Standing at the foyer in front of a turquoise-tinted pool, a sculpture of a man with outstretched wings greets visitors. Called Holicoide, the art piece is the work of Spanish sculptor Jesus Curia Reyes.
“It symbolises the ascension of Jesus Christ,” Jonathan Quek, a devout Catholic and avid art collector, lets on. This is but one of a variety of sculptures, paintings and other artworks, mostly from Asian artists, that are proudly displayed in the home at Stevens Road.
The masterpiece, though, has to be the trio of houses encircling the pool: a home for his young family, another for his parents, and the third, a guest house. They are the handiwork of Quek, who works for RT+Q, a boutique architectural firm that has made its name on residential projects that pay attention to details.
What’s significant about Quek’s connection with RT+Q is that his father, Tse Kwang, co-founded the firm with Rene Tan, who has won several local and international awards for the firm. For four consecutive years since 2015, the firm’s designs have also reached the finals of the World Architecture Festival (WAF), the Oscars of the profession. This includes the Capers, a twin residential towers project in Kuala Lumpur that won the Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award three years ago.
Quek is poised to continue the trailblazing path that his father and Tan started at RT+Q, when it’s time for him to take over. He has already demonstrated his prowess for the role. After the 39-year-old was put in charge of the Fennel, a set of four 43-storey apartment towers in Kuala Lumpur, that project also reached the finals of the WAF last year. In 2017, the Urban Redevelopment Authority named him, along with 19 others, as one of the most promising young architects in Singapore at the third instalment of its “20 Under 45” awards.
Still, the father of two boys and a girl, aged five to nine, is modest about what he has achieved so far. “My wife gushed that I was the youngest architect to win the URA award, but I think they gave it to me because of the groundwork that Dad and Rene built at RT+Q,” Quek quips.
His love for architecture was seeded at a very young age when his parents took him on holidays to visit the legacies of such legendary figures as Antoni Gaudi, who is regarded as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism.
It led him to first study the subject at Carnegie Mellon, before taking up advanced architectural design at Columbia University in the United States. After graduating in 2006, he joined the firm and is the now a senior team leader of 21 employees. Yet, he insists that learning never stops, and continues to tap the expertise of the two founders.
“Rene has been guiding me in the design aspect of the projects I am running,” Quek explains. “My dad taught me about the noble profession of architecture, and how I should conduct myself as a consultant. I’ve had a good grounding from the both of them.” Quek says his passion to create beautiful things drives his ambition to excel, and he puts in extra hours in the office when everyone has gone home. “Just because my dad is one of the co-founders, it doesn’t mean I can go in and out of the office as I please,” he points out. “In fact, it is because of him that I make sure I work harder.”
However, it doesn’t mean he is in the office 24/7. Family time, especially with wife Natasha, is equally important. And fortunately, living next to his parents has its perks. “At least once a year, we go on vacation without the kids, usually for snow skiing in France with friends,” says Quek. “During these trips, my parents will take care of the children. But we travel as a family, to places like Finland and New Zealand, twice a year.”
Quek is mindful of the RT+Q brand, which is about paying attention to details in every project. When he eventually helms it, he is adamant that the hallmark is retained. “I’d like to try and do bigger work in terms of scale, but if we embark on such work, our sensitivity to details must still be there.”
01 HOLDING COURT
I belong to the Anglo-Chinese School Old Boys’ Association, and we play in tennis competitions to try and relive the glory days.
02 OUT OF OFFICE
We shut the office for a week every year and take our staff to places like the Vatican to see the great and inspiring architecture in these places.
03 PAGE TURNERS
I read both non-fiction and novels and just finished Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I like classic works or writers, especially H.G. Wells.