Creating a New Landmark in Singapore | Kengo Kuma Interview


Kengo Kuma at Whitestone Gallery Seoul

Singapore is a major economic and cultural center in Asia. On October 14th, 2023, Whitestone Gallery will hold the grand opening of a new art space in Singapore, which will be a significant hub for the company’s gallery operations in Asia. After several months of renovation and preparation work since the pre-opening back in January 2023, we are now ready to unveil this new multipurpose space, housing both an art museum and an art gallery.

Whitestone Gallery Singapore is the company’s first gallery space in Southeast Asia and one of the largest gallery complexes in Asia. The interior redesign was completed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, who has strong connections to Singapore. In 2019, the design submitted by Kengo Kuma & Associates, in collaboration with K2LD Architects, won the international architectural design competition for the Singapore Founders’ Memorial, set to open in 2027. To commemorate the grand opening of the new gallery space in Singapore, we interviewed Kengo Kuma.

A Reception Area Reminiscent of Singapore’s Rich Greenery

Artist’s rendering of the Whitestone Gallery Singapore

ー At the Singapore gallery, guests are welcomed into a reception area that features a wooden geometric assemblage. What is your reasoning behind this design?

Kuma: When I thought about the charm and characteristics of Singapore as a city, I thought of its rich and magnificent greenery. By welcoming the guests into a space vastly covered in wood, I wanted to let them feel one of the landmark qualities of Singapore and lead them into an art space from an atmosphere similar to a forest under gentle sunlight.

Kengo Kuma’s concept sketch of the Whitestone Gallery Singapore

ー The Singapore space is a vast location that houses several areas with different functions, including an art museum, a gallery, an office, and an artwork storage room. How do you go about designing a space with multiple functions?

Kuma: First of all, I think about how I can make use of the existing space. One of the charms of the Singapore gallery is its high ceiling, which made use of the existing warehouse space. By creating a spatial arrangement that uses the location’s characteristics and combining it with ideas for the flow of people, I developed an overall design while taking into account the spatial experience it creates.

Artist’s rendering of the Whitestone Gallery Singapore

ー You are known for working energetically every day, and you have mentioned that “architects are like racehorses”. You also sometimes liken your work to that of a tricycle or a long-distance runner. What are your current goals as an architect?

Kuma: The pandemic gave me the opportunity to think about establishing satellite offices in small regional towns around Japanin addition to our head office in Tokyo. I aimed to work with the local people to propose a new working style. Now, I am expanding this idea to the whole world. I want to create many small bases that are not centered in big cities like Tokyo, and I want to create and disseminate designs from each location. My current goal is to move forward with this plan as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Kengo Kuma (left) and Whitestone Gallery CEO Koichi Shiraishi (right) at the Whitestone Gallery Seoul

In addition to being a modern city-state, Singapore’s charm lies in its vast coastal views and rich greenery. With a reception area design reminiscent of a sunny forest canopy, Whitestone Gallery Singapore evokes images of Singapore’s lush landscape and atmosphere, gloriously inviting guests into an extraordinary art space.

In a previous interview, Kengo Kuma talked about how he designs art galleries with a focus on attaining a strong "identity" that embodies the character of the city, as well as a "flexibility" that allows it to take in all kinds of contemporary art which is constantly evolving, from 2D works to 3D mixed media art. He follows an architectural design philosophy of creating not just a mere buildingbut a place that attracts the city’s people. This philosophy has now breathed life into a new landmark in Singapore.

We hope you look forward to this fusion of architecture and art that is bound to become a famous attraction in Singapore!

Artist’s rendering of the Whitestone Gallery Singapore

About Kengo Kuma, Architect

Kengo Kuma (c) J.C.Carbonne

Kengo Kuma was born in 1954. He established Kengo Kuma & Associates in 1990. He is currently a University Professor and Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo after teaching at Keio University and the University of Tokyo. KKAA projects are currently underway in more than 30 countries. Kengo Kuma proposes architecture that opens up new relationships between nature, technology, and human beings. His major publications include Ten Sen Men (“point, line, plane”, Iwanami Shoten), Hito no Sumika (“shelters for people”, Shincho Shinsho), Makeru Kenchiku (Architecture of Defeat, Iwanami Shoten), Shizen na Kenchiku (Natural Architecture, Iwanami Shinsho), Chii-sana Kenchiku (Small Architecture, Iwanami Shinsho) and many others.

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