Q&A with Carl Lim, Czarl Architects: Architecture is an art form that tells a captivating story
In your practice, you factor in the socio-historical context and heritage where possible. Why is this so important to you?
Architecture is not only a visual and experiential pursuit but also an art form that tells a captivating story. By delving into socio-historical heritage, geography and collective memory, we unearth layers of inspiration. This approach allows us to dissect and reinterpret available contextual information, infusing it into our designs. It allows us to create spaces that resonate deeply with their surroundings and evoke a sense of belonging and continuity.
You describe your architectural expression as being “underpinned with measures of wit, ingenuity, and intuition”. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this through an example from a past project?
Let me illustrate this with a project example: Wat Ananda Thai Buddhist Temple. Inspired by the ephemeral beauty of the changing seasons, we sought to encapsulate this paradox. Adjacent to the temple stood a majestic Bodhi tree, casting serene komorebi (Japanese for “sunlight leaking through trees”). To capture this essence, we employed triangular mirror panels on the temple’s facade, reflecting the ever-shifting qualities of the sky – the interplay of light and passing clouds. The panels also pay homage to the tradition of using small gold and silver mirror chips on the saddle roofs of traditional temples, intertwining innovation with heritage.
Which three designers, from the past or present, do you most admire? Why?
Among the designers I greatly admire, Kengo Kuma stands out for his adept reinterpretation of tradition through inventive material usage and construction techniques. Thomas Heatherwick‘s ability to frame design challenges with a singular, bold idea resonates deeply with our approach. Oscar Niemeyer‘s timeless exploration of concrete’s potential continues to inspire me, exemplifying how innovation can shape lasting beauty.
What are your three favourite buildings in SE Asia?
- Desa Potato Head Bali, both Andra Matin‘s original version and OMA‘s recent addition
- The States Court in Singapore by Serie Architects and Multiply Architects, for its architectural elegance that serves as a testament to the region’s design evolution
- The Commons in Bangkok by Department of Architecture Co.
Apart from houses, you’ve also designed a Thai Buddhist temple and latrine prototypes. Can you give us a sneak peek of other unusual projects in your pipeline or portfolio?
Beyond residential design, our portfolio encompasses a diverse array of projects. Recently, we completed a project at 38 Margaret Drive, Margaret Market, formerly known as the Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market. It is the only remaining market designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). Our design response pays homage to the human-centric utility objects often seen in the SIT/HDB estates, such as the familiar mosaic round tables and stools found in playgrounds. By reinterpreting these nostalgic elements, we bridge the gap between past and present, infusing new life into revitalised spaces.
Carl Lim is the Founder and Principal of Czarl Architects.