The fifth Gold Medal recipient, Tay Kheng Soon, was among the first batch of architects to graduate from Singapore Polytechnic’s architectural school in 1964. Known for his strong viewpoints and forthright approach to architectural issues, Tay has been described as having “a way of thinking laterally that challenges the norm.”
Tay cut his architectural teeth with Malayan Architects Co-partnership set up by Lim Chong Keat, his teacher and mentor, later setting up his own firm Akitek Tengagara in 1976. Tay has long been an advocate of buildings that are appropriate to a tropical environment, and his designs, which include KK Hospital, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Bishan and Serangoon Gardens Country Club, all display this sensitivity to place and environment. Tay is also an outspoken advocate for improving and enlightening strategies in the conduct of architectural competitions that include dialogue with relevant authorities. This approach led to increased professionalism in the way that competitions were conducted. Indeed, given that competitions play such an important role for architects in Singapore, Tay argued that changes sometimes needed to be made to ensure the core value of fairness and an ethical approach.
Just as he is known for his architectural contributions, Tay is equally appreciated for his academic approach, having researched and published important papers presenting his ideas about architecture and urban planning. As a research Fellow with the Institute of South East Asian Studies, he published a monograph entitled Megacities in the Tropics, for example. His erudition has made him a popular lecturer at NUS where he is Adjunct Professor in Architecture.
He has also served the community by sitting on numerous government committees, including the Long term Development Committee of Singapore National Museum and he was also the founding Chairman of the Substation, a catalytic arts centre. In 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science, a global organisation of intellectuals dedicated to innovation of knowledge.