After 100 Houses
The PEAK Singapore|June 2019
After 100 Houses

For the last 16 years, RT+Q has been creating one exquisite abode after another, never revisiting tired trends or feeling stuck in a creative rut. We speak to its director, Rene Tan, to see how they did it.

Charmian Leong

It’s challenging enough to balance a client’s needs and expectations of a dream house with one’s own creative vision – all while ensuring construction goes smoothly and the final structure looks as it should. To do that 116 times and counting is incredible, and it’s one of the reasons about 80 per cent of RT+Q’s business comes from building houses.

The local architectural firm’s abundance of accolades should be enough to impress, collected from the Singapore Institute of Architecture and Urban Redevelopment Authority, and spanning wins such as at Malaysia’s PAM Awards and the Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Awards. Co-founder Rene Tan himself was named “Designer of the Year” at the 2016 President’s Design Awards.

But the proof is in the buildings, from the lalang grass-inspired zig-zagging The Capers residential development in Kuala Lumpur to the more recently completed Elliptical House near Botanic Gardens. It has never turned down a client, believing every project can be an exercise in structural beauty. This democratic view explains more offbeat jobs like the “smart bus stop” in front of Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station and even a tombstone, which Tan says is “just a house for the deceased”. RT+Q’s works are met with the same care and reverence to proportion and scale, priorities that Tan says are central to the firm’s philosophy. In order to stay fresh after so many buildings, though, Tan says he relies on three things: a great team, tough clients and teaching.

“Our best works have come from the most ‘difficult’ clients,” he admits. He doesn’t necessarily mean nasty customers, but those with ambitious briefs. The Elliptical House is one such example, where the rounded spaceship-like exterior required many of the fixtures to be specially ordered, as the standard products weren’t made for curved walls.

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June 2019