Our Setsu Journey Part 4 – Interview with Mok Wei Wei
Let us continue our journey into the creation of Setsu Niseko, as we talk to award-winning architect Mok Wei Wei and Managing Director of W-Architects, the visionary behind the design and architecture of Setsu Niseko. Referred to as 'one of Singapore’s foremost exponents of Contemporary Modernism' Mok Wei Wei has worked with SC Global for close to two decades creating renowned projects liked Thre3e Thre3 Robin, Hilltops and The Five Legends of Mountbatten in Singapore. Lauded in the world's list of Top 100 architects and winner of the Presidents Design Award 2002, his works are featured in numerous regional and international publications.
What was your vision for Setsu Niseko?
To bring a touch of Singapore and its tropical sensibilities to the ski resort town.
Were you surprised when SC Global approached you to design their maiden overseas project in Hokkaido?
Absolutely! Being an architectural firm that focuses on the niche market in Singapore’s developments, we never intended to expand to the overseas market. But having worked with SC Global all these years, I trust that wherever the project is, SC Global will stamp it with its trademark high quality. So I accepted the commission without hesitation.
Tell us more about the design for Setsu Niseko.
Setsu Niseko departs radically from the usual developments seen in Niseko. It presents a refreshing concept of placing a perimeter block around the site to create a central open-to-sky courtyard within. This move maximises the number of apartments with views, which are of contrasting nature: panoramic on the outside, and intimate on the inside. Setsu’s architectural form anchors the development’s prominent presence within Grand Hirafu, a place flanked by two incredible mountains. Its presence is heightened by its unique façade treatment: an intense composition of timber framed balconies, panoramic windows and protruding volumes. The grid-like rhythm of the façades starts off strong at the main road junction and fades in intensity down the road. These protrusions facilitate the development of floating tatami rooms and terraces in some units. Large windows are strategically located within the primary areas of each apartment to allow stunning panoramic views of Mount Yotei, Mount Annupuri or the exquisitely landscaped courtyards within.
Your work is well known for your tropical architecture, what were the main challenges you faced when designing a project in a ski resort?
I find that the traditional corridor spaces in hotels can be very wasteful, especially in a “condotel” where you are also selling the apartments. So, you need to really minimize the corridor space. With my sensibility of tropical space and floor area efficiency, I came up with the idea of creating a large perimeter block with multiple lift cores, a concept that we would normally consider for low-rise condominiums in Singapore. The development’s perimeter massing is broken down into four blocks, each with multiple lift cores that removes the need for lengthy internal corridors. This creates a feeling of intimacy and exclusivity to the apartments clustered around each core.
What is your favourite design element of Setsu Niseko?
The central courtyard is very special as it introduces a tranquil and scenic space within the heart of the development. The vast mountainous landscape outside is complemented by delicate, man-made nature within. Providing contrasting views for the apartments, this landscaped space is alive with trees, terraced landscapes of local seasonal blooms and water-features that capture the beauty of the changing seasons. It creates quiet pockets of outdoor spaces for residents to relax which I hope will be an enchanting experience unique to Setsu Niseko.
Did you always want to be an architect?
The choice was between teaching Chinese literature or pursuing a career in the creative field. Since I like to be in a frame of mind that balances between the rational and the irrational aspects of thinking, I decided that architecture would give me that kind of satisfaction.
Which architects from the past or present do you admire the most?
There are many whom I admire. But the ones I truly respect are those who are able to sustain a long creative career filled with evolution and exploration.
What is the best moment of your day?
My solitary evening walk after a day’s work. It allows me to clarify my thoughts while at the same time rejuvenates my body.
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