas, well-designed buildings, homes, neighbourhoods with greenery and public spaces can improve our well-being and happiness."

The URA scheme began in 2004 with a second set of architects named in 2010. The URA noted that the architects from these editions have gone on to receive awards and professional recognition.

It also said it will open the Archi-Model Centre on the ground floor of its URA Centre in Maxwell Road featuring an architecture library and a gallery to showcase works by small, medium and up-and-coming practices. The centre is expected to be ready next July.