Koh Seow Chuan



Koh Seow Chuan (b. 1939, Singapore–) is a founder of DP Architects, one of Singapore’s most established architecture firms. He is also an internationally renowned philatelist and a prominent heritage philanthropist. His architecture of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay earned him the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Worldwide Design Award in 2005 and the President’s Design Award in 2006. In addition, Koh’s outstanding contributions towards the preservation of local heritage, history and the arts earned him the Distinguished Patron of Heritage Award in 2009.1

Education and career
Koh obtained his early education in Singapore. His interest in architecture led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1963.2

In 1967, together with William Lim and Tay Kheng Soon, Koh established Design Partnership (renamed DP Architects Pte Ltd in 1975), a full-service architecture firm. Under Koh’s leadership and direction during its formative years, the company undertook large-scale architectural projects locally and within the region. DP Architects has since gained a reputation for design excellence and now provides a comprehensive repertoire of services. Today, the DP Group of Companies includes offices in Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and the United Kingdom, handling major international projects such as the Dubai Mall.3

DP Architects has spearheaded the design of many iconic buildings in Singapore, including Suntec City, Paragon, Bugis Junction and the Esplanade as well as other institutional, religious, industrial and hospitality projects. Among the firm’s diverse architectural projects are St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Central Sikh Temple, Ren Ci Community Hospital, the National Library Building on Victoria Street, Republic Polytechnic and the Singapore Flyer.4

Koh is a member of various professional associations including the Royal Institute of British Architects, Malaysian Institute of Architects, Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Singapore Institute of Architects.5

For the Esplanade project, Koh won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Worldwide Design Award in 2005 as well as the President’s Design Award the following year, in recognition of the landmark’s unique architectural design.6

Philately
A passionate philatelist, Koh has been collecting stamps since the age of five. Intrigued by the foreign stamps that his father, a gold bullion trader, brought home from overseas, he turned his childhood hobby into a serious investment in his late 20s. His career as an architect allowed him to travel around the region and thus amass a large collection of valuable stamps steeped in historical significance.7

Together with a group of other philately enthusiasts, Koh helped to officially establish the Inter-Asia Philately Federation in 1974, holding the position of general secretary. In 1995, while he was the vice-president of the organising committee of the Singapore World Stamp Exhibition, Koh showcased his stamp collection entitled Straits Settlements Revenues, which dates back to the 1860s, at the Singapore Philatelic Museum. Over the years, he served as president of the Singapore Stamp Club (1969–76), president of the Association of Singapore Philatelists (1989–2002), chairman of the Singapore Philatelic Museum (2001–05) and the first Asian president of the Federation of International Philately (2002–06).8

Koh also holds the distinction of being the first Singaporean to sign the British Philatelic Federation’s Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1992.9 In 1996, his collection of stamps issued in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia between 1851 and 1867 earned him the Grand Prix National Award at the World Philatelic Exhibition in Canada. He is the first local to win an international stamp-collecting award in North America.10

Philanthropy
Besides stamps, Koh also owns an extensive collection of historical documents, old postcards, cultural artefacts, maps, photographs, antique books and artworks. He has contributed significantly towards the preservation of Singapore’s national heritage.11

His interest in local heritage and the arts led him to serve in various capacities related to these fields. He was a board member of the National Heritage Board from 1997 to 2013, and was the former chairman of the Singapore Art Museum and the National Gallery Singapore (NGS). After he stepped down as chairman of NGS in 2013, he was appointed chairman of the newly established Visual Arts Cluster Advisory Board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.12

In 2003, Koh donated 150 paintings by local artists to the Singapore Art Museum. Three years later, he again gifted 63 works by expressionist artist Wong Keen to the same institution.13

Between 2007 and 2008, Koh donated over 2,700 historical items from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including legal documents and rare maps, to the National Library Board (NLB) as well as over 90,000 historic photographs and postcards to the Singapore Philatelic Museum. The NLB’s Koh Seow Chuan Collection is a historically significant resource for the study of local colonial communities and the social history of Singapore.14

In recognition of his efforts in preserving historically invaluable fragments of the past and his generous contributions towards Singapore’s heritage and the arts, Koh was bestowed the Patron of the Arts honour in 2004,15 and the Patron of Heritage award in 2006. In 2009, he received the Distinguished Patron of Heritage Award.16

Family
Koh is married to Lim Wen Gin, a retired chief planner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. They have three daughters and a son.17

Appointments18
1969–1976: President, Singapore Stamp Club

1989–2002: President, Association of Singapore Philatelists
1997–2013: Board member, National Heritage Board19
2001–2005: Chairman, Singapore Philatelic Museum
2002–2006: President, Federation of International Philately
2009–2013: Chairman, National Art Gallery
2013–: Chairman, Visual Arts Cluster Advisory Board, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth20

Awards21
1971: Public Service Star
1989: Large Gold Medal, Paris World Stamp Exhibition
1992: First Singaporean to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists by the British Philatelic Federation
1996: Grand Prix National Award, World Philatelic Exhibition, Canada.
2004: Patron of the Arts
2005: Worldwide Design Award (Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Awards)
2006: President’s Design Award
2006: Patron of Heritage Award
2009: Distinguished Patron of Heritage Award
2015: Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award
2015: Singapore Design Golden Jubilee Award22



Author

Sheena Kumari Singh



References
1. DP Architects. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved on 2016, August 19 from DP Architects website: http://www.dpa.com.sg/people/founder/
2. DP Architects. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved on 2016, August 19 from DP Architects website: http://www.dpa.com.sg/people/founder/
3. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/administrators/koh-seow-chuan
4. Anderson, C., & Choo, I. (2015). Evolution of a civic downtown: DP architects on Marina Bay. Singapore: Oro Editions. (Call no: RSING 725.2095957 AND)
5. DP Architects. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved on 2016, August 19 from DP Architects website: http://www.dpa.com.sg/people/founder/
6. Sim, A. (2005, June 21). 2 S’pore architects win British design awards. (2005, June 21). The Business Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Leong, C. T. (2003, November 16). Stamping his mark. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/administrators/koh-seow-chuan; Buenas, D. (2005, September 10). The romance and business of stamps. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Sing, M. S. (2015, August 19). Prints charming. Retrieved 2016, December 28 from Singapore Tatler website: http://sg.asiatatler.com/arts-culture/life/prints-charming
10. Leong, C. T. (2003, November 16). Stamping his mark. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Presents of the past. (2009, April 16). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. National Art Gallery, Singapore. (2013, July 1). New chairpersons appointed for the National Art Gallery, Singapore and the newly formed Visual Arts Cluster Advisory Board [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, December 7 from National Gallery Singapore website: https://www.nationalgallery.sg/sites/default/files/pdf/press-new-chairpersons-appointed-national-art-gallery-singapore-and-newly-formed-visual-arts-cluster-advisory-board.pdf; Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/administrators/koh-seow-chuan
13. Prystay, C. (2007, November 30). Philanthropy special: What’s in your art collection? The Wall Street Journal Asia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

14. National Heritage Board. (2009, April 17). Patron of Heritage Awards 2008 [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

15. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/administrators/koh-seow-chuan

16. Laselle College of the Arts. (2015). Awards. Retrieved 2016, December 28 from Laselle College of the Arts website: http://www.lasalle.edu.sg/awards/singapore-design-golden-jubilee-award/
17. Presents of the past. (2009, April 16). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/administrators/koh-seow-chuan
19. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2011, July 29). New chairman and board for the National Heritage Board [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, January 5 from Ministry of Communications and Information website: https://www.mci.gov.sg/pressroom/news-and-stories/pressroom/2011/7/new-chairman-and-board-for-the-national-heritage-board?page=98; National Heritage Board. (2014). National Heritage Board annual report 2013/2014, p. 16. Retrieved from Parliament of Singapore website: http://www.parliament.gov.sg/lib/sites/default/files/paperpresented/pdf/2014/S.%20140%20of%202014.PDF
20. Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. (2013, July 1). New chairpersons appointed for the National Art Gallery, Singapore and the newly-formed Visual Arts Cluster Advisory Board [Press Release]. Retrieved 2017, January 5 from National Gallery Singapore website: https://www.nationalgallery.sg/about/news/press-room/new-chairpersons-appointed-national-art-gallery-singapore-and-newly-formed-visual-arts-cluster-advisory-board
21. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. (n.d). Koh Seow Chuan. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/administrators/koh-seow-chuan
22. Laselle College of the Arts. (2015). Awards. Retrieved 2016, December 28 from Laselle College of the Arts website: http://www.lasalle.edu.sg/awards/singapore-design-golden-jubilee-award/



Further resources

Architects of Singapore. (1997). Australia: Mulgrave, Images.
(Call no.: RSING English 720 ARC)

He has 310,000 postcards in his collection. (1995, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Ng, E., et al. (Eds.). (2007). DP Architects: [The works since 1967]. Singapore: DP Architects Pte Ltd.
(Call no.: RSING 720.95957 DP)

Lee, P. (1997, February 23). Original documents and stamps tell story of early Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Philatelist wins top international award. (1996, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities
Stamp collectors--Singapore--Biography
Philanthropists--Singapore--Biography
Koh, Seow Chuan, 1939-
Personalities>>Biographies
Architects--Singapore--Biography
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Sports, recreation and travel>>Handicrafts and hobbies>>Antiques and collecting>>Stamps
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Construction and real estate>>Buildings construction