Q&A with Lai Zhenwei & Joseph Wong, JOW Architects: We see site conditions as potential design opportunities

Q&A with Lai Zhenwei & Joseph Wong, JOW Architects: We see site conditions as potential design opportunities

Q&A with Lai Zhenwei & Joseph Wong, JOW Architects: We see site conditions as potential design opportunities

You enjoy experimenting and pushing boundaries in your practice. Can you elaborate on what you mean? 

It is about challenging what seems to be the norm, and searching for new approaches to tackle the design brief by constantly questioning ourselves. We like to ask if there is another way to achieve the same intent. It is a constant reiterative process of reviewing the problem differently, and editing the solutions to arrive at one that is most suitable. Of course, as architects and interior designers, we are always bound by the physicality of the site and its context. Yet, we see site conditions not as limitations but as potential design opportunities for the development and refinement of design solutions.

One of your key priorities is in ensuring your designs make your clients’ lives better. How exactly do you do this? 

It is through a distillation process of thoughtful listening to the client’s needs and the careful observation of the things they want but are unspoken. We then offer design solutions in attempts to achieve the intentions in an elegant manner. Good communication is key to the success of this process and the solutions are crafted specifically for the client in the context. Also we are firm believers of the principles of Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius: Firmitas (solidity), Utilitas (usefulness) and Venustas (beauty and delight), which guide us in our design process and thinking in every of our projects.

As a husband-and-wife team, how do you each split the work in JOW Architects?

It is a collaborative working process between us and there isn’t a very distinct delineation of the scope. Each of us contributes to the same project in different ways, building upon each other’s strength and helping with our blind spots.

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

  1. Louis Kahn – For his mastery of space and light that evoke a sense of spirituality.
  2. Yoshio Taniguchi – For his restraint approach to design and architecture, and his strength in the composition of forms, proportion and materials.
  3. Tony Chi – For his clarity in design thinking, and his understanding of and sensitivity to human behaviour, which inform his design.

What are your three favourite buildings in SE Asia? 

  1. The Colonnade condominium in Singapore, by Paul Rudolph
  2. The Sukhothai Bangkok hotel, by Kerry Hill
  3. Capella Singapore hotel, by Norman Foster

Lai Zhenwei and Joseph Wong are the co-founders of JOW Architects

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