A New World in the Making: Life and Architecture in Tropical Asia
Forthcoming June 2023
by Tay Kheng Soon
The time has come, says architect Tay Kheng Soon, when we must change, and build a new world. The feeling has impelled him to write this book, bringing together memoir, a selection of his writings on identity, landscape and belonging, and on the architecture and urbanism most appropriate for a tropical city in Asia. Born in British-ruled Singapore, Tay Kheng Soon was deeply engaged in the debates about building a new world that attended the end of colonialism. His focus, but far from his only concern, was Singapore's built environment—and its spiritual one—since the early 1960s. Architecture, he says, is politics by other means. His ideas and his creativity attracted attention early, but he turned down a request to join Singapore's ruling party in 1968. And as Singapore moved further in the direction of what Tay describes as "ruthless pragmatism”, the cost of his critical posture become more clear. After he organised a protest against the Vietnam War in 1972, Tay's co-founders in the pioneering architectural firm Design Partnership cut him loose, reforming their partnership as DP Architects without him, building a practice that grew into an empire.
Kheng Soon stayed his own course, first working in Malaysia designing low-cost housing, then returning to Singapore and building his own firm. He became sought after around the world for his thoughts on regionalism and tropical architecture. He taught at the NUS School of Architecture, headed the Singapore Institute of Architects, and was Founding Chair of independent arts centre The Substation. Ever ready with the trenchant one-liner, and a willingness to provoke, to challenge orthodoxy, Tay Kheng Soon occupies a unique position in Asia's intellectual and cultural landscape. Things must change, says Tay Kheng Soon. Or, maybe, he admits, it's just him. The book is a must-read reflection on tropical Asia, on architecture and urbanism, always looking ahead to the always urgent task of building a new world.
Tay Kheng Soon is an architect and adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore.
Publication Year: 2023
300pp || 229 x 152 mm
36 b/w images