By Anna Koor : April 1999
P O O L E A S S O C I A T E S
Based in Singapore, the small and relatively young design
firm - Poole Associates is headed by Ed Poole and Andrew Jones. With 16 years of practice
behind them and 150 projects to their names, including work outside Singapore, in
Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, UK, USA and Australia, neither partner is by any
means new to the game in Asia. Ed Poole, who originates from the US, established the
company in 1991. He was later joined by Andrew Jones from the UK, who became a director in
The partners have developed a penchant for designing some of the most unconventionally progressive restaurants and bars in Singapore, however Poole maintains that this is more accidental than pure business strategy. Although he does admit: "we did have the aim that, as a new firm, to do projects with public exposure would get us further, faster". It appears to have paid off. As increasing amounts of work came in, Poole and Jones began to be more selective about who they work with and what the project is; "this has resulted in a very high success rate for the jobs we've done," remarked Poole.
The firm's gradually widening portfolio is now liberally sprinkled with commissions for corporate offices, residential design and retail environments for renowned clients such as the British Council, Haagen Dazs, Dr. Martens and Keppel Corporation. Over the seven years of the practice's existence, the partners freely acknowledge that they have accomplished far more than they would have from 15 years of designing in the West. However, Singapore doesn't come without its limitations. The basic building stock is restrictive and, like Hong Kong, dramatic spaces are rare. For Poole this means "trying to build good "bones", ie architecture, into most projects," in order to produce the substantial end result they strive for. In addition, the company has always applied a strict methodology to their work. "We take our ability to make subtle changes in society, very seriously," says Poole. "Rational, appropriately logical solutions, no waste and no frivolous design".
The Blue Moon lifestyle store and adjoining Scoops Cafe were completed in 1990. Planetary references predominate from the crescent shaped sales counter to the colored fibre optic technology and the modules of the floating elliptical/spherical display fixturing. The latter are moulded from aluminum and designed for maximum flexibility. At the entrance, the gently inclining steel staircase is like a bridge into a different world which includes a computerized sound and light show.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this organic 70's-inspired venue is that it is a club for police Reservists - the Singapore Police Association for National Servicemen. Completed in 1998, a series of spaces unfold from the guest lobby with its cluster of Eero Saarinen moulded fibre-glass Tulip chairs. The Jackpot Room is appropriately treated with panels of sequined fabric lining the walls. A tight corridor takes guests into Lava Lounge, Cop Cafe and the Simulated Shooting Range. The Lava Lounge forms the heart of the interior and comprises six karaoke rooms, a KJ station, a dance floor, bar counters, a pool table and seating. The designers took their lead from the plethora of police detective dramas that haunted the 70's such as Charlie's Angels and The Saint.
British Council Singapore
Poole Associates was invited to work alongside Casson Mann Designers from London in the much needed revamp of the British Council offices. Running though the major circulation of the public lobby, the cream marble floor is combined with the blue/grey carpeting which highlights the areas of wide, boxy sofa seating. Adjacent to the lift is a screen of re-used teak planks with hand carved vertical holes. Besides representing a cultural element - inspired from Chinese, Malay and Indian wooden screens - it acts as an acoustic solution, muffling the footsteps from pedestrian traffic beyond. In addition, the tilting slatted wood paneling that forms the ceiling treatment, also has an acoustic role whilst concealing video monitors. The first two phases were completed in February 1999.
The Blue Ginger Restaurant
Located in Singapore's Chinatown district, this restaurant was an exercise in successfully restoring one of Singapore's traditional shophouses. The interior reflects aspects of Peranakan culture, from the beginning of the century with the fusion of migrant Chinese male workers and local Malay women. These elements are combined with modern finishes such as metallic effect wall tiles and the chequered leather-backed wall seating. To balance the over-heaviness of the dark timbers, a color palette of creamy tones is deployed.
A new bar completed late last year, Sugar is sleekly modern industrial with a hint of disco polish. The cement screed flooring and brushed stainless steel long bar are juxtaposed with sparkly vinyl bar stools, the holographic wall, and reflective mirror balls suspended from the skylight. However, the ground floor entrance space would certainly not give any of that away, with its marble mosaic floor and renaissance inspired fresco murals. The open air courtyard at the back is a welcome relief from the frenetic disco heat.