The William J. Mitchell International Chapter Prize is awarded biennially in recognition of a significant contribution by an Australia-linked practitioner to architecture globally. In 2018 the International Chapter has selected Dr Liu Thai Ker FRAIA to receive this important acknowledgement.
Thai Ker was born in Malaysia, but grew up and practises in Singapore, where he was influential in the conceptualization and implementation of the urban structure and landscape of the city-state. He received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1962 and a master’s in city planning from Yale University in 1965. UNSW later awarded him an honorary doctorate (1995). In Singapore, he received the Public Administration Medal in 1976 and a Singapore Institute of Architects Gold Medal, among other prizes.
Returning to Singapore from his overseas studies (and work with I. M. Pei) he joined the Housing Development Board (HDB), the government builder of affordable housing for sale to citizens, from 1969 to 1989. He quickly rose from head of its design and research section, via chief architect, to chief executive officer. He redirected the HDB’s approach from large-scale estates (which had replaced scattered “kampongs”) to self-sufficient new towns of garden city inspiration. A Unite d’Habitation-type apartment model was tailored to the tropics by single-loading open-access corridors for better cross-ventilation and activating the pilotied base as a venue for cultural activities, weddings and wakes.
From 1989 until 1992, Thai Ker headed Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, revising the conceptual masterplan for the island and promoting the conservation of the city’s heritage and early modern buildings. He then joined private practice as a director of RSP Architects, Planners and Engineers and in 2017 founded his firm, Morrow. In the past twenty-five years, Thai Ker has served as a planning adviser for many municipal governments in China and has masterplanned more than thirty cities worldwide. His approach is “scientific,” with an emphasis on evidence-based provisioning of basic amenities, transport and accommodation and an aspiration to thus enable intellectual and cultural life.
It is with great pleasure that the International Chapter awards the William J. Mitchell International Chapter Prize to the “architect of modern Singapore,” Liu Thai Ker.
Justin Hill FRAIA – Director, Kerry Hill Architects
Hank Koning FRAIA – Founding Principal, Koning Eizenberg
Grant Marani FRAIA – Partner, Robert A. M. Stern Architects
Dik Jarman Aff RAIA – Associate Director, Circa Morris-Nunn Architects
Vui Choong RAIA – Architect, Archinect
David Teh FRAIA – Director, Pakatan Reka Arkitek
Fiona Nixon FRAIA – Principal, Hassell
Bob Nation AM LFRAIA – National Design Director, GHDWoodhead
Paul Logsdon FRAIA – Chair, Australian Institute of Architects International Chapter Committee and Project Manager, BH.NS Engineering Consultants
Janine Campbell RAIA – Deputy Chair, Australian Institute of Architects International Chapter Committee