Cover From left to right: Luther Seet of AL+, Goy Zhenru of Goy Architects and Donovan Soon of FDAT Architects

This year’s Designers on the Rise category celebrates three young firms that successfully combine environmentally-conscious details with local elements in their projects

It takes gumption, experience and an entrepreneurial spirit for a designer to make the bold decision to start a firm of their own—these local talents have done just that, and with inspiring results to show for it.

Three young firms—AL+, FDAT Architects and Goy Architects—have been selected as joint winners of the Designers on the Rise accolade at the Singapore edition of the Tatler Homes Design Awards 2022, with their forward-thinking approaches that are rooted in principles of sustainable design. These recipients have worked widely in the realms of architecture and design, creating multidisciplinary projects that are visually and functionally cohesive inside and out.

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FDAT

FDAT Architects co-founders and directors Donovan Soon and Francis Goh, have each worked for a decade at homegrown practice WOHA. The hotel renovation of Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay represented the culmination of what the co-founders learnt over the years and the strength of their creative approach.

The adaptive reuse project beautifully incorporates over 2,400 plants and trees in a 21-storey atrium hotel that was first designed by American architect John Portman in the 1980s.

“Our practice is driven by ideas; we believe that design can make a strategic difference and improve lives, add economic value and positively shape our social and cultural landscape,” says Soon, an architect who co-established the firm with Goh in 2013. “A key aspect of our design involves humanising our built environment and improving our relationship with greenery and nature.”

Goy Architects

Goy Architects founder Goy Zhenru adopts a nature-influenced approach to her firm’s work, creating projects that are attuned to their local context. An ardent advocate of Southeast Asian craftsmanship and architecture, Goy and her firm often design modern furnishings and decorative objects that utilise traditional methods while complementing the interior and architectural design of each brief.

From the eco-conscious Sukasantai Farmstay resort in Indonesia to a house that takes a cue from the communal spirit of kampung housing (traditional village compounds in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia), Goy Architects embraces the rich heritage of its local roots, ever since its founding in 2015.

Its multicultural team is also stationed across Southeast Asia, using a cloud-based system that enables collaborators to work independently regardless of geographical location; her architect colleagues Dessy Anggadewi and Kulap Loetmanlikaphorn run the Indonesia and Thailand studios from Bali and Chiangmai respectively.

AL+

Such attention to environmental impact is as apparent in the recent work of AL+, a multidisciplinary firm started by architect Luther Seet in 2017. The studio’s cloud-based system is a model “customised for post-pandemic practice”, says Seet, who is also an urban consultant at The World Bank.

Besides building beautiful and liveable houses in Singapore, the studio was notably appointed the architect of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed Bank in 2019, in collaboration with California-headquartered engineering and technology company Alfatech. The Seed Bank is housed in a colonial-era structure; the project preserved the building’s original architectural details while creating a research and education centre that conserves the seeds of threatened plant species indigenous to Southeast Asia.

Other recent AL+ projects include the NUS Agritech Centre, which was established by the National University of Singapore in 2021 to develop new technologies for urban farming to improve farm yield and growth efficiency; it was also built in collaboration with Alfatech. “Designing from the user’s perspective and environmental sustainability are the key goals of the practice,” says Seet, commenting on his firm’s design philosophy. “Good design comes from a deep understanding of materials, detailing, spatial qualities and proportions.”

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