In 1995, Chan founded Soo Chan Design Associates (SCDA), a company with a holistic approach encompassing architecture, interiors, landscape and product design.
“I first started incorporating gardens into single-family houses, inserting them in between rooms by breaking closed volumes into a system of pavilions. As the scale of my projects grew, I incorporated these green spaces into larger and taller projects,” he told ArchDaily.
SCDA has designed more than 200 buildings in over 75 international locations worldwide. The firm’s accolades include three awards from the American Institute of Architects, and two from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Chan is also the inaugural recipient of the Singapore President’s Design Award.
For one project, Sky Terrace@Dawson, Chan was tasked with reimagining public housing in Singapore. The government wanted to develop a new paradigm for a Singapore social housing project. The three main ideas Chan introduced are housing in a park, multi-generational living and sustainable living.
The project’s landscape is an extension of the adjacent linear park that was introduced over an abandoned canal. There is also extensive landscaping and roof terraces in the sky. The greenery is natural and is extended vertically up the entire building while being irrigated by water collected from the roof and surface run offs through bio-swales around the gardens. The common area relies extensively on cross ventilation and natural light to reduce power consumption.
The idea of multi-generational living was something Chan understood well. The lifestyle of the extended Singaporean family often relied on grandparents for child care as most couples are dual income families.
“They were driving across town to drop off and pick up their kids,” Chan says of the families. “We introduced the concept of interlocking spatial modules you can purchase as a pair, including a grandparent flat, and it stacks on top of yours with its own entry and an interconnecting staircase that has connecting doors.”
The units are all modular and pre-fabricated of precast concrete. “We’re encouraging a kind of social housing experimentation of how extended families can live together,” says Chan. This concept was in line with government policies at that time. There are some tax incentives when multi-generational families apply to purchase the flats together. “The young adult generation can look after the elderly, and they in turn can watch after the kids.”
Sky Terrace, with almost 700 units of flats, has amenities that support all ages in this community. It has a child-care center, elderly care center, a congregation area for wedding ceremonies, places for worship and also a space for wakes and funerals.
Chan is continuing to develop new Soori branded projects, the latest being Soori Wyoming. He hopes to turn part of the Khoo Kongsi compound, where he grew up, into a Soori hotel. His design, according to one writer, “is a sensory mechanism, an invitation to linger, to dwell in these interior and exterior spaces.”