Why We Need Respond to The Climate Crisis With Thoughtful Design, According To Chris Lee Of Serie Architects
“Responding to climate change is not only our moral obligation but also an act of self-preservation; I hope to be a custodian of a still-inhabitable Earth,” says Chris Lee. “In our architecture, nature is ever-present—we want to become closer to it and at times appreciate its beauty and fragility in today’s world.”
The Malaysian-born architect studied in Singapore in his youth before heading to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Founding Serie Architects with Kapil Gupta in 2008, he made his way back to the tropics with local projects such as the environmentally-conscious Oasis Terraces—an integrated development and neighbourhood centre in Punggol—as well as the Singapore State Courts. The London-based firm also has offices in Beijing, Singapore and Mumbai.
A keen academic, Lee applies his research on historic precedents to create refreshing, nature-centric spaces. Take, for instance, the SDE4 building at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which was constructed for the School of Design and Environment.
It draws from Southeast Asia’s tropical vernacular, with terraces and landscaped balconies that segue into the surrounding foliage—what better way for architecture students to learn about biophilic architecture, than to be immersed in it?
What is your approach to ecological building?
Chris Lee (CL) There are two broad aspects to this: one is performative and technical, and the other touches upon the meaning and beauty that we bring to the world we inhabit as architects. The first reduces carbon emissions by making our architecture energy efficient when it is built and in use, such as the net-zero-energy SDE4 building at NUS.
The second is to emit as little carbon as we can in the process of building. To this end, we are now working towards using timber in our projects where we can; our buildings in the Porte de Montreuil neighbourhood in Paris will be constructed entirely with timber.
How do you frame nature through your architecture?
CL This can happen in various scales and through different building types. The Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai features nine courtyards framed by colonnades and galleries; each courtyard is viewed as a canvas filled with plants from different desert biomes around the world. The Oasis Terraces in Singapore features a terraced garden that is framed by a perimeter veranda block sloping toward a waterway.
The Singapore State Courts draws upon the architecture that you see in Chinatown—both the shophouses and the high-rise buildings. Hence, we created several platforms for courtyards, which are accessible to the public and that break down the scale of an otherwise large tower. The court boxes take on the tonality and scale of the shophouses, and are clad in fluted and stained precast concrete panels.
This story is part of our series on biophilic design. Read the other articles in this series here:
How Architects Are Bringing More Greenery To Singapore With Biophilic Design
WilkinsonEyre Bridges Art And Science In Projects Like Gardens By the Bay
Guz Architects Designs Houses That Are Inspired by Nature In Singapore
How Nature-Inspired Designs Help To Improve Our Wellbeing, According to WOW Architects
How Sustainable Hotel Design Can Be Both Practical And Green, According to Bill Bensley