Q&A with Kee Jing Zhi, Freight Architects: There are a lot of interesting sites in Singapore where we can create unique projects

Q&A with Kee Jing Zhi, Freight Architects: There are a lot of interesting sites in Singapore where we can create unique projects

Q&A with Kee Jing Zhi, Freight Architects: There are a lot of interesting sites in Singapore where we can create unique projects

You’re one of a trio of partners that make up Freight Architects. How do you divide up the work among the three of you?  

I lead most of the private residential projects, while my partners handle the ones in childcare, senior care and the industrial sector. We work as a team when there are bigger-scale projects. 

You can juggle everything from the smallest of houses to the largest of master plans. This is quite unusual for a boutique-sized, local firm. How has this benefitted your practice? 

The key is having partners with different skill sets, handling different parts of the project. I usually lead the design concept, while the other two are experts in managing the team and technical compliance. This setup allows us to come together for larger-scale projects or we break into teams for the smaller ones.

The Sengkang Riverside Park Childcare Centre has been one of Freight‘s most defining projects to date. What are some key learning points you’ve realised as a result of working on it? 

We designed this project in a week. The concept came very fast, as we needed to find a solution to make the building merge with the park. The ideation part was straightforward, as the intentions from the stakeholders were clear from the beginning. Additionally, it takes a lot of initiative from everyone to realise a project like this. In this case, it was a joint effort by the URA and NParks to push through a design brief like this. Only with aspiration can we realise a more unique project. 

I would add though that a green roof — like the one atop the childcare centre — always looks impressive in the beginning. However, owners need to commit to its upkeep and maintain the landscape. This can amount to quite a substantial operation cost. The key is still balance.

In fact, there are a lot of interesting sites in Singapore where we can create unique projects. The URA and SLA should open up more sites like the Sengkang Riverside Park to create a more diverse streetscape. Singapore can be too planned sometimes, causing it to lose the ground-up, organic cityscape. 

Which three designers, from the past or present, do you most admire? Why?

  1. Louis Kahn, for his ideas on threshold spaces and how his geometries intersect to create interesting, interconnected spaces. The forms may seem simple but the space created always excites me. 
  2. Tadao Ando, as a master of branding. He is able to use concrete as his signature material to create intersection in forms and spaces; the light and shadow created through these clashing of forms always fascinates me. 
  3. Herzog & de Meuron, for their pursuit in material and façade experiments. They are able to create facades with different play of materials. This has a deep influence on me when I study how to design facades for projects. 

What are your three favourite buildings in SE Asia? 

  1. Gardens by the Bay, by WilkinsonEyre: I am honoured to have been part of the team designing the biomes and garden structure. It is a representation of Singapore as a city in a garden and garden city. 
  2. Dhaka Assembly, by Louis Kahn: The form of the building may be monumental and the spaces inside are incredible. The light that enters the building through the intersection of volumes is amazing. 
  3. Church of Light, by Tadao Ando: it is a simple building but how the space is presented and unfolds is intriguing. 

Kee Jing Zhi is the Co-Founder of Freight Architects

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