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Red Bean Architects: Seeding Change

The rigorous approach of Red Bean Architects is precipitating an evolutionary architectural practice and aspirations to effect change at the city scale. Felicia Toh writes for Cubes Indesign.

Red Bean Architects: Seeding Change

Teo Yee Chin, the Principal of Red Bean Architects at his studio. Photo by Justin Loh

Teo Yee Chin, principal of Red Bean Architects, speaks of his work with detached modesty – not in terms of a practice that has arrived, but as one in the process of becoming, nourished by the rich soil of aspiration. “In ten years’ time, a firm like ours will grow to a size where we can make a difference. Now we are just laying the foundation. I hope we can do something meaningful,” he says of his practice, which was founded in 2009.

Perhaps it is fitting then, that he chose the name Red Bean Architects, which references a seed containing DNA – a “container of what is to come,” as he explains. “Information is contained in the seed – the ideas we have as designers or architects. We take it, plant it, and it gives birth to a shoot or a plant – our ideas take on a form.”

These ideas gain ground for expression and refinement through the multiple engagements in which Teo is involved – as an architect, writer, adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Chair of the Singapore Institute of Architects’ Awards Committee.

He credits his penchant for writing with the shaping of his thought processes in the design field. “I was a writer before I discovered how to design. I learnt to organise my thoughts, to argue and to justify. When you write you have to be very honest with yourself,” he notes. The rigour of writing led to a ‘click’ when he realised how to put forth an argument in his architectural process. Now, he constantly tries to weave the thinking, writing and design strands together, but there isn’t always the opportunity to do so.

The recently completed Singapore Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016 in Venice was one instance when there was. As one of the three co-curators of the Singapore Pavilion, Teo helped to formulate the brief for the exhibition, as well as design it. The driving premise of the exhibition was, as he explains, that: “Singapore has heart. It has a creative soul waiting to be uncovered. The city has emerging voices that want a say in how it is planned. We are urban creatures who have been grabbed from villages and thrown into modular apartments in the sky – who are now rediscovering the ground and land through urban farming and community gardening.”

Teo is of the view that everyone is essentially trying to make Singapore more of a home in a deep way, to belong and develop rootedness by reconnecting to our land.


For the full story, including much more on the work of Red Bean Architects, pick up a copy of Cubes Indesign #84 at newsstands.

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