Q&A with Kevin Lim, Studio SKLIM: We are learning how to do more with less
In addition to an office in Singapore, Studio SKLIM also has a presence in India. What is exciting you most right now about the design scene there?
We are in the final lap of completing an 8,000sqm international school and the design development phase of a collective of residential, garage/servant’s quarters and standalone office buildings. Both of these projects are located in Kolkata. What piques our interest is learning how to do more with less and being constantly inspired by “primitive” materials, such as terracotta. There is a vast resource of artisanal labour in each local cottage industry, which can be tapped into across all scales in the design of the built environment.
You worked under one of Singapore’s pioneer architects, William Lim. What was the most important lesson he taught you?
The late William Lim always advocated for maintaining an inquisitive and open mind during the design process. He fostered a conducive environment that encouraged discourse and collaboration across disciplines. This approach has had a significant impact on the way we practice with our collaborators, consultants and clients.
Which three designers, from the past or present (excluding William!), do you most admire? Why?
- Rem Koolhaas: For his obsession with shaking up established conventions, not limited to architecture, and his advocacy for a research-based approach. During my working stint at his office, The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Beijing, the interactions with him were always moments of intensity and rigour, backed up with research and the use of the material blue foam.
- Tadao Ando: I had the privilege of experiencing Ando’s architecture on Naoshima island for several days. Running my hands across his fair-faced concrete walls and witnessing the interplay of daylight shaping his spaces was a transformative ethereal experience. His architecture must be felt and experienced as it evolves with the passage of time and interacts delicately with nature.
- Ai Wei Wei: For his versatility and ability to dive into diverse disciplines, such as architecture, design, film, art and social activism. Despite facing challenging life experiences, he remains true to his values and beliefs, unapologetically expressing them through his work.
What are your three favourite buildings in SE Asia?
- Golden Mile Complex, Singapore
- The Colonnade, Singapore
- Angkor Wat, Cambodia
You once said that sustainability can be influenced at a micro, product level too. How do you do this in your practice?
We have always been interested in materials and reviving local crafts for contemporary applications. In the past, we have explored the use of clay bricks and rattan as sustainable materials with low carbon footprints. With the support of a Good Design Research grant from the DesignSingapore Council, we have been able to allocate more resources towards material research. As a result, we have incorporated plant fibre (Kenaf) biocomposites for the roof eaves and central skylights in a sustainable glulam pavilion for Swiss Weeks in 2022. Currently, we are conducting further research into the combination of terracotta and plant biocomposites as part of a sustainable building material system. This project will be showcased as part of ZER01NE, a creative talent platform by Hyundai-Kia.
Kevin Lim is the Founding Principal of Studio SKLIM.