Q&A with Loh Zixu & Evy Sutjahjo, ZIVY Architects: We continually question and challenge ourselves

Q&A with Loh Zixu & Evy Sutjahjo, ZIVY Architects: We continually question and challenge ourselves

Q&A with Loh Zixu & Evy Sutjahjo, ZIVY Architects: We continually question and challenge ourselves

You believe that all great design has a story to tell. Share with us some examples of stories you’ve told through your design work.

In the east of Singapore, within a small unassuming terrace house lies a grand indoor garden. The owners of the house, a very much private, elderly couple, dream of spending their days among the greenery together with their sons. With a continuous skylight above it and layered, porous enclosures all around, the indoor garden becomes more than just a hobby corner — but a living, breathing space that receives plenty of daylight and playful shadows. The house ultimately takes its shape after its very own users’ dreams.

In designing homes, what are the three principles you live by in every project?

  1. Always remember that every project is unique. In order to achieve this, we have to learn to continually question and challenge ourselves to do it differently when the time calls for it.
  2. The spatial experience of each house is the most important quality and the design cannot stop only at the aesthetic level. By this we are referring to how each space in the house feels and speaks to you when you are in it.
  3. Consider practicality and ease of maintenance, because it really goes a long way — both for the users and the environment.

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

Evy: Patricia Urquiola for her versatility; Peter Zumthor for his insane poetry; and Neri&Hu for their ability to take on projects of various scales and deal with them sensitively. 

Zixu: Chang Yong Ter because photos of his works are not just “pretty” but actually make you wish you had the privilege of being there to experience the space itself. Bjarke Ingels is another. All his projects have a very strong concept/story to it. Whenever I see the form of any project by his firm BIG, I am extremely excited to understand why it was designed in such a way.

What are your three favourite buildings in SE Asia?

There’s plenty but some that are closer to home:

  1. Marina Barrage, Singapore for its successful use of greenery on an accessible roof 
  2. The new Pan Pacific Orchard hotel in Singapore by WOHA
  3. Rice Barn House in Tangerang, Indonesia by K-Thengono Design Studio

You branched out on your own while you were both in your early 30s. What would you say to designers who are toying with the same idea but daren’t take the leap?

Evy: I have a handwritten note that I keep from the beginning of our early start-up days. The ink has since faded away, but the message still remains true. It goes: “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”. There is really no “right time” to do something new and you’ll only know if you try.

Zixu: Strategise before taking the leap, and leverage on as much help as you can get. If you are lucky enough, start with a project that is close to your heart.

Loh Zixu and Evy Sutjahjo are the Co-Founders of ZIVY Architects