Lim Hong Lian

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 March, 2006, 12:00am

Who? Founder and senior partner of Lim, Teo and Wilkes Design Works, Lim was born in Singapore, but educated in London. He started his career in Britain designing for the hospitality industry before returning to Asia in 1979 to take up a position with the Hong Kong branch of Dale Keller and Associates. In 1981, he was invited to join Chhada, Siembieda and Associates as managing partner of their Singapore office, and 10 years later the office was re-named H.L. Lim and Associates. In 2001, the company assumed its current name, which references partners Teo Su Seam and Jeffrey Wilkes.

Where did he study? He studied fine arts at Byram Shaw School of Arts for two years before switching to Hammersmith College of Art and Building to study interior design, from where he graduated in 1973 with a London Certificate in Art and Design. 'I chose to study in London,' he says, 'because it is a cosmopolitan city and, like New York, it's a melting pot of east and west.'

Does the hospitality industry keep him busy? In the past 25 years, the firm has worked on almost 70 international hotels, including the Oberoi Mauritius (below left), the Banyan Tree Resort, Phuket, the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, the Hilton Beijing, and, most recently, the Presidential Suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

What's his style? 'The projects we work on must possess a strong sense of place,' he says. 'We really don't have a corporate style, but we have to design to suit a particular client and for a particular location. I suppose we believe in honesty in design and that the interior of the building must and should work hand in glove with the architecture.'

What challenges did he face at the InterContinental? 'We created a feeling of grandeur [in the Presidential Suite] by enclosing part of the terrace space and making it into a two-storey living room with a panoramic view of Hong Kong Island,' he says. 'The other thing that makes the suite unique is the pool deck, which was originally full of ventilation ducts and fans from the guestrooms below. By raising parts of the pool deck, we were able to divert the ducts to discharge at the back of the building and therefore create an outdoor party venue.'

What's his philosophy? He believes in the value of hard work and in pushing himself and his team to the edge. He also likes to be open to new and creative design ideas.

Who does he admire? 'I like Ed Tuttle's work because it's clean, uncluttered and contains a lot of detail,' says Lim. 'In architecture, I have many heroes, from Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry to Geoffrey Bawa. In painting, I admire Frank Stella and Robert Motherwell's work, as well as the earlier works of Pablo Picasso.'

What takes his breath away? Lim finds beauty in all the arts, from painting and sculpture to textiles and product design. But it is architecture, with its scale and sense of permanence, that makes the biggest impression.

'I like new and old, from Alhambra to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and Frank Gehry's museum in Bilbao,' he says. 'Skyscrapers fascinate me: the art-deco Chrysler building in New York; the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, with its huge spiralling atrium space that seems to go on forever. That said, smaller projects from designers like Bawa can also take my breath away.'