We look at some of the world’s leading architects who flaunt their prowess in designing characterful products for the home.
Antonio Citterio, Daniel Liebskind, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, and Chan Soo Khian – these may not be household names to the layperson but in the field of architecture, they are esteemed individuals. These five architects may be trained on the same fundamentals of architecture, but individually when it comes to designing buildings, they have their own design DNA. Can’t attain these luxurious properties? Fret not, you can buy their “tiny architecture” in the form of furniture, lighting, and accessories to appreciate their works. Here’s an insightful look into architectural greats and the furniture pieces they designed for the modern abode.
Antonio Citterio was born in 1950 in Meda, Italy. He graduated from the Polytechnic of Milan. Today, he’s a highly sought-after product designer and architect. In 1999, together with Patricia Viel, he founded Antonio Citterio and Partners, a multidisciplinary practice for architectural design, industrial design, and graphics.
The two-times Compasso d’Oro winner (1987 and 1995), Citterio pushes the boundaries of design with his outstanding architectural work and product designs. His firm quickly rose to prominence with a series of projects for the luxury hotel chain Bulgari Hotels and Resorts – first for the inaugural Bulgari Hotel in Milan in 2004, followed by the Bulgari Resort in 2006, then the Bulgari restaurant and cafe in Tokyo in 2007. In that same year, Citterio received the Royal Designer for Industry award from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in London.
[QUIET LUXURY]: Antonio Citterio is no stranger to designing some of the most alluring furniture pieces. His work for B&B Italia spans decades and one of his most famous pieces includes the “Charles” sofa. He also designed the unique round sofa called “Amoenus” for Maxalto. Citterio’s design DNA is all about “quiet luxury” a restrained sort of sophistication that need not be bold and brazen. For Flexform, his “Groundpiece” sofa is one of his most noteworthy, memorable pieces.
The Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind of Polish Jewish descent is perhaps one of the most lauded architects of our time. Born in 1946, Libeskind founded his firm in 1989 together with his wife, Nina (who is now the Chief Operating Officer), and has fiercely championed his ideas to materialise.
Libeskind’s design DNA is about “emotional architecture”, as he was once quoted: “When I begin a project, I think of the programme, of course, but I also think about how every building needs love. That might sound trite but if you don’t love what you’re doing, if you don’t love your involvement, or if you are simply doing a building for money, for fame or glory, or for the act of creating an abstraction, it’s going to show.” Libeskind’s creations are sometimes inspired by the mathematics of nature; he takes inspiration from flora and the geometry of crystals. Notable buildings attesting to Libeskind’s design philosophy include the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Denver Art Museum in the United States, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, to name a few. Libeskind’s first Asian residential masterpiece – The Reflections at Keppel Bay – the stunning 1,129-unit, 160m-tall luxury waterside condominium with six glass towers, was awarded Gold at the prestigious FIABCI Prix d’ Excellence Awards 2013. His second residential project in Singapore is the 366-unit Corals at Keppel Bay, completed in 2018. These luxurious waterfront homes sporting fluid, contemporary lines are housed in 11 low-medium rise blocks. Homeowners are pampered with enviable views of the picturesque shorelines of Sentosa island.
His oeuvre of work is so broad that a number of major museums around the world have exhibited his portfolio and designs. He earned further credo in 2003 when Libeskind won the competition to be the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre site in Lower Manhattan, New York.
[STRIKING SHELF]: When Libeskind designs furniture, it has a wow factor. His limited series of Corian-made shelves called “Web” designed for Poliform is a stunner. Able to hold books and keepsakes, this striking shelf can be an artistic accent piece in your living room.
Being the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 (the Oscar equivalent in the architecture industry) is highly commendable. While she passed on in 2016, her past works still continue to shine. All of Hadid’s buildings feature sinuous forms and elongated structures. Born in 1950, the Iraqi-British architect struggled in her early years to build her reputation in an industry mostly dominated by males.
With her mathematics degree, she pursued her passion to study architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. There, she met other revered architects such as Rem Koolhas, Elia Zenghelis, and Bernard Tscumi. She spent several years working for Koolhaas and Zenghelis at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, Netherlands before she became a partner in 1977. But in 1980, she decided to establish her own London-based practice while spending time teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Hadid’s key characteristic is fluid forms which are challenging to construct but when completed, these buildings make her one of our contemporary culture’s greatest architectural talents. Her most famous buildings include the Vitra Fire Station in Germany and London Aquatics Centre in the United Kingdom. In Singapore, Hadid’s creation is the 150m-tall D’Leedon condominium located along Farrer Road. It is a tapering structure with sinuous details, injecting a contemporary, modernist feel in the quiet suburban landscape of the Holland precinct.
ALL ABOUT CURVES: Hadid’s unique design DNA not only embellishes buildings she also designed for Magis the modular “Tide” shelf system, “Avia” pendant light for Slamp, “Visio” and “Manifesto” sexy vases for French crystal brand Lalique, and her most iconic furniture was designing the space-age looking “Moon” sofa for B&B Italia.
Jean Nouvel’s multi-hyphenate accolade career is laudable and staggering. Born in 1945, the preeminent architect has awards such as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2005, and the Pritzker Prize in 2008.
He’s so revered in architecture circles that several museums and architectural centres have presented retrospective exhibitions of his works. His architectural journey started with a failed entrance examination at École des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux in Paris, but he persevered and won first prize in a national competition to attend École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (an influential art school in France). The highlight of his career was when he co-founded Mars 1976 movement (a French architectural movement) in 1976 and, a year later, the Syndicat de l’Architecture. Nouvel’s famous quote says, “I put art in the architecture and the architecture in the city.”
The Arab Cultural Centre in Paris completed in 1987 is one of his masterpieces while other notable buildings include the Cartier Foundation and Lyon Opera House, both in Paris. He even conceived Barcelona’s 38-storey monumental landmark called the Agba Tower. His style expresses the futuristic design inclination of cities by using glass, steel, and other cold and hard materials which he creates sharp and sophisticated forms. In Singapore, his proud creation is the luxurious 156-apartment Nouvel 18 situated in the leafy enclave of Ardmore and Shangri-La hotel district.
[INNOVATIVE SEATS]: Nouvel also designs furniture for brands such as Emeco’s “Soso” chair; and Ligne Roset’s range of chairs such as the elegant “Simplissimo” chair, the cubist-styled “Simple Bridge” armchair, and the playful “Saint James” chair.
Chan Soo Khian
The architecture postgraduate from Yale University, Chan Soo Khian may not be a household name, but he has built a reputation for designing many understated and sophisticated residential buildings such as Botanika condominium along Holland Road.
This project snagged the Gold Medal Award for the ARCASIA Awards for Architecture 2005 to 2006 and the Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award in 2005. Born in 1962, Singapore-based architect Chan founded SCDA Architects Pte Ltd in 1995. Being the founding principal and design director, he helms and leads this multi-disciplinary firm that delves into areas not only in architecture but also interior, landscape, and product design.
Chan also was the recipient of the inaugural President’s Design Award, Singapore Designer of the Year, and also the recipient of the SIA-Getz Architecture Prize for Emergent Architecture in Asia, 2006. The firm’s other awards include the Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award for the Lincoln Modern in 2003. Chan has also designed projects in Singapore such as The Ladyhill, One KL, The Marq, and Nassim Park Residences. Chan made a striking debut in New York – he designed the 11-storey, 22-unit luxury condominium called Soori High Line located at 522 West 29th Street.
[RESORT-STYLE FURNITURE]: Chan’s stab at furniture design is through Italian furniture brand Poliform – the “Soori” coffee table, “Highline” armchair, and luxurious “Java” bed. Chan also designs furniture for his own line called Soori Living that produces a range of modern contemporary furniture for the resort-style home.