Originating from Perth, Western Australia, Kerry Hill has become one of South East Asia’s most influential and ambitious architects. One of the first graduates to complete their architectural degree at the University of Western Australia, Hill has practiced and honed his skills in Australia, Hong Kong, Bali, Malaysia, India, Dubai and Turkey, amongst others, and now has his own practice based in Singapore. Underlying many of his design concepts is the idea of traditional Asian design and climatic and site conditions specific to each site. As Hill states; “I have consciously allowed a reciprocal influence to exist between my modernist principles and the traditions of the East… (I) reference past building traditions through suggestion and association.” Ranging from hotel resorts, to private residences to large scale multi-residential towers, Hill is sensitive in his approach to design and construction, drawing on vernacular forms of tropical materials and creating modern structures in traditional settings. Receiving the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal and Singapore President’s Design Award for the Designer of the Year, as well as awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Architecture, Kerry Hill has been recognised for his innovation and commitment to cultural and locational influences.
Kerry Hill’s first housing project in Singapore was a residential and commercial development located in a previous warehouse zone, on the edge of the city’s CBD. Titled ‘Martin No.38’, the building comprises 3, 9 storey blocks and one 15 storey building, the maximum height level allowed, to catch wind flow and maximise ventilation. Driven by climate conditions, the projects façade is a series of aluminium louvres, independently adjustable by each resident to negotiate heat, noise and privacy. As Hill states, “the trick with building in the tropics is not to exclude the sun, but to invite it in through a series of filters.” Embracing passive design techniques, Hill also incorporated large open windows to keep indoor areas cool, faced the building south to allow maximum daylight, thus reducing artificial lighting, and ensured all apartments were cross ventilated to minimise air con use. Mature tropical vegetation surrounds the premises, increasing ventilation and shading, whilst the retail section is covered by a walkway, creating a contemporary ‘five foot way’ – a Southeast Asian design technique that indents a pedestrian walkway into the ground floor of a building from the road, so that the overhanging upper floors can provide a cover shield pedestrians from the sun and the rain. Winner of the 2012 Singapore President’s Design of the Year Award, the judges confirmed ‘Martin No 38’ grew from the location and climate of urban Singapore and will become part of Singapore’s architectural heritage.
The Chedi, Chiang Mai
The Chedi is located on the banks of the Mae Ping River, on the former site of the British Consulate. Integrating the original 1920s main Consulate building into the new design, the hotel blends the vernacular, colonial traditions and modernism seamlessly into the one site. The design intention of the space was to combine a city location with the atmosphere of a resort hotel, utilising a contemporary interpretation of traditional Thai materials - an interpretation that is referential, not literal. The external façade of the building consists of detached timber-clad corridors, which provide a buffer between the chaotic street outside and the serenity of the resort, whilst also diluting the strength of the sun and allowing natural ventilation throughout the rooms. On the internal façade, a large glass window separates each guestroom from the internal courtyard, allowing natural light to flood the space and merging the indoor/outdoor space distinction. A large overhanging roof provides shade to guestroom balconies and channels rain water into the central courtyard, whilst covered walkways provide cooler paths for guests to move around. Local materials such as hardwood floors and terrazzo tiles, and rattan and teak furniture are used to create a “unique sense of place”, in reference to Thai traditions, but are also ideal materials for the tropical climate of Thailand as the the risk of deterioration due to heat damage is reduced and heat outlay in terms of thermal comfort is minimised. The Chedi Hotel is reflective of Hill’s overarching architectural approach: “When building in a foreign culture, architecture must be dealt with reactively for, it has not to do with extending valid character of a place, but also with the creation of new places.”