How Architect Edmund Ng Designs Dream Homes With A Tropical Flair
While most kids would have been content to occasionally fiddle with their Lego sets as they rotated through their assortment of playthings, the miniature bricks served as a career catalyst for a young Edmund Ng. “Before (the video game) SimCity, where anyone can create their own virtual world, I grew up playing with Lego,” reveals the award-winning architect. “It sparked a desire to create my own architectural spaces and microenvironments.”
Ng’s budding love for building things would continue to blossom as he travelled the world with his family as a child. He was struck by the ancient churches, temples and houses he saw, which set his feet firmly on the path to a career in architecture and motivates him even now. “Travelling is my greatest inspiration,” he declares. “I enjoy exploring (historical) sites as I can learn from the principles of history and apply them to my own, more modern designs.”
When he isn’t whipping up culinary delicacies or indulging his passion for art, Ng keeps busy running his eponymous firm Edmund Ng Architects, which services residential and corporate clients across Asia with the help of 12 staff members. “We are guided by innovation, and often take the path less travelled even though it requires lots of research, testing and failure,” he says of his practice. “I put my name on the firm not out of ego, but to be held responsible for each and every project.”
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The building blocks of Ng’s success are grounded in a thoughtful amalgamation of user requirements, materiality and technology; a triumvirate of elements that “any good design can harness”, he says. Besides, as impressed as he was by the ornate structures of his holidays, Ng’s design language is bound to time and context.
“In Singapore, I will not design a classical house featuring ornate decorations and gargoyles as it does not suit the design language of this country,” he says. “Rather, I create projects with a design language which is relevant to modern Singapore, such as contemporary tropical houses.”
The application of these principles has resulted in various memorable projects featuring Ng’s signature modernist, clean-lined aesthetic. Be it the elegant villas of the Montigo Resorts Nongsa in Batam, an art-filled Marina One Residences show apartment that channels the Jazz age, or a cosmopolitan Ritz-Carlton Residences unit that elevates its neutral palette with exquisite panelling and specially curated decorative pieces, Ng’s firm has crafted minimalist yet impactful projects that resonate with homeowners and developers alike.
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Of the over a hundred projects he has worked on to date—sometimes juggling up to twenty-five projects simultaneously—there are undoubtedly some that Ng holds especially close to his heart. One of these is The Arris condominium in Tanjong Pagar, his very first project after leaving architecture school.
Ng also names One Rosyth, as it marked the beginnings of his eponymous practice and was “the first project where I had full control”, as well as his personal abode as being especially memorable. One Rosyth, a 17-unit condominium in Yio Chu Kang Road completed in 2011, features a stunning facade clad entirely in perforated panels that create an otherworldly, hologram-like effect as the sun casts shadows on them throughout the day.
I create projects with a design language which is relevant to modern Singapore, such as contemporary tropical houses.
— Edmund Ng, founder of Edmund Ng Architects
Ng’s bungalow home was envisioned as a unique work of art dedicated to his wife, gallerist Jazz Chong; the abode clinched the Best Architectural Design accolade at A Celebration of Design, the first edition of Tatler Design Awards in 2017. The basement houses Chong’s extensive collection of paintings and sculptures, while throughout the home, fair-faced concrete walls act as a canvas for artwork.
Other highlights include a voluminous dining room with a light wood floor, black metal overlays and a dramatic LED candle chandelier, a unique staircase with floating concrete slabs, and a painting of Chong that hangs above the bathtub, which Ng calls “his own Mona Lisa”. “Not only is it my matrimonial home, I designed it for my wife, incorporating elements from both of us,” he says. “It holds much emotional value for me.”
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Although the ongoing pandemic has presented challenges to the way Ng works, it has also thrown up opportunities. While it can be difficult to communicate design concepts to clients remotely via a screen, the outbreak has also opened up the possibility of collaborating with potential partners from all over the world.
“Instead of flying out to present design ideas to clients, presentations over Zoom are now acceptable, cutting down on the time it takes to get projects approved,” he says.
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On its part, Edmund Ng Architects is continuing to forge a path forward regardless of global circumstances. The firm is currently working on commissions to design several Good Class Bungalows in Singapore, and also crafting resorts in the Himalayas, Lumbini in Nepal, and Sikkim in India—the latter notably involves the conservation of an ancient grotto that was used by Japanese monks plying the route to receive Buddhist scriptures. Ng also hopes to eventually expand his company’s footprint by landing more projects outside Asia.
Despite the murky international outlook, Ng’s future looks shot through with no small number of silver linings. “I believe we will be remembered by the last project we have accomplished, hence, every project I have embarked on has been a career highlight and inspired me to greater heights,” he smiles.