A Tribute to Dr Kerry Hill

Dsg and URA were saddened to hear of Dr Hill’s passing on 26 August 2018. A veteran of nearly 40 years on the Singapore architectural landscape, Dr Hill created several memorable and well-loved structures around the Asia Pacific region, such as the Datai Hotel in Langkawi, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia and Martin No. 38 in Singapore. The last two projects received the President*s Design Award for Design of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Dr Hill was also conferred the President*s Design Award 2010 Designer of the Year for his body of works.

Besides his towering contributions in architecture, he was a prolific educator and mentor to the next generation of Singapore architects and designers. Richard Ho and WOHA’s Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell started their careers under his practice, with the latter fondly remembering their experience with Dr Hill as an “excellent training ground”. All three eventually went on to receive the P*DA after they started their own practice.

Dsg and URA had the pleasure and privilege of engaging with Dr Hill ourselves on a few occasions – when he served as a P*DA jury member in 2007, 2008 and 2015, and also when he was recognised for his pioneering work in Singapore’s architecture scene with the Singapore Design Golden Jubilee Award in 2015. As an architect who has been part of Singapore’s design journey and development, he has left an indelible mark on our design history. We remember him here through his works and the reflections of those who knew him well.

“Kerry Hill was a thoughtful and painstaking architect, never one for gestural or expressive forms. He was a strict, rational modernist, tempered with a sensuous materiality that arose from the rippling water and lush plants of the tropical environment he lived and practised in. Drawing on the precedents of tropical modernism of Geoffrey Bawa and Peter Mueller, he added a more hard-edged urban purity to their work. Kerry had a love of beautifully proportioned drawings, and his plans, sections and elevations had the dynamic balance of a Mondrian painting. A Kerry Hill project always has a delicate, filigreed platonic form, hovering over water, and enlivened by reflected, shimmering light.

Kerry was a serious and conservative architect to work with, but full of hilarious stories when relaxing with people he knew well and trusted, and I remember many disreputable tales of Bali at the time of Donald Friend, David Bowie and Mick Jagger in the 1970s. He was a very open and non-judgmental person and accepted and enjoyed everyone as they were, despite his outwardly serious demeanour.”

– Richard Hassell, WOHA Architects

“Kerry Hill was truly a great architect. His personality was like his architecture: quiet, sensitive, strong, respectful, sublime. I personally loved his works and recall going out of my way to experience his buildings whenever I was near one. We have lost an architectural icon.”

– Mark Wee, Executive Director, DesignSingapore Council

    “A visionary in the industry. A leader in design. A mentor to many. A friend to all. Kerry, you will be missed.”

– Larry Ng, Group Director of Architecture & Urban Design Excellence, URA

(Aman, New Delhi, 2009)

“A spatial experience should evoke a response from our senses – of sight, touch and sound… the choice of materials is central to our design process. A hierarchy usually exists within the composition of materials for each project. How these materials are connected is informed by one material paying respect to another. Our desire for exactitude is fundamental.”

– Dr Kerry Hill, 2010

(The Lalu, Taiwan, 2002)

“Seemingly simple, yet richly complex in the experience that unfolds: whispers of the wind, the shadows of the sun, and the sensuous poetry of the straight line. Immediately, the impact of air envelops my body and makes me feel a spontaneous sensation: this is architecture.”

– Dr Erwin Viray, Head of Pillar, Architecture & Sustainable Design, SUTD

(The Chedi, Chiang Mai, 2005)

“(While living and working in Asia) I have consciously allowed a reciprocal influence to exist between my modernist principles and the traditions of the East. It is part observation and part intuition… (seeking to) reference past building traditions through suggestion and association.”

– Dr Kerry Hill, 2010

(State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, P*DA 2011 Design of the Year)“The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia is now an architectural, cultural and civic focal point for the community, contributing to a more vibrant and engaging capital city. It opened in January 2011 and two Open Days were held during the first three months due to the huge public interest in the venue, seeing a total of 8,000 visitors. There are now regular tours of the venue conducted for tourists, community groups, schools and individuals.”

– Allanah Luca, Director General, Dept of Culture and the Arts, State Government of Western Australia, 2011

(State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, P*DA 2011 Design of the Year)

    “The design of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia has raised the bar for civic design, going beyond simply meeting the demands of a challenging project brief. Its design and purpose are clearly articulated in the organisation of the theatre’s spaces and functions… The Jury commends the significant role of the building’s architecture in enhancing the theatre’s contributions to invigorating the arts and local communities, and regenerating the Cultural Centre of Perth in the process.”

– P*DA 2011 Jury Citation

(Martin No. 38, Singapore, P*DA 2012 Design of the Year)

    “In recent years, minimalist glass towers have become the preferred type of design for residences in urban Singapore. Martin No. 38 reminds me that there are architects who still dare break the inertia.”

– Tang Guan Bee, Principal, TANGGUANBEE Architect

“Set your sights high – mediocrity is an expensive burden.”

– Dr Kerry Hill, 2010



Thursday, 4 April, 2024

P*DA Juror Marisa Yiu Focuses on an Inclusive Design Process

A robust process of community engagement, experimentation, and prototyping was behind the design of a series of revitalised public parks in Hong Kong. The orchestrator of this process…


Tuesday, 2 May, 2023

P*DA Juror Kotchakorn Voraakhom Dances with Nature

She designed Bangkok’s first major new park in 30 years and Asia’s largest organic urban farming green …


Saturday, 3 July, 2021

Design For Good

President’s Design Award 2020: Award recipients feted for designs that aim to empower, uplift lives…