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an architectural portfolio

chen zhiren isaac m.arch at the university of melbourne sci (architectural science) at curtin university selected works +61 412 578 293

it’s not about me, it’s about us

My vision in architecture is embodied by my working style, ethics and principles. To me architecture is driven by passion. It is in architecture where dreams are realised tangibly and it is the responsibility as a future architect to design not merely for the existing generation but to forge ahead. Every solution comes with its problems. The challenges of modern society is always present and I believe I have a role to play. An architect is not merely bounded to design, but to the experiences, lifestyles, accessibilities and communications of people. The philsophy of ‘impossible realities’ is a testament to the aforementioned. The test of a first rate intelligence is indeed the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and yet still retain the ability to function. As an architect, we need to be able to resolve the seemingly challenging conflicts and interrogate and instigate new solutions. Design is a matter of process, never ending, never stopping. My projects are therefore crafted towards future thinking and planning. I am constantly looking for new ways to tackle the problems we face in the context of architecture. I believe in doing, and realising; not dreaming. Each piece of selected work is a testament to my principle of hardwork and smart work. Each is grounded with a unique identity, and is rigorously interrogated before deriving a product. I believe it is through this feedback loop process of iterations that a solution surfaces. Architecture is about the process, if I do not know something, I will strive to find an answer, regardless of the hardwork required. Architecture is filled with challenges, but we are the ones equipped to solve it.

internships east 9 architects and planners - singapore - november 11 / february 12 aedas - singapore - december 12 / february 13

curriculum vitae


contents page


march 2016


march 2015


february 2016


march 2015


july 2015


october 2014


july 2014

architectural design studios x-ray the city - ernest fooks - melbourne 2046 shenzhen/hong kong bi-city biennale - re-living the city - shenzhen, china informal porosity - berlin, germany tectomic - shibuya, japan architectural construction 380 exhibition street - melbourne architectural design competitions world health organisation geneva headquarters extension competition - geneva, switzerland guggenheim helsinki museum design competition - helsinki

x-ray the city - melbourne 2046 In pursuit of better urban conditions, Ernest Fooks wanted to equip planners and designers with more intellectually rigorous footings to consider urban density and to change the way density measurements are applied. Unfortunately, much of Fooks’s work has gone unheeded and, as a consequence, today we observe some poor urban conditions in Melbourne. Namely, an unsustainable urban sprawl of sparsely populated suburbs with little access to services and amenities. Compounding the problem is the way we currently treat such services and amenities as discrete units; impeding efficient use of space and making it difficult for people to gain access to multiple services within a limited area. Pushing against such conditions and adapting Fooks’ theory for the 21st Century, our proposition for 2046 aims to focus the design of our cities on access. In doing so, we will look at more efficient and exciting uses of space through a contraction of the city footprint and the use of hybridised spaces. Before detailing the project further, it is imperative to define our terms. First, we define access as the means or opportunity to approach, enter or use what one needs to achieve a sustainable standard of living and productivity regardless of socio-economic status, immobility, age, gender or culture. Second, we define discrete units of programme as programmes that are conceived of and executed in isolation from other programmes. We define hybridised spaces as those where programmes are allowed to overlap (both conceptually and physically) to make more efficient use of space and to produce exciting and unexpected hybrids.

m.arch - studio semester e - march/june 2016 participant for la biennale di venezia 2016 representing the university of melbourne with assoc. prof justyna anna karakiewicz













shenzhen/hong kong bi-city biennale - re-living the city - shenzhen, china

This section represents the merging of over 25 different projects into one city-scape, considering key attributes of a city; its history, future planning, technology, trade, and culture. As part of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/ Architecture (Hong Kong / Shenzhen), the students brought to the exhibition previous projects and coordinated as a whole to create visions of a recycled city, embracing the Biennale’s theme of ‘Re-Living the City’. Key outcomes included teamwork and negotiation with lateral and new use of existing projects. When we view the city of the future, the notions of how to create a sustainable city surfaces. To me sustainability is not completely about the thoughtful generation and usage of waste, but rather, it is an amalgamation of the care architects pay attention to the society, cultures, technology and trade. The city of the future harnesses the energy which powers our facilities; the machines we use, the goods we produce, the electricity we consume. Yet as residents of our own community we fail to return goodness to the land. In actuality, the consumption disregards wastes, which oftentimes means the end of a lifecycle. This section depicts a scene possibly in the near future, where transportation is available, accessibility is made convenient, and the city’s infrastructure allows for that connectivity between technology, trade and culture to almost coexist. Waste is constantly undergoing a loop, and is minimised based on the consumer’s demand.

m.arch - summer intensive elective - february 2015 travelling studio shenzhen / hongkong with professor alan pert, professor donald leslie bates and assoc. professor justyna anna karakiewicz





informal porosity - berlin, germany Porosity, what is porosity. Pore means passage, to me something that is porous has many tiny holes which allow for access, which allows for permeability. Perhaps the driving factor for this concept pertains to the widespread courtyard typology in Berlin. My initial observation of the courtyard in Berlin is that they serve as places for interaction, places where ideas are shared, people are equal. Multiple porous membranes for maximal porosity. The masterplan expresses the widespread manifestations of the courtyard typology just within the city centre itself. Yet this is actually not the case. I looked at key courtyard systems within the city and realized that the level of porosity depended on the programs of each building. This meant that despite the nature of the courtyard, inclusiveness was sometimes not a priority. The aim was then to create a design that seeks to remove that barrier. The concept of porosity was driven by the idea of arts. Why arts? Berlin is a city well known for its arts, and the Kulturforum, as a cultural space which was meant to accentuate this very notion. Yet the buildings on site are disparate elements that function individually and formally, resulting in the site being under-utilized, under-occupied and more importantly, exclusive. My aim is then to bring about a balance, a system that allows for informality. To achieve this, I decided to design a space that incorporate the visual arts, the music and the performance arts and a residency space for an arts community to thrive. This exposes their informal side, the process to the public. Essentially what better way to first understand the process of arts before experiencing the final outcome? An Informal Porous building for a Formal Impermeable site.

m.arch - studio semester d - july/november 2015 travelling studio berlin with michael roper and catherine duggan









tectomic - shibuya, japan The site is located at Shibuya 109, Tokyo, Japan. This crowded pedestrian corridor comprises of two complex network that sits above ground and below ground. Through the site analysis conducted, the observation was that although both networks are complex, they are extremely different in the way they are organized. Shibuya’s complex underground is represented through the Heavy infrastructure of walls and subway tunnels while the above ground is represented by light weighted infrastructure such as signage and LED lighting. It is through this whereby my concept of tectonic and stereotomic is derived. While stereotomic would be something mass-like, tectonic represented every individual elements. Every concept requires a strategy in order for it to be executed well. The first strategy was to analyze the period of time a user spends for a particular activity. A longer time spent means the more permanent is the space. From the location plan, each of the aforementioned activity space, is carefully demarcated and a gradient pattern was observed. Simulating this within my design meant that all permanent spaces such as retail, etc are cited underground while temporary spaces such as the games centre or karaoke and anime museum are located above ground. The Second strategy is derived from the analysis of Urban users of the space. Each user’s preference is carefully mapped and laid out and subsequently depending on frequency, this formed the decision for space planning with the floorplate with the highest preference closest to ground atrium. These urban users were subsequently subdivided into 3 different categories: the highly driven, the ambiguous and the private interactive. To capture all 3 categories, it was crucial to create intervention thresholds. This purpose is to cater to the different audience and capture their attention separately. Hence, I created 3 variants of thresholds or intervention spaces: with intervention, without intervention and finally, intangible intervention spaces. m.arch - studio semester c - march/june 2015 with laura martires






380 exhibition street - melbourne, australia

Conventional office buildings, or for that matter, an architecture within the city is often times a mere addition to the already present rigid grid. Although the intention is never to over complicate, the simple gesture of twisting a structure reframes the once existing urban fabric. It demonstrates flow, dynamism within the city context as well as develops a visual icon within the city. Our internal configuration of the office is constantly questioned. Most contemporary office spaces are separated by walls and segregated into a hierarchy of spaces. However, is that really what we see fit for the future? Through various iterations, I looked at the structure as a creative opportunity to optimise the interior spaces. By subjecting the architecture to a tubular diagrid steel structure, it allows the building to be dynamic in its twisted nature and simultaneously provides a flexible interior space for various configurations of the office typolgy. A double skin facade is used, highlighting the diagrid structure that would add character to the building and juxtaposes the commonalities within the urban fabric.

m.arch - applied construction - march/june 2015 high-rise office tower within melbourne cbd






world health organisation geneva headquarters extension competition - geneva, switzerland We understand coevolution as the changing of an object instigated by the modification of a related object. Each exerts selective pressures on the other, thereby symbiotically affecting each other’s evolution. We understand the WHO extension as a result of the coevolutionary process between the existing WHO headquarters and our interpretation of 21st century Modernism. By using curved, non-hierarchical geometries, it allows for a maximum area within a minimum perimeter. This also exemplifies equality and provides visual connections between all working spaces, promoting a sense of an integrated community. The circular form also exhibits 360 degree views. Enhancing this strategy is a series of interconnecting stairs, voids and bridges allowing maximum reconfiguration potential. The current arrangement allows maximum staff connectivity, balancing the needs of all individuals, and ensuring all workstations have access to amenity space. Flexibility and modularity are key to our workplace strategy. We believe that although the buildings are seen as two separate entities, the success of this intervention will be when they function as one, therefore interconnectivity is critical. Our connection to the main building is done simply and elegantly, as a gentle continuation of the main entrance axis, on four separate levels. Access to the conference, cafeteria, multipurpose exhibition, main conference and meeting area is on the same level as the existing Executive Council Hall, linking directly to the surrounding landscape. The SHOC room’s access is at grade with the main building’s entrance. The site’s vehicular and pedestrian access is kept as per the 2013 Redevelopment Strategy Study. architectural design competition - october 2014 with Jorge Ortega del Vecchio ARB, RIBA


We began by asking ourselves: what is the best way we can help an organisation devoted to helping others? How can our intervention enhance the working environment of WHO? How can we contribute to their vision of global well-being? Our first step was to study WHO’s heritage listed Headquarters building by Jean Tschumi; like geneticists we sought to understand the building’s DNA. DNA is the fundamental building block of all life. Behind its code lies an implied logic which dictates not only an organism’s structural function, but also how its many parts operate harmoniously as one, ensuring its survival and consequent evolution. DNA makes us WHO we are. The proposal integrates our contemporary understanding of modernism, framing it within the heritage context of the existing building precinct. In the widest sense of the term, the foundation of this interpretation is captured in the motto ‘doing more with less’. We seek to provide what appears to be a simple solution to a complex problem. The design, location and configuration of the WHO extension reinforces the balance within the existing architectural ensemble, complementing and enhancing both the existing buildings and their surrounding landscape.




guggenheim helsinki museum design competition - helsinki Conceived from the intrinsic connection between the Nordic and Nature, Guggenheim Nord emerges from our arboriculture studies on the native Finnish Silver Birch. Its growing cycle involves the expansion of its outer layer, while the core - with no living cells - becomes its supporting structure. This core, structurally indispensable to the tree, exists devoid of life. We have applied this analogy to Etelasatama (the site); while indispensable to the city, it exists in a state of uncertainty; marginalized as Helsinki grows and evolves. We will operate as an arborist; providing the necessary improvements needed to breathe new life into the South Harbour strengthening the central focus it holds for the people of Helsinki. A place of departures to new lands, and arrivals with new stories; a place for connection and sustenance; a place for trading goods, culture and dreams. A place for adventure, exploration and education, where past, present and future co-exist defining the nature of Helsinki and its people in the process. Our aim is to place Helsinki as the artistic and cultural hub of the future. Emerging from the urban fabric and the historical city grid, Guggenheim Nord articulates itself within the existing cityscape. With a bold yet respectful gesture, our intervention is based on a compressed footprint maximizing space for civic activities. A pedestrian walkway connects all activities from the park to the waterfront, while the centre of the building is removed to allow for an open exhibition space. This courtyard, the heart, adapts to the environment, soaking up the summer sun and radiating warmth in winter, thereby responding to the dichotomy of Suomi weather patterns. An open building for an open city. architectural design competition - july/august 2014 with Jorge Ortega del Vecchio ARB, RIBA registration number - GH-4934705740






an architectural portfolio by isaac chen

thank you +61 412 578 293


Architectural Portfolio by Isaac Chen  

Compilation of Selected Architectural Works 2012-2016

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