Singapore-based architect Wong Chiu Man says his design ethos is based on not having a ‘signature style’ but rather a strong and evolving philosophy

Working on design aspects for Raffles Park, a new villa project promoted by Singapore’s Jumabhoys, renowned architect Wong Chiu Man (founder of Warner Wong Design and WOW Architects, Singapore) is not new to bagging accolades. Take his other project in Bangalore itself — Vivanta by Taj — at Whitefield that bagged international recognition. “There’s something about its latitude. Vivanta’s view from the lobby, overlooking the pool, is an all-inclusive eye-catching one. The informal dining space brings about an inside-outside experience that captures the salubrious climate of the city. Combine with this its interactive kitchen with multi-level display counters. That completes the experience,” describes Wong Chiu Man, having worked on several prestigious projects across India for the last 20 years.

Wong Chiu Man, who was in the city recently, spoke to The Hindu-HABITAT about the design elements that he believes in that makes him what he is today in the world of architecture.

What prompted you to enter the architecture world, and what lead you to Harvard?

I nearly took up medicine, but fortunately my school results did not allow that! So I decided on architecture because I was attracted to making places and designing spaces, and in my heart I’m a maker of things. I went to Harvard after I had received a professional degree from the University of Southern California because I really wanted to extend my knowledge and ability and learn from and with the best in the field.

What are the aspects of design that lend the Wong Chiu Man ‘signature’? How much of the Harvard study is helping you in your day-to-day work?

My design ethos is based on not having a ‘signature style’ but rather a strong and evolving philosophy. I like crafting and perfecting the design and using even the most humble materials and methods. All of my work expresses this desire.

As for Harvard, it really was a lesson in what it takes to play at the top of your field: pure talent is not enough (there are many talented designers), one needs to know how to choose the right strategies, be articulate and persuade others, and be a good and effective leader who produces results.

With respect to Vivanta by Taj that won a lot of awards, what are the most important design facets that make you feel rewarded?

The most important aspect was the way it was designed to challenge the way a hotel is experienced and in the process enrich the lives of those who experienced it.

Describe the large column span of the drawing lounge that you have worked out at Raffles Park, supposedly a design element of the villa. And the aspects of ‘open privacy’ that you mentioned?

The large column span allows a sense of “clear space” in the house that is column free. Often in a house, the maximum size for a formal space is dictated and restricted by structural norms. Here, we push that boundary to create a totally new experience in the house where spaces flow into each other with maximum flexibility of usage. The “open privacy” refers to the idea of the large column span spaces coupled with clever landscaping design to create a sense of openness within the house while affording privacy for the residents.

I am particularly drawn to the fact that your bathrooms and bedrooms are almost the same in size in your designs! Is this a trend in modern architecture?

It is more a lifestyle design than a trend. The bathroom and wardrobe spaces are celebrated as important ritualistic spaces in our lives, and ones that deserve good light, ventilation and aesthetic beauty as well.

What is the core philosophy that made you and Karan Grover work together?

I had known and met Karan previously too and I feel we are both aligned in our pursuit of sustainable design excellence. Raffles Park designing, by WOW Architects and Karan Grover Associates, is inspired by the fact that Singapore and Bangalore are both garden cities.

The villas’ design nuances will have modern inspiration from Singapore, harmoniously partnering with traditional Indian intent. Karan has always been saying that Raffles Park is not just about a green villa, but an entire green development. We wanted to do it in a way that had the least possible impact on the environment, planned for the home owner to stay connected with key elements of nature, while enjoying the sheer size of the total development.

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