Park + Associates’ diverse and rapid growth

/ EdgeProp Singapore
September 20, 2019 8:30 AM SGT
Lim Koon Park, founder and principal architect of architecture firm Park + Associates (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Lim Koon Park, founder and principal architect of architectural firm Park+Associates, has rebranded himself a retired rockstar. This alter ego printed on his name card, the direct opposite of his own persona of a quiet, musing architect, is someone he aspires to be: “One of the things I’ve always felt when we started the firm is that there’s this weakness in me, doing marketing and sales. I’m not that strong in those... I wish I was a lot more rockstar-like.”
Lim founded Park+Associates in 1999, and the business has since expanded to include interior design services in 2005; and its youngest sibling, P+A Projects, set up in 2008, specialising in theme parks. The latter two are run by Lim’s partners.
The firm designed Nanyang Girls’ High School around its existing structure (Credit: Edward Hendricks/ Park + Associates)

A variety of projects

Park+Associates juggles a range of work: from public projects, condos, and showflats, to landed homes. One of the firm’s more recent projects is 1953, a freehold condo by Oxley Holdings at the corner of Balestier and Tessesohn Roads. The development, still a work in progress, comprises 72 units: 58 apartments and 14 strata commercial units. A melding of old and new, seven of its retail shops and nine residential units will be housed in a row of conservation shophouses while the rest of the units are part of a new six-storey development.
The design concept for the project was based on Bohemian Rhapsody, a song by British rock band Queen, shares Lim. “We have always been fascinated by this song. It has this interjection, because it’s a ballad, and then it jumps into a very old classical operatic overture, and then it goes back to rock,” he explains. This element was translated to 1953 in the form of a corner of the art deco facade for the row of conservation shophouses. “That was our operatic overture – which is what gives strength to the whole development.”
Then there is 1919, a 75-unit freehold condo along Sophia Road, which has bagged three titles from the Building and Construction Authority. The development, completed in 2015, was designed to capture the charm of black-and-white bungalows – an icon of vernacular architecture in Singapore. The apartment units are set around a central courtyard, with the residential units linked to the courtyard by common corridors, reminiscent of the five-foot ways – the space under continuous roofed walkways that were an integral feature of buildings in Singapore in the early 1800s. This design was also common among many settlements in neighbouring British colonies in the Malaya peninsula then. 1919 is by boutique developer Aurum Land, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Woh Hup Holdings.
Park’s team reinterpreted Chinese elements and motifs for the design of Hwa Chong International School​(Credit: Edward Hendricks/ Park + Associates)
Through a competition, Park+Associates beat other architects to design Parc Komo, a mixed-use development comprising 276 residential units and 28 commercial shops. The mixed-use development is located on Jalan Mariam, a private housing enclave off Upper Changi Road North. It’s developed by CEL Development, the property development arm of Singapore-listed Chip Eng Seng Corp.
Referring to Raymond Chia, group CEO of Chip Eng Seng, Lim says: “When Parc Komo came about, he felt that he needed a different marketing angle – something that had a landed property feel rather than a [typical] condo.” Although Lim has known Chia personally since his early years in the industry, it was not till Parc Komo that their paths crossed professionally.
The freehold 1919 condo was designed to capture the charm of black-and-white bungalows​ (Credit: Edward Hendricks/ Park + Associates)
In October 2017, Chip Eng Seng beat eight other bidders to purchase the former Changi Garden en bloc for $248.8 million. In fact, the locality of the land plot helped as there hasn’t been a new project launch in the neighbourhood for some years. “Raymond saw it as a strength, in the sense that competition will be weak,” says Lim. Indeed, Parc Komo has achieved sales of 107 units at a median price of $1,524 psf, as of end August, according to the latest URA data.
One trend that Lim observes is that developers have been focusing on beefing up their sales galleries as well. Aside from the show flats, a lot more effort has been put on the design and architecture of the sales gallery as a whole, Lim notes. “It used to be white walls and a metal roof, and when you go in, [only then] is it nice,” he continues. Showflats now act as an “expression”, and in some sense are a “signboard” of the project, notes Lim.
For price trends, recent transactions, other project info, check out the Parc Komo project details page

‘Just keep going’

One of the firm’s more recent projects is 1953, a freehold condo by Oxley Holdings (Credit: Artist Impression/ Park + Associates)
For the first five to eight years of starting the business, Lim admits that he “didn’t have the vision to look at what I wanted to do. Rather, I just kept doing, just kept going.”
Along the journey, Lim soon learned that his favourite projects were public buildings. In the early days, his team won a competition to design a mosque at Sengkang. “From then we realised that doing public projects are more fulfilling – it’s more motivating for the team,” he says.
Today, Park+Associates has added more public projects to its portfolio. Poh Ming Temple, along Dunearn Road, was built with a 12m curved glass wall, depicting a traditional Chinese scroll. The bamboo decalcomania depicted on the wall is symbolic of the Buddhists’ aspiration to reach the stage of nirvana. At night, the interior light permeates the glass wall and louvred screens, transforming the temple into a lantern that casts a warm glow onto the residential neighbourhood.
The firm’s other projects include schools, such as Hwa Chong International School. As the school is one of the well-respected Chinese institutions in Singapore, Park’s team decided to reinterpret and reimagine Chinese elements and motifs in the context of contemporary architecture, basing the design on Chinese landscape painting, one of the prominent art forms in Chinese culture.
Park+Associates has also worked on Nanyang Girls’ High School. The team designed the school around its existing structure, preserving the iconic clock tower flanked by two blocks of colonial-influenced buildings that overlook an expansive green field and running track.

Driving expansion

Poh Ming Temple, along Dunearn Road, was built with a 12m curved glass wall, depicting a traditional Chinese scroll ​(Credit: Edward Hendricks/ Park + Associates)
The firm also found itself venturing into the theme park business through pure coincidence. “It was not a deliberate change in direction, but rather, forced by the global financial crisis,” says Lim. “All the jobs dried up at the time, we had a few house [projects] going, and it just so happened that a friend working at RWS [Resorts World Sentosa] had a scope that they didn’t know who to approach,” he recounts. Park’s team was then approached and worked as the “go-between” for the project team, main contractor and suppliers. They ended up working on 17 out of 18 rides in Phase One of Universal Studios Singapore, excluding the Human vs Cylon roller-coasters.
After the projects were completed, RWS reached out to them again to design the Puss in Boots’ Giant Journey roller-coaster. This time, however, the company was appointed the architect for the ride, instead of being the behind-the-scenes coordinator, Lim says.
Now, P+A Projects has also set up a branch in the US. Work is ongoing for a part of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Also in the same state, the team is working on retrofitting the exhibits and interactive education areas in Kennedy Space Center.
Aside from that, Park+Associates has set up a team in Thailand. “Again, this was not because of any grand entrepreneurial vision,” shares Lim. “We have a fair bit of Thai colleagues, and they wanted to go back after several years [in Singapore]. So instead of letting them leave the company, they were happy to carry our flag and some of them have gone back to Thailand to start the office.”
The majority of the company’s projects in Thailand are landed homes. Currently, the firm is working on a large bungalow in Khao Yai.
With so many ongoing projects, Lim visits new hotels and landmarks for inspiration. “There’s nothing like being there rather than just seeing [them] in magazines,” he says.
Check out the latest listings near Parc Komo, MRT Stations and Schools
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