Soo K Chan: Creative Control

Soo K Chan: Creative Control

Architect, interior designer and developer Soo K. Chan talks to LP about his holistic design approach and his latest project along New York City’s High Line.


Though he’s fresh off a long-haul flight from Singapore, Soo K. Chan looks spry when we meet on a sunny September afternoon in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Sporting a white shirt and a wide smile, the 51-year-old architect is full of enthusiasm about being back in the city where his firm, SCDA Architects is working on its inaugural US project, Soori High Line.

“This is exactly what I want to be doing,” he says, gesturing at the glossy project brochure, which shows early renderings of Soori’s angular body rising up beside the West Side High Line. Enthusiasm is to be expected. As lead designer and developer, Chan is involved in every aspect of the project and he exhibits the kind of excitement that usually accompanies creative freedom.

The building design features a ribbed façade, which Chan designed using vertical steel fins lined with timber. The vertical lines create a rippling effect, a staggered veil in front of large glass panels. “The fins give the building texture and privacy,” he explains.

月一个阳光明媚的下午,我和曾仕乾约在纽约切尔西区做访问。尽管 刚结束从新加坡到纽约的长途飞行,这位51岁的建筑师看上去仍然精 力充沛。他穿着白色的T恤衫,笑容满面。作为新加坡SCDA建筑事务所 的创始人,谈到该事务所在美国的第一个项目Soori High Line,他的兴奋之情溢 于言表。

该项目位于西区高架旁,精致的宣传册里有早期效果图。他指着宣传册说 道:“我就想做这样的项目。”买家的。作为开发商和首席设计师,曾仕乾参与了项目的方方面面,有了创作自由,对事业的热诚也得到充分的展示。 项目的肋状外立面由垂直的钢片和成行的木材组成,出自曾仕乾的精心设 计。垂直的线条营造出涟漪般效果,他解释道:“钢片具有点缀效果,使得外立面 更加有质感,私密性更强。”

室内设计也由他负责。他说:“建筑设计和室内设计同步开始。设计住宅 项目时,不能只从建筑设计开始,用户对空间的感受也是建筑师需要考虑的问 题。”

Rendering of the building facade at Soori High Line

Rendering of the building facade at Soori High Line

He also designed the apartment interiors. “I start from both exterior and interior,” he says. “When you design a residential project you can’t just start from the form, you have to think about how the user experiences the space.”

Chan’s design for the 27 apartments features large, double volume living spaces, ceilings of up to 18-feet, tall glass panel windows, limestone floors, a warm palette of woods and ambient lighting. He collaborated with Italian manufactures such as Poliform for the custom cabinetry. And he’s designing custom furniture too.

“It’s nothing new,” Chan shrugs. “Architects used to do everything. In the old days they designed furniture, plates, cutlery. We wanted to get back to the tradition of practicing architecture the old way. That’s why many of my mentors are from the turn of the century: Mies van der Rohe, Auter Wagner, Le Corbusier.”

Rendering showing double height volumes at the Soori High Line in New York

Rendering showing double height volumes at the Soori High Line in New York

On the ground floor, the units back into private courtyards. Further up in the building, some units include heated indoor/outdoor pools. These run from the master suite along the living areas to overlook 29th street and the neighbouring High Line. There will also be triplex penthouses on the uppermost floors, each with a rooftop pool.

Private pools are not as common in Manhattan as they are in South Asian hubs like Bangkok or Chan’s native Singapore, but the blurring of indoor and outdoor space was important for Chan. “Most of our projects emphasize the transition between indoors and outdoors. Here the boundaries are more defined, but I wanted to maintain that connection to the outdoors and create transitional space, areas where you can relax next to the pool.”

项目中有27套公寓,特色包括开阔的双层挑高起居室、高达18英尺的天花 板、宽敞的窗户、石灰岩石板、暖色调木材和环境照明。他与意大利知名家居品牌 合作,采用了Poliform个性化橱柜,也设计个性化的家具。 

曾仕乾耸耸肩说道:“这一点也不稀奇。从前建筑师要设计家具、餐具和刀 具,简直无所不能。我们想回归传统,以此实践自己的建筑理念。所以我的榜样 多是生活在世纪之交的建筑大师,比如密斯·范·德·罗厄、奥特·瓦格纳和科比 西埃。”

底层给人私家庭院的感觉,其他楼层部分公寓配备了室内外游泳池。起居室 旁边的主卧可以饱览29街和临近的高架的景色。项目中还有占据三层楼的顶层 豪宅,每座都配备了屋顶游泳池。

私家游泳池在新加坡和曼谷等东南亚国家和地区很常见,但是在曼哈顿却 很少见,对于曾仕乾来说,模糊室内外空间的界限是很重要的。他解释道:“我 们承接的大部分项目都强调室内外空间的过渡。在这里,两者的界限很明确,但 是我想保持其间的联系,创造具有过渡功能的空间,比如游泳池边的休息区。”

Private balcony pools at One KL in Malaysia, designed by SCDA

Private balcony pools at One KL in Malaysia, designed by SCDA

在高架公园旁边建造一座突破常规的建筑,最合适不过了。高架公园长2.3 公里,是曼哈顿旧时的中央铁路上方的城市公园,推动了该地区房地产开发和 建筑实验的浪潮。这座线性公园中知名建筑云集,包括尼尔·丹尼瑞设计的以玻璃钢为主要建材的HL23大厦、延续了弗兰克·盖瑞扭曲风格的世界企业总部大 厦和日本建筑师坂茂设计的金属百叶屋。Soori High Line完工以后,将加入高端 住宅行列,其中包括世界级建筑师扎哈·哈迪德和托马斯·居尔·汉森的作品。

作为开发商和首席设计师,曾仕乾的设计灵感来自这一地区的创新能力和开 发潜力。他说道:“我对这一地区以及哈德逊广场的潜力有充分的认识。我们的 项目可以跟其他创意十足的建筑交相辉映,项目建在这里就对了。”

A building that pushes boundaries is well suited to the High Line. The 2.3 km High Line, an elevated urban park that runs along Manhattan’s former Central Railroad, first opened to the public in 2009 and spurred a wave of development and architectural experimentation in the area. Neil Denari’s contoured glass-and-steel HL23, Frank Gehry’s boxy IAC building and Shiguru Ban’s Metal Shutter Houses are just some of the notable buildings clustered around the linear park. Soori High Line is set to join a new phase of luxury residential projects, which include buildings by Zaha Hadid and Thomas Juul-Hansen.

As project designer and developer, Chan was inspired both by the area’s creative energy and development potential. “I understood the dynamics of what’s coming up in the area, the Hudson Yards and the High Line,” he says. “The architecture can be in the company of other creative buildings – it seemed like the right place for the product.”

Alila Villas Soori in Bali Indonesia, by SCDA

Alila Villas Soori in Bali Indonesia, by SCDA

As Chan’s U.S debut, project, Soori also marks a kind of an architectural homecoming. Chan studied architecture at Washington State and Yale University and worked in New York briefly in the early 90’s before returning to Singapore where he founded SCDA Architects.

Since 1995 his studio, which has offices in Singapore and Shanghai, has worked on a range of residential and hospitality projects spanning cities over several continents including Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceana. The firm has becomes known for its holistic approach that encompasses architecture, landscape and interiors. And since 2005, SCDA also includes a lifestyle component, Soori, which first launched with the Alila Villas Soori in Bali, Indonesia.

Soori High Line是SCDA建筑事务所在美国设计的第一个项目,也具有回归 的寓意。曾仕乾曾经先后就读于华盛顿州立大学和耶鲁大学,上世纪90年 代初期在纽约工作过一段时间,然后回到新加坡创立了SCDA建筑事务所,在新加坡和上海有办事处。

1995年以来,SCDA建筑事务所承接了一系列住宅和酒店项目,选址遍 布亚洲、非洲、欧洲和大洋洲。该事务所以向客户提供包括建筑设计、景观 设计和室内设计在内的整体设计方案而著称。2005年以来,该事务所拓展 了业务范围,在印度尼西亚的巴厘岛推出了Alila Villas Soori度假别墅项目。

曾仕乾笑着说:“项目推出以后,我们多了一重身份,成了开发商。”事务所多年来在住宅设计和酒店设计方面积累了丰富经验,他想在项目设计 中增添生活方式元素,再加上某些客户和项目经理时常令人无语,这一转型 实属在情理之中。

他补充道:“我首先是一个建筑师,但是我也希望作品在细节上能达到 尽善尽美的效果。我一直认为,建筑和服务相配套,项目才更完整。

对于曾仕乾来说,这就意味着横向思考。不仅要考虑形式、结构、采光 和空间,还要考虑人对空间的感受。大厅里的空间收放要经过编排;布局要 思量,比如转身时能看到什么;确定空间大小对用户有什么影响。这也意味 着考虑配套的设施和服务,与此同时还要负责包括项目效果图在内的其他 设计工作。他说:“我们甚至会为化妆品设计包装。”

采用这种工作方式,要兼顾很多方面,但是好处也显而易见。他解释道:“为自己做事,是非常个性化的,结果会很不一样,所以我才 考虑当开发商。当建筑师的时候,提要求的人多,那些要求还得全盘接受。 拿Soori High Line这个项目来说,要是我跟开发商说想设计私家游泳池,他 们要么会说‘先做个市场调查吧”,要么会说“那样一室公寓的比例就得达 到5%。”

Alila Villas Soori in Bali Indonesia, by SCDA

Alila Villas Soori in Bali Indonesia, by SCDA

“We launched Soori and inadvertently became developers,” Chan jokes. Though the move happened somewhat seamlessly, it came out of years of experience in residential and hospitality design, his share of frustrations working for clients and project managers, and a desire to integrate lifestyle elements into project design on a more fundamental level.

“First and foremost I’m an architect, but I want control of the product to the level of detail that I’m comfortable with,” Chan says. “I always believed that when you have a building and you have services, it makes the project more complete.”

For Chan this means thinking laterally. Thinking of form, structure, light and space, but also considering how a person enjoys the space: choreographing the compression and release of space in the building lobby; thinking of proportion, what you see as you turn; ordering how volumes of space are experienced in a sequence. It also means considering the services and amenities available, and at the same time handling the design of everything down to the building renderings and other collateral. “We might even design the packaging for things like toiletries”, Chan says.

Working this way means having a lot of balls in the air. But creative control has its benefits, too.

“When you do your own thing it comes through differently. It’s very personal. That’s the real reason why I want to develop. Part of being an architect is taking so many requirements from so many people. Take Soori High Line as an example. If I told a developer I wanted private pools, they would say ‘go do a market survey’, or ‘sorry but you need a mix of 5% studios’.”

The Botanika condominium in Singapore by SCDA

The Botanika condominium in Singapore by SCDA

So far Chan seems to have succeeded in pushing his vision for Soori through, even in a city and a market that’s far away from home. Chan attributes this to his years of experience traveling the world and working across various cultural contexts.

“Every day I’m in a different place so I switch. In China I have to be more deferring and observant. Same in India. New York is a city where you have to fight for what’s yours. But by doing that you also get the best out of yourself. 

And a building like Soori, Chan believes will transcend the particulars of culture by appealing to global citizens of the world. “People aren’t really that different,” he says. “If you’re a High Net Worth Indian or a High Net Worth Asian you’re probably well traveled and have properties all over the place. New Yorkers are the same.”

On this trip, Chan will spend two weeks in the city, working, but also enjoying the galleries and restaurants with his wife who’s traveling with him. “Sometimes we schedule a longer trip and make it a point. We need to see each other, right? And the kids are here. We have six boys. They’re all over the place. Last count there are four here,” Chan pauses. “Actually three, one decided he wanted to study his final year in Singapore."

迄今为止,曾仕乾在与新加坡截然不同的纽约成功地推广了项目的 设计理念。他认为,多年环球旅行和跨文化工作的经验跟项目的成功密不 可分。

“每天我都在不同的地方,所以常常要转换心态。在中国,要多观察,少发表意见。在印度也是一样。在纽约,想要的东西得自己努力争取,但是潜 力可以得到最大的发挥。”

就Soori High Line这个项目而言,曾仕乾认为它超越了文化的个性,吸 引了全世界的精英人士。他说:“人与人的差别并不大。经济实力雄厚的印 度人也好,经济实力雄厚的亚洲人也好,阅历广泛和拥有多套房产应该是共 性。纽约人也不例外。”

这次来纽约,曾仕乾打算待上两个星期,工作之余,还会和一道旅行的 太太参观美术馆,品尝城中美食。

他说:“有时候我们会计划长途旅行,养成习惯。总得见面吧。孩子也 在这儿。我们有六个儿子,在哪儿的都有。上次来,见了四个儿子,事实上是 三个,有个儿子打算最后一年在新加坡读书 。”

This story appeared in the fall 2013 issue of LP - Luxury Properties

Taking the High Road

Taking the High Road

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