Liu Thai Ker



Liu Thai Ker (b. 23 February 1938 Muar, Johor, Malaysia –) is noted for his influence on Singapore's urban landscape as the former chief executive officer of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).1 Trained as an architect, Liu’s keen sense of the arts was inherited from his father Liu Kang, a local pioneer artist.2 Liu also held distinguished positions in the field of local arts, urban planning and architecture.

Early life
The eldest son of artist Liu Kang, Liu moved from Muar to Singapore after World War II. At Chung Cheng High School, he excelled academically, skipping Form 4 and moving straight to Form 5. He also won many prizes in drawing and calligraphy. Although his early ambitions were to become an artist like his father, going as far as to hold exhibitions of his works during the 1950s and '60s, Liu was advised by family and friends to pursue architecture instead.3

Career
Liu graduated from the University of New South Wales with a first class honours degree in architecture in 1962. He furthered his studies and obtained his masters in city planning from Yale University in 1965. The period that Liu spent working in well-known architectural institutions such as Loder & Dunphy in Sydney, and I.M. Pei in New York, was considered as a time of apprenticeship, where he went beyond the basics of architecture and learnt more about town planning.4

Upon his return to Singapore, Liu joined HDB (1969–1989), the organisation responsible for public housing, and later, URA (1989–1992). At HDB, he left an indelible mark in three key areas: housing concept – moving from “large scale estates with localised facilities to self-sufficient new towns”; architectural design – transforming functional buildings to aesthetically designed homes with a tropical touch; and engineering design, where he introduced "new structural systems" such as the long span pre-stressed concrete beams for public housing.5

For URA, Liu's main contribution was in revising the Concept Plan and in conservation projects. The Concept Plan arose from the British Master Plan for Singapore and was intended to shape Singapore's early urban landscape.6

Fluently bilingual in both English and Mandarin, Liu served as a planning advisor to various municipal governments in China, and was conferred the Honorary Citizen of Fuzhou Award by the Fujian district for his contributions.7 As chairman of the National Arts Council from 1996 to 2005, Liu made his mark in developing a “Concept Plan” for the arts, particularly in promoting local arts and encouraging film making.8 Under his strategic leadership, the council successfully implemented the recommendations of the 2000 Renaissance City Report, such as the development of the Singapore Writers’ Festival and Singapore Biennale, and other significant programmes.9

Education10
1946–1949: San San Primary School, Singapore.
1950–1954: Chung Cheng High School, Singapore.
1956: Sydney Technical College, Sydney, Australia.
1957–1962: School of Architecture, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
1963–1965: Architecture Graduate School, University of Yale, USA.
1995: Doctor of Science (honoris causa), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Career11
1955: Substitute teacher, Kuan Chiew Primary School, Singapore.
19581959: Employee, Clement Glancey Architects, Sydney, Australia.
19601963: Architect, Loder & Dunphy Architects, Sydney, Australia.
19651969: Architect-planner, I.M. Pei and Partners, Architects and Planners, New York, USA.
1969: Head, Design and Research Section, HDB, Singapore
1975: Chief Architect, HDB, Singapore.
1976: Deputy CEO, HDB, Singapore
1979–1989: CEO, HDB, Singapore
1989–1992: CEO and Chief Planner, URA.
1992: Director, RSP Architects Planners and Engineers.
1996–2005: Chairman, NAC.12

Awards13
1976:  Public Administration Medal (Gold), Singapore.
1985: Meritorious Service Medal, Singapore.
1993: Second ASEAN Achievement Award.
1994: Honorary Citizen of Fuzhou Award, Fujian, People’s Republic of China.
2001: Gold Medal, Singapore Institute of Architects.14

Family15
Former wife: Marta Mikes, whom he married in 1976, is an Australian citizen and a trained soprano. They have three children together – sons Kristof and Janos, and daughter Eszter.
Present wife: Gretchen Liu née Gustafson, whom he married in 1984, is a journalist turned writer. They have a son Daniel and daughter Kristin.



Author
Bonny Tan



References
1. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 687–688. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
2. Lim, A. (1996, June 30). Liu Thai Ker replaces Tommy Koh as NAC chairman. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 687. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
4. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 687. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
5. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 688. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
6. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with National Heritage Board, p. 312. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
7. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 688. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
8. Nayar, P. (2005, July 30). Patron and planner. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 689. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
9. Nayar, P. (2005, July 30). Patron and planner. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2005, June 13). NAS has a new chairman [Press Release]. Retrieved 2016, September 1 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/NAC-Has-A-New-Chairman.html
10. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 687–690. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
11. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 687–690. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU); Nayar, P. (2005, July 30). Patron and planner. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lim, A. (1996, June 30). Liu Thai Ker replaces Tommy Koh as NAC chairman. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 687–690. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
14. Nayar, P. (2005, July 30). Patron and planner. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asia personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol.1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 690. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU); Family with more than a keen eye for art. (1996, July 29). The Straits Times, p. 2; Tom, K. (2006, March 23). Feels just like a homecoming. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we can 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
City planners--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Area planning
Geography>>Population>>Urban Planning
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Architects--Singapore
Community leaders
Urban planning